How is love and marriage treated in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice?

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Pride And Prejudice

Q. How is love and marriage treated in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice?

Pride and Prejudice is the most popular of Jane Austen’s novels. Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813. The original novel was written during 1796-1797 under the title ‘first impressions’ and was in the form of an exchange of letters. The great strength of her novels is the social observations they contain: Austen employed a strong sense of irony in her critique of aristocratic disaffection and the pretensions of the nouveau riche. With a measured sardonic eye she was able to summarise social mores and the restraints suffered by women in Regency England.

The novels of the 17th century were written as such that they focused mainly on the aristocratic class and ignored the middle class and the lower class. Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ tells the story of the initial misunderstandings between Elizabeth Bennet and the haughty Darcy, which are sorted out eventually, and the problems of marriage during Jane Austen’s period. The tone of the novel is light, satirical and vivid.

The opening line of the novel itself summarises the attitude of people towards marriage during Jane Austen's period.

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife’

This, very first line highlights the importance of marriage and the helplessness of women during Jane Austen's time. In this first line Austen makes clear to the audience three things. First: the main subject of the novel will be courtship and marriage. Second: she elaborates on a simple subject in a humorous tone. Third: she prepares the reader for a hunt in the novel, of either a man in search of a wife or a lady in pursuit of a husband. The thread that sews together the lives of all the characters in this classic is the establishment of marriage. During Jane Austen's time women could not inherit property and so had to rely on marriage as a source of survival. Readers often are misled with the seeming preoccupation of money with marriage. Although it may seem that only greedy characters such as Wickham think about money while marrying, that is not the case, for even sensible people have to brood on this. Since marriage was the primary source of survival everyone had to think of a guaranteed income source to ensure the smooth operation of the household after marriage.

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Love and marriage is an important theme in ‘Pride and Prejudice’. There are seven different marriages presented in the novel. With the exception of the marriage of the Gardiners’ and Lucas’ the remaining five marriages contrast each other to reveal Jane’s opinions and thoughts on the subject of marriage. The first marriage we encounter which is not based on love and is unsuccessful is the relationship between Mr and Mrs. Bennet. They are clearly incompatible. Mr. Bennet’s frequent refuge in his library highlights the failure of Mr and Mrs Bennet’s marriage.

‘Her father, captivated by youth and beauty ...

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