"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want if a wife"
This comment is humorous and satirical, but holds an underlying truth. The fact that Jane Austen opens the novel with such a comment on marriage evidences the importance of the theme in the book. Indeed the novel is all about marriage in society. Austen lived in a time when marriage was the only way out for some women, or they would be forced to become a governess and lose their independence. The way that this opening sentence is out provides another theme, satire. Austen sees the following marriages that she writes on as amusing but they are still frowned upon, such as the marriage of Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas. Austen sees this marriage as beneficial for both partners. He can potter around the garden and suck up to Lady Catherine deBourgh, while Charlotte spends her time alone reading.
The first marriage to be examined is that of Mr and Mrs Bennet. This is not a marriage of love, but of vulgarity and shallow natures of both parties. Mr Bennet is of a higher class than Mrs Bennet, who is "a woman of mean understanding" contrasting Mr Bennet's "quick parts". They have been married 23 years and at once, the Bennets realise that they have absolutely nothing in common, so they withdraw from each other. Mr Bennet spends all day in his study retreated from Mrs Bennet and her gossip.
"With a book he was regardless of time"
"Mrs Bennet spends her day with tittle-tattle and idle conversation. She is vulgar in her behaviour; the only aim for her is to get her daughters married off to someone with lots of money."
Austen shows us ...
... middle of paper ...
...g from the couple's opening resentment of each other - Elizabeth herself describes the "malice of Mr Darcy". His all turns around, and we know that Darcy is the most suitable husband for Elizabeth. He is generous and intelligent, and Elizabeth is "convinced that she could have been happy with him" when she almost loses him. In fact of course they are, and we don't need a sequel to be told that!
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996.
Fritzer, Penelope Joan. Jane Austen and Eighteenth-Century Courtesy Books. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1997.
Monaghan, David. Jane Austen Structure and Social Vision. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1980.
Rubinstein, E., ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Pride and Prejudice. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1969.
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