Reread the exchange between Charlotte and Elizabeth about marriage.
Length: 810 words (2.3 double-spaced pages)
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How does this section of the novel provide a foundation for the
novel’s central messages regarding marriage?
In Jane Austen’s novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ one of the main themes
through out is marriage. In the exchange between Elizabeth Bennett
and her friend Charlotte Lucas in Chapter six two main views on
marriage are bought to the forefront. Charlotte gives the view that
marriage is more of a necessity so that women can have financial
stability, whereas it is evident that Elizabeth believes marriage
should be a union of two loving people and a lasting emotional
Charlotte’s view is that she will marry Collins because she needs to
hold her situation financially and socially, and not because of any
mutual feeling of love between them. She thinks that it is neither
necessary nor beneficial to know some one well or to particularly like
some one before you marry them. ‘Happiness in marriage is entirely a
matter of chance’ says Charlotte. She then also says ‘I should think
she has a good a chance of happiness as if she were to be studying his
character for a twelvemonth’. By saying this, she is implying that it
doesn’t matter how well you know someone before you marry him or her,
as it will make no difference to whether or not it is a happy
marriage. Charlotte even goes a step further and states that people
‘always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their
share of vexation’ meaning that it might be worse to know someone well
before marriage. This interpretation is affirmed when Charlotte says
‘It is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the
person you are going to spend the rest of your life with’.
The view that Charlotte puts forward in Chapter six was a common
opinion held in the late 18th and early 19th century. Many women who
were part of the middle classes were often not sent to school and so
didn’t usually learn a skill that they could use to make a living.
Consequently, as they were women and so were often not left much, if
any, inheritance when their parents died, women found that they must
marry in order to have money and to keep their place in society.
Charlotte takes advantage of her situation to marry purely for money
and not for love, this is what many women did and what society
Elizabeth’s views are a contrast to Charlotte’s. Elizabeth believes
that to have happiness in marriage there must be love.
says ‘happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance’ Elizabeth
responds and says of Charlotte’s idea ‘you know it is not sound’.
Elizabeth’s views on marriage are very much her own and are not
influenced by society or those around her, not even her own mother can
persuade her to marry against her morals. This is shown by her
refusal of Collins even though her marriage to him would give her
financial security, a good house for the rest of her life and would of
satisfied her mother.
Both Elizabeth’s and Charlotte’s view on marriage are the foundation
of their marriages and of other marriages in the novel. Jane and Mr.
Bingley’s marriage is an ‘ideal’ marriage as is said in chapter 55,
there marriage is ‘rationally founded’ based on ‘excellent
understanding’ and ‘general similarity of feeling’. Elizabeth
approved of this marriage because she thought that they married for
the right reasons. Lydia and Mr. Wickham get married because they
have to, to save Lydia’s family’s pride. The marriage between Lydia
and Wickham was mercenary, Darcy paid Wickham to marry Lydia to stop
here disgracing herself and her family. In the novel, it is easy to
see which marriages are the happiest, Elizabeth and Darcy, and Jane
and Bingly. Whereas others Mr. Collins and Charlotte are not so much
as unhappy but more discontented as the couple don’t appear to get on
or have any mutual feelings.
The moral and philosophical values behind Elizabeth and Charlotte’s
views are, like their beliefs, totally in contrast. Elizabeth’s
morals are that you should not marry some one for financial gain
whereas Charlotte sees money as a just reason to marry someone.
Elizabeth also believes that you should only marry someone with whom
you are truly in love and it would be against her morals to marry some
one for any other reason.
In the novel, Jane Austen manages to draw in the reader and make the
reader start to question their own morals about marriage and those of
the characters in the book. The novel focuses on social pressures,
self-preservation and emotional feelings. Charlotte and Elizabeth
arrive at different opinions. Neither is right or wrong but the
discussion illustrates the centrality of marriage to Jane Austen’s