A Perfect Marriage in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

A Perfect Marriage in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

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"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." This first sentence of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice brings together the lives of the characters who are in pursuit of marriage. Austen uses many examples throughout the novel to illustrate the good and bad reasons behind marriage to reveal her idea of the perfect marriage.

The reader is most familiar with the unhappy marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Mr. Bennet married his wife because of her youthful beauty and her ability to have children. The following quote describes how Mrs. Bennet's beauty faded and so did their enjoyment of each other, "[Mr. Bennet] captivated by youth and beauty...had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind, had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection...Respect, esteem, and confidence had vanished forever." As the lust faded, Mrs. Bennet diverted her attention to finding husbands for her five daughters that would ensure each of them financial and social security. She was often viewed as more of a nuisance than of any help. Her daughter Elizabeth describes her manner as "so far from right herself...[and] entirely insensible of evil." Excluding himself from his wife's pity affairs, Mr. Bennet took refuge in his study reading books. He did, however find amusement in his wife's ignorance and folly. Therefore marriage only for physical appearance is wrong for beauty fades with time.

Unlike Mr. Bennet, Charlotte Lucas did not marry for physical attraction, she married for money. Although Charlotte desired a happy, loving marriage, she was getting old and in turn settled for financial stability and establishment. Mr. Collins had been directed by his mentor, Lady Catherine DeBourg, to find a wife in order to remain in the social status she has placed him. When Elizabeth Bennet did not accept his proposal, he proposed to Charlotte who accepted. Upon hearing of her engagement to Mr. Collins, Charlotte's family was relieved from their apprehension of her dying an old maid. Charlotte explains to Elizabeth her reasons for accepting Mr. Collins' proposal: "I ask only for a comfortable home; and a situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with his is as fair, as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.

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" Charlotte received nothing more, she spent the rest of her loveless life tending to chores and pleasing Lady Catherine. All of this resulted in her marriage for financial security and establishment.

Austen portrays the marriage of Darcy and Elizabeth to be pleasant and ideal. However, initially it did not appear to be so. At first sight of Elizabeth, Darcy described her as "tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me." Hearing his opinion, Elizabeth judges Darcy as arrogant and rude. Her feelings are confirmed when George Wickham, a militia officer, tell her that Darcy disinherited him from Darcy's father's will. Darcy begins to notice her intelligence, playful manner, quick wit, and most of all her eyes for which he develops a fetish. He proposes to Elizabeth and she rejects him saying, "From the first moment...of my acquaintance with you, your manners impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others...I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry." The next day, Darcy gave Elizabeth a letter explaining the inaccuracy of Wickham's assessment of him. Upon reading the letter, Elizabeth was struck with astonishment. She found his conduct less than infamous and when he proposed to her a second time, she accepted.

In Austen's novel she stresses the importance of a proper marriage. It should be approached as a package deal of love, physical attraction, financial security, and happiness. It is only when a couple strives for these things, as Darcy and Elizabeth did, will truly be happy.

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