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How is the central theme of 'marriage' presented in 'Pride and Prejudice'? How has your knowledge of the social/historical contest of the novel contributed to your understanding of the motivations of its various characters?

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Introduction

How is the central theme of 'marriage' presented in 'Pride and Prejudice'? How has your knowledge of the social/historical contest of the novel contributed to your understanding of the motivations of its various characters? The book 'Pride and Prejudice' begins with the line 'it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.' this is saying that all rich men are wanting a wife. Women, in Jane Austen's writing, who were not to inherit anything from their parents, were out to find a husband with wealth; whereas today you are more likely to marry for love. The man was more dominant and if the wife misbehaved then he could divorce her, a woman had no say and had to stay loyal to her husband for wealth purposes. For women, marriage was often the only means of social status improvement. Marrying for money may seem unromantic but for most women it was for safety so they had something to live for. Put most bluntly, her father or her husband defined a woman's position in life and she was expected to be modest, submissive and incapable of independent thought. With few exceptions, their education was lower than their husbands or their male contemporaries. It is easy to laugh at Mrs Bennet's 'fidgets' and her wild changes of mood but she remains 'a woman of mean understanding' who is incapable of exercising any moral prejudice. ...read more.

Middle

She is less beautiful than her elder sister, Jane, but has a natural cheerfulness way about her and a way of poking fun subtly. She is the favourite of Mr Bennet and she inherits his sense of the ridiculous. When Mr Collin's introductory letter is received they both hint their sarcasm 'can he be a sensible man, sir?'. Mr Bennet recognises her 'quickness' and Mr Darcy admires the 'liveliness' of her mind. She is a strong-minded person who will not contain her values and self-confidence. She is reluctant to place marriage at the centre of her ambitions without any regard for feelings and circumstances. She is shocked by Charlotte's single-minded vision of marriage and she has no hesitation in rejecting two proposals which both offer finance and security. Jane is the eldest of the sisters and the prettiest. She has a calm personality that always sees the best in people. This proves the source of her own distress at times. Her misplaced trust in Caroline Bingley leaves Jane vulnerable and exposed to the true reasons for Bingley's absence. Jane proves to be wiser than Elizabeth when she suspects there is more to the relationship between Wickham and Darcy than first appears. During the novel Jane and Elizabeth maintain a loving relationship, they are extremely close and never cease to understand each other. It sometimes seems that Elizabeth is the older of the two because of Jane's innocence to the world. Elizabeth chooses to defend Jane when Charlotte accuses her of being too insecure but later on agrees with Darcy that Jane is insecure and is indifferent to Bingley. ...read more.

Conclusion

I think that Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collin's will stay together purely because they are having offspring and Charlotte wants safety no matter how unhappy she is. Jane Austen does not use description of characters; instead she focuses on the moral qualities. We can see this by Mr Collins and Jane's reaction to his proposal towards herself, Elizabeth and Charlotte. With all three Mr Collins is very plain and ordinary and does not state any reason why anyone should marry such a boring pompous old man, and yet Charlotte does choose him and I think that Jane is not surprised by her choice. We can also tell this because of Darcy's two proposals, one is very focussed on why he does not want to marry Elizabeth and he then realises that nothing but Elizabeth matters and he is in love, this makes his second proposal much better and we see that he becomes a lot less focussed, he does not mention Elizabeth's background or family but is more like a gentleman. In the 18th Century social status was a priority and women married for financial benefit not for love. Jane Austen shows this by Mr Collins and Charlotte's relationship and Lydia Bennet and Mr Wickham's behaviour. But there were a few that did marry for love, Jane and Bingley and Darcy and Elizabeth. The title of the book - pride and prejudice - shows to me how Darcy started off pride and gradually became quite prejudice due to one person, Elizabeth. Jane Austen does not describe looks or attitudes much, rather their moral qualities, this way you can create your own picture of the characters. Charlotte Torrance Mrs Pritchard 10.1B ...read more.

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