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The Marriage Theme of Pride and Prejudice.

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Michael Finney Professor Spiller English 1302 23 April 2003 The Marriage Theme of Pride and Prejudice "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." (Austen 3) This opening line of Pride and Prejudice sets the stage for the theme of marriage found in the book and the author's opinion that marriage in her time was for financial reasons, and love was often a matter of chance. Through the marriages portrayed in her novel, Jane Austen connects lives of her characters and illustrates her ideas for a happy marriage. Ahearn states that Austen's work is viewed by some critics as "the very evidence of social history." (399) As Stone notes in his historical research about 19th century England, happiness was not the main reason for many people to marry. (667) Most women married for wealth and stability while most men viewed marriage as a way to provide themselves with companionship and comfort. ...read more.


(299) Marrying for financial reasons did not ensure happiness, but neither did marrying for physical attraction and the excitement of a new relationship. Lydia and Wickham's marriage had this type of beginning. Lydia is totally swept away by Wickham's good looks and charming behavior. According to Van Ghent, she is more impressed by the uniform than with the man wearing it. (302) However, with the small allowance that Lydia was to receive, it was doubtful that Wickham would have actually married Lydia without Darcy stepping in and contributing to their finances. When asked by Darcy why he had not married Lydia immediately, Wickham replied that he "still cherished the hope of more effectually making his fortune by marriage, in some other country". (Austen 210) Once the excitement and newness wore off, the relationship between Lydia and Wickham changed. "His affection soon sunk into indifference; hers lasted a little longer." (253) Although Austen does not describe how Mr. and Mrs. Bennet began their marriage, there are clues that their relationship was similar to Lydia and Wickham. (Chan) ...read more.


They developed a deep love for one another as well as financial security, equal intellects and physical attraction. Their relationship was not one that happened quickly. They spent time getting to know one another which helped both of them overcome the prejudices that they had when they first met each other. The events they experienced gave them an opportunity to learn more about one another and establish a firm base for their relationship to last. Elizabeth even explained this to her father in "relating her absolute certainty that his affection was not the work of a day." (246) Even though the marriages of Jane to Bingley and of Elizabeth to Darcy contain the "social formula of marriage-to-property" (Van Ghent 303), these couples are able to build their relationships on more than superficial qualities. (Chan) In Pride and Prejudice, Austen showed contrasts in the marriages of her characters not only to connect their lives but to also express her ideas for the basis of a happy and lasting marriage. Those ideas are relevant for today's relationships just as they were in Jane Austen's time. Finney 1 ...read more.

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