Explore Jane Austen’s attitude to marriage in Pride and Prejudice

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Explore Jane Austen’s attitude to marriage in Pride and Prejudice Looking at the social, historical and cultural context In the 19th century when Austen wrote ‘Pride and Prejudice’, the way in which marriage was viewed was very different. It would have been expected of a young woman to find a ‘suitable’ partner for marriage before they were thirty, as after this they could be seen as an embarrassment to their family. By suitable, it does not mean in the way in which marriage is viewed today. Today marriage is seen as an expression of deep love and respect for another person. In Austen’s time, a ‘good’ marriage was seen to be one where wealth and social status of the man and woman were socially suitable. There was very little, if nothing at all based on a good love match. This can be seen in Austen’s opening statement, ‘it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ Austen’s use of irony immediately indicates that she does not agree with this popular view of her time. Austen’s views are depicted throughout the book through the thoughts of characters, especially through the main character, Elizabeth Bennet. They seem to share the same view that social suitability is not enough for marriage, but it should be based on love and understanding. For Austen to hold this opinion in the time that she lived shows she was ahead of her time, as her opinion is the common view among today’s modern society. Austen illustrates two main examples of the ‘ideal state’ of marriage. These can be seen through the relationships and eventual engagements of Bingley and Jane, along with Elizabeth and Darcy. The way, in which Austen portrays these two relati... ... middle of paper ... ...and compatibility and the feelings of the two people involved, were not high on the priority list for a good, successful marriage. However Austen thought this should be the other way around, as she believed that love and compatibility are one of the most important aspects of a good marriage and that money and social status should only play a part in marriage, not decide it. This can be seen where she shows her personal feelings towards each different type of marriage shown. In the marriages she sees as being ‘good’ marriages, we can assume that they will be happy when the marriage has been based on a balance of their personalities and their love. Throughout each she continually stresses the importance of love, equality and compatibility in a marriage. The reader is shown the alternatives to this, in both the positive and negative consequences of marriage.
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