Elizabeth Bennet’s refusal of Mr. Collins puts her family at risk of being homeless. In England at the time of great landowners, according to professor Naomi Tadmor of Lancaster University, “Primogeniture existed in both law and custom” (Tadmor, Eighteenth-Century England 109). As such, only one person may acquire the estate. Only males may inherit, as Mr. Bennet, after receiving a letter, says to his family, “It is from my cousin, Mr. Collins, who, when I am dead, may turn you all out of this house as soon as he pleases” (Austen 60). Mr. Bennet is alluding to how Mr. Collins’s distance from the family would justify the action he describes, even as Mr. Bennet has never previously met Mr. Collins and therefore cannot factor in his strange personality to this eventuality. If Mr. Collins would turn them out, as he is expected to do, the family would be homeless.
This risk of being kicked out is so great that Mrs. Bennet is sure that Elizabeth would marry Mr. Collins. After hearing the news of Elizabeth’s refusal, Mrs. Bennet, “was beyond the reach of reason and she continued to rail bitterly against the cruelty of settling an estate ...
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