What the Two Proposals in "Pride and Prejudice" Reveal About Marriage in that Culture

What the Two Proposals in "Pride and Prejudice" Reveal About Marriage in that Culture

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‘Pride and Prejudice’ is a novel fixated on marriage: throughout, all the ‘action’ occurs within scenes devoted to either the talk of marriage or actual proposals. This cannot be expounded more than within the very first line: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife’. Here, at the beginning of the novel, a definite, though somewhat sarcastic, statement introduces the main theme of the novel – marriage- and, possibly more importantly, not love.
The stark divide between love and marriage shown right the way through cannot be comprehended fully by the twenty-first century reader: in today’s society marriage and love are mutually exclusive - you very rarely get one without the other, and if you do it is a big controversy. In the nineteenth century, however, marriage was considered a business transaction, with feelings swept to the side. As women did not have control of their assets nor much in the way of career opportunities, marriage was the only way to gain financial security; if not, they were reliant on their male relations. This is illustrated through the predicament facing the female Bennets. The Longbourne Estate is entailed so upon Mr Bennet’s death, Mr Collins would inherit, rather than any of the daughters. It is due to this that marriage is such a prominent idea within the Bennet household: they, none more so then Mrs Bennet, are fully aware that their future depends on a swift marriage.
Within the novel four proposals to the Bennets take place, two of which are received by Elizabeth. The world is often seen through her eyes and as an audience we are positioned to empathise with her opinion on the absurdity of marrying for reasons other than love....


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...cter in order to make fun of them. Austen elaborates many of her characters and therefore makes caricatures of them in order to emphasise their ridiculousness. This technique is employed upon Mr Collins: his extremely unpleasant manner and ridiculous reactions cause readers to take joy in the situations which he places herself into. Collins’ use of language is so verbose and so ornamented that the reader laughs at him, he is so exaggerated that the reader thinks that such a person cannot exist. Austen is clever in her uses of this method as without somebody to react to them, all the humour would be lost. Such hyperbole works only when you place the character to be ridiculed besides another that seems very real; when placed by Elizabeth, Mr Collins seems to be unbelievable at times. His proposal to her would not be as humorous without her reaction and response to him

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