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Pride and Prejudice - Discuss in Relation to the Novel, the Importance of Marriage and the Status of Women in the Late 18th and 19th Centuries

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Introduction

'Discuss in Relation to the Novel, the Importance of Marriage and the Status of Women in the Late 18th and 19th Centuries' Throughout her novels, Jane Austen writes many things in relation to the status of women and how important marriage was to them in regency England. This essay will discuss how Jane Austen relates the importance of marriage and the status of women through her novel: Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen uses both Lydia and Elizabeth to tell readers a lot about the importance of marriage, and the advancement it could have brought to the status of a woman in her time. 'Lord, how I should like to be married before any of you; and then I would chaperone you about to all the balls' (In this time, an unmarried woman needed a married woman, known as a chaperon, to escort her to a ball). Marriage was the only way for a woman to gain any status of her own, and here Lydia is telling us how she would love to have a status above her sisters who, being older than her, would have been her superiors in the family hierarchy. In fact, when married, Lydia expects to walk in front of the line when her sister where walking, a place otherwise taken by the oldest. ...read more.

Middle

Consider the case of Charlotte Lucas. This is a part of the novel that clearly demonstrates how desperate some women were to get married. Did she marry Mr Collins for his personal qualities, or for excessive fortune? She (and most other women) detested his character, yet she still married him. She is rather older than many unmarried women, at the age of 27 and part of a family of little consequence, thus she jumps at the chance of being settled amiably - she is desperate! This was the situation of many unfortunate women of the early 19th and late 18th century, with their having to settle for an unhappy marriage at the fear of getting none at all. In addition, the novel also demonstrates the importance of a good marriage, especially in terms of the children, which was Jane Austen's own view. Throughout her book, she presents many situations that show the importance of a marriage of equals. Mr and Mrs Bennet's marriage is the perfect example of an unequal marriage. Mr Bennet stupidly marries a wife without consideration of their inequality. Mr Bennet is vastly more intelligent, has a far greater wit and has a much greater depth of character and morality than his wife. All he ends up doing is reverting to teasing and worrying her to an unfair extent, and laughing at her all the time. ...read more.

Conclusion

He even says to her: 'It is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you. Your portion is unhappily so small that it will in all likelihood undo the effects of your loveliness and amiable qualifications. As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me...' This at least demonstrates the importance of marriage to Elizabeth in particular. Without marriage, her family could become destitute and homeless. In addition, it suggests that women of that time in general were expected just to accept any offer that was amiable in terms of class and money, without any consideration of the actual suitor, because the status, money and other benefits to be gained through marriage were so important. The novel reflects various things to do with the importance of marriage and the status of women. It clearly supports the 'marriage of equals' concept, and gives us fictional examples to show us why a good marriage is so important - not just for the couple, but for the children and the family's reputation as well. In her novel, Jane Austen also clearly stresses how unfairly important marriage was to the women who lived during the time it was written. In fact, it might be said that Jane Austen wrote the book to publicise her feelings on the injustices of women's status, and the importance that lay upon their marriage. ...read more.

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