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How does Jane Austen present the themes of love and marriage in Pride and Prejudice through Elizabeth and Darcy and Mr and Mrs Bennet?

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Introduction

How does Jane Austen present the themes of love and marriage in Pride and Prejudice through Elizabeth and Darcy and Mr and Mrs Bennet? In the 19th century within English society, a woman's main aim/purpose in life was matrimony. This was even more so for young girls like the Bennet sisters. The entailment of their father's estate left them in a poor financial state, which is probably why Mrs Bennet's "business in life" was to get her five daughters married. We as the reader can tell from the opening sentence of the novel, what Jane Austen's views on marriage are. She states; "it is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." However this is an irony, almost mocking those who think in such a frame of mind, for example people like Mrs Bennet. Austen believed that marriage should only be for love and affection, not wealth and greed. Austen's views on love and marriage are shown through Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine of the novel. She is twenty years of age and is the second oldest of her five sisters. Elizabeth is strong minded and a quick judge of character, and also has her own views on marriage that are different from other young women in the novel. She believes love should be the firm foundation of marriage, and that without it, a marriage cannot be successful. ...read more.

Middle

However, when Darcy writes a letter justifying his actions and proposal, Elizabeth begins to see Darcy in a different light. The proud, arrogant Darcy that Elizabeth thought she knew, and disliked very much, explains and apologises to her, leaving her in "astonishment, apprehension, and even horror" as she realises she was in the wrong about Jane and Bingley. She also realises that Wickham altered his story to his own liking in order to degrade Darcy even more. Her first impressions of Darcy from the Meryton ball, and Wickham's gentleman like manner caused her to be "pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other..." Her quick judge of character, though well in certain situations, is thought to be too quick, and perhaps because of this she judges wrongly at times - she did not see Darcy for who he is. By chapter 43 a very different picture has been painted of Darcy - that of the "sweetest tempered, most generous hearted, boy in the world." Such praise in his favour is told by his housekeeper, who knows him very well, showing Elizabeth's misjudgement of character. Darcy makes an effort to converse with Elizabeth and Mr and Mrs Gardiner and wishes for "her to be acquainted with his sister." His love for Elizabeth is being shown here as he is trying to improve himself for her, and is accepting her criticisms. ...read more.

Conclusion

Mrs Bennet's fickle-mindedness and rudeness is once again shown when she is first acquainted to Mr Darcy. She is very rude to him and does not like his manner. She even says, "So high and so conceited that there was no enduring him! I quite detest the man." However when she finds out Elizabeth and Darcy are to be married, she has no problem with him - "Oh! My sweetest Lizzy! How rich and how great you will be!" Her attitudes totally change to Mr Darcy and she is ecstatic about the marriage, simply as he is wealthy. he unsatisfactory relationship between Mr and Mrs Bennet is a good example of how not to marry and proves Austen's point on the importance of love and mutual respect needed for a successful marriage. Elizabeth was used as a vehicle for Austen's thoughts and views on love and marriage, and it is clear how she wants to show how Elizabeth is happier with a man who she truly loves than she would have been if she married for financial purposes, or for beauty, like the other unsuccessful marriages like Mr and Mrs Bennet and Mr Collins and Charlotte Lucas. Austen ends the eventful novel with a successful marriage based on growing admiration and affection, in which Elizabeth and Darcy have overcome their "First Impressions", which happened to be the first title of the novel, and their earlier feelings of pride and prejudice. Although Jane Austen never married herself, we see her through Elizabeth in an idealistic way. ...read more.

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