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The novel reflects society at the time in which it was written, womens
powerlessness in a patriarichal society. Men dominated all walks of
life and expected women to attend their every need. In order to secure
a "safe future" for themselves women expended a lot of time and energy
learning skills with which to attract a man of substance. Indeed
Darcys view was
'A woman must have a thourough knowledge of music, singing, drawing,
dancing and the modern languages' an extremely tall order for any one.
The major themes of money and marriage are indeed married together in
the opening lines of this novel
'It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man, in
possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife'.
During this period of time moral themes such as love and respect did
not play a pivotal role in marriage. Charlotte Lucas remarks,
'if the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to
eachother it does not advance their felicity in the least and it is
better to know as little as possible about the defects of the person
with whom you are to pass your life'. In this day a nd age a very
strange notion indeed.
Charlotte Lucas did not believe that she deserved to be happy in a
marriage. When she married Mr. Collins they were strangers and
Marriage in the early nineteenth century was an economic contract and
in the case of the Bennet girls a means of financial security and
social acceptability. Therefore Mrs. Bennets life revolved around her
'The business of her life was to get her daughters married'
'A single man of large fortune what a fine thing for our girls'.
Mrs. Bennets own marriage was not a happy one. Mr Bennet found retreat
in his library. When he first married he was 'captivated by youth and
beauty and that appearance of good humour had married a woman whose
weak understanding and illiberal mind, had very early in their
marriage put an end to real affection.. all his views of domestic
happiness were overthrown..'
A womans entire social,emotional and economic future depended entirely
on how wealthy her husband would be. So time spent in pursuit of a
wealthy mate was a matter of survival in the upper class. If you
happened to like or love that mate it was a highly beneficial bonus.
'Happiness in a marriage is entirely a matter of chance'.
It is sad that three of the marriages in the novel ended up as unhappy
unions. The Bennets marriage was based on physical attraction.
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Collins marriage, a financial union and the marriage of Lydia and
Wickham based on passion was doomed to fail even before it had begun,
'His affection for her soon sunk into indifference; hers lasted a
little longer; and in spite of her youth and her manners, she retained
all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her'.
Everyone helped them in their struggle. Jane and Bingley received them
to stay for long periods of time.
'Both of them frequently stayed so long that even Bingleys good humour
was overcome, and he proceeded so far as to talk of giving hint to be
Darcy also assisted them,
'Though Darcy could never receive them at Pemberly yet, for Elizabeths
sake, he assisted him.'
We can see that these unions based on phsical attraction, money and
passion were unhappy marriages. In contrast to these marriages were
Elizabeth and Darcy, Mr and Mrs Gardiner, and Jane and Bingleys
marriages. They were based on love and respect and were happy unions.
Elizabeth and Darcys first impressions of eachother were not positive,
but they soon learned that first impressions were not always reliable.
When she read his letter she thought she would have had 'a strong
predjudice against everyting he was going to say'.
Despite all the odds they grew to love eachother. It was considerded
wrong for Darcy to marry beneath himself and Elizabeth had already
turned down two marriage proposals. The first offer came from Mr.
Collins who said
' it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be
made to you'
but Elizabeth was determined to find love. Elizabeth and Darcy had the
same interests and were able to joke in a
'lively, sportive manner'
They were the perfect couple. As a teenager in the twenty-first
century I feel that this was the most favourable marriage.
The marriage of Jane and Mr. Bingley was quite like that of Elizabeth
and Darcy. Jane had found love in a wealthy husband. They are
compatible and Mr. Bennet remarks
'You are a good girl and I have great pleasure in thinking you will be
Mr. And Mrs. Gardiner's union was based on true love and shared
respect. They chose each other with their heads but also with their
hearts. Mrs. Gardiner believed that it takes time for love to grow.
'The expression of so violently in love is hackneyed, so doubtful it
gives me little idea. Its often applied to feelings which arise from
only hours of acquaintance.'
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner are responsible for making Lydia's marriage a
respectable one and in some ways for bringing Elizabeth and Darcy
together at Pemberley. A very caring and responsible couple.
I do believe that the novel 'Pride and Prejudice' is based on money
and marriage in the nineteenth century. Marriage brought social status
and popularity to a family.
'The Bennet's were to be the luckiest family'
Elizabeth and Jane were lucky as the men they loved were also rich.
Financial security was of the utmost importance with social standing
running a close second.
It is a sad reflection at that time that these unwritten social rules
existed and women treated in such a manner. After a very long struggle
attitudes to women have slowly been changing. In some cultures women
are still treated as second class citizens but in the western world
today women have very nearly abtained equality.