The Social Institution Of Marriage In Jane Austen’s Society

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The Social Institution Of Marriage In Jane Austen’s Society

In the following essay I am going to closely examine the proposals of

marriage Elizabeth by her cousin Mr Collins, and aristocrat Mr Darcy.

I am also going to compare and contrast the events of each proposal.

In Jane Austen’s lifetime a women’s status in society came firstly

from her parents and secondly when she married. Jane Austen shows the

marked differences in class frequently, as this was a major feature of

everyday life in the 19th century. Men were seen as being far superior

to women as they were able to work and thus earn a small, and in rare

cases a large fortune. Pride and Prejudice in some ways mirrors Jane

Austen’s own life, as her heart was broken at a tender age. Jane

Austen gave her undying love to her hero Tom Lefroy, however the match

proved incompatible as neither Jane or Tom had a sufficient income to

allow them to live as man and wife. At only twenty Jane Austen’s real

love had come and gone and she never went on to love anyone else.

Pride and Prejudice portrays the struggle for women to find compatible

men, that not only satisfied their own need for love and adoration,

but also suitors that meet their families’ best interests.

In chapter nineteen it becomes clear to the reader that Mr Collins is

interested in Mrs Bennet’s daughters. He firstly questions the

availability of Jane but is told that she is soon to be engaged to Mr

Bingley. After this set back Mr Collins inquires about Elizabeth (the

second eldest daughter of Mrs Bennet.) “ May I hope madam, for your

interest with your fair daughter Elizabeth, when I solicit for the

honour of a private audience with her in the course of this morning.”

Elizabeth tried to inte...

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within a family could have serious consequences on daughters and their

eligibility for marriage. Many would remain spinsters or they would

marry outside their usual social circle. It was not unusual for

couples to become engaged in their late teens (with the life

expectancy at this time of approximately forty years it is perhaps not

surprising that couples married young). Today many couples are

marrying in their thirties and marriage is not as fashionable or

socially vital. In the Bennets’ case as there was no son and heir

there was the law of entailment whereby property was left to a male

relative. Therefore there was a real pressure for a daughter to marry

the inheritor so that property and wealth could remain within the

family. Of course laws like this do not generally exist today, and

marriages are a union of love rather than a business proposition.

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