Discuss the different attitudes to marriage portrayed in Jane Austin's 'Pride and Prejudice'

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Discuss the different attitudes to marriage portrayed in Jane Austin’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’

Jane Austen was born in 1775 and was the seventh of eight children. She lived in Stenevton, Hampshire, where her father was rector. Although her family was not rich, it was an upper-class family. Jane lived at a time where marriage was an important matter. To be unmarried during that era of time held limited opportunities for women. Jane ‘scribbled’ frequently as a child. She began writing seriously at the age of twenty-one. Jane Austen’s first published novel is ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Her work is admired and appreciated for the skill in plot construction, character description and the subtlety in dialogue; all three of these qualities are displayed in Pride and Prejudice. Though, Jane Austen never got married, she realised that marriage came a package full of love, wealth, intelligence and mutual respect between the partners to make it work. These attitudes are all portrayed in Pride and Prejudice, which is undoubtedly Jane’s master piece.

The main theme of Pride and Prejudice is marriage, which can be perceived from the first sentence. Austen likes starting her novels with a distinct style and this novel is no different. Before she even starts unveiling the plot, she gives the readers a clear view about what is to come, using one sentence: ‘A young man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife’. Austen has used this sentence ironically and slightly mockingly. She is not necessarily implying that young men are ‘in want of a wife’; more that it is the families with the daughters who are choosing the ‘young man’. This idea is shown through the different characters that Austen has invented. I will now discuss all the marriages in the novel which exhibit an overview of Jane Austen’s varied attitude towards different types of marriages.

The oldest couple in the book is Mr and Mrs. Bennet. The relationship is very peculiar and seems to have been made on what Austen would describe as false grounds. Austen shows the outcome that marrying someone because for their youthful beauty, as Mr. Bennet did will never bring you happiness. Mrs. Bennet is a silly type of woman, she has no sense and her only priority in life is to get her ‘daughters married off to rich men’. She is not very sensitive to people’s feeling and doesn’t bother to keep her voice down when insulting others, especially Mr. Darcy. However, her resent towards him is soon forgotten when he and Elizabeth get engaged. Mr. Bennet is an intelligent, witty man, but he also appears to be selfish, irresponsible and unhappy in his household. Disillusioned by an unhappy marriage, he retreats to his library and flees from the rest of the family by taking long walks and reading books. He doesn’t appear to be much of a fatherly figure because instead of guiding and teaching his daughters he teases and mocks them. He also finds enjoyment mocking and teasing his wife, even though she is completely oblivious to all of it.

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The first couple that get married off in the novel are Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas. Charlotte Lucas is a friend of Elizabeth and a realist. She knows that her financial status is poor, so she marries purely for economic reasons.  Mr. Collins is a cousin of Mr. Bennet and upon Mr. Bennet’s death; he will inherit the Bennet house. Mr. Collins is a weird type of man, he is pompous, insensitive, a fool and practically in love with his social standing as a clergyman, under the wing of his patroness ‘Lady Catherine de Bourgh’. Mr. Collins arrives at ...

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