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Marriage in Pride and Prejudice

"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 could not have better prepared the reader for the rest of the novel. The thread that sews together the lives of all the characters in this classic is the establishment of marriage. Austen uses the Bennet family of Longbourn to illustrate the good and bad reasons behind marriage.

Mrs. Bennet is an irritating woman whose main goal in life is to get her five daughters married. It might be correct in assuming that she felt social and financial pressure to do so. Her husband's estate was entailed to his nephew, Mr. Collins, upon Mr. Bennet's death. Therefore, Mrs. Bennet wanted her daughters to have financial stability elsewhere in case of their father's death. In the time period of this story there was very little social acceptance of women who were single their whole lives. For the most part, women could not acquire money on their own without inheriting or marrying into good fortune. Women who could not find a husband were often referred to as "old maids" and lived their whole lives with their parents. I can understand why Mrs. Bennet did not want this for any of her daughters.

The Bennets' marriage was not ideal. Mr. Bennet had married his wife because she was beautiful in her youth and her ability to supply him with children. Eventually though, her beauty faded and so did their enjoyment of each other. He enjoyed his time alone in his study where he could be away from his wife and daughters. Mrs. Bennet enjoyed gossiping about neighbors and finding future husbands for her daughters. I do believe that Austen is showing the reader that marrying only for physical appearance is wrong - beauty fades with time.

Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth's dearest friend, marries Mr. Collins for money. The narrator plainly states that Charlotte accepted his proposal for "the pure and disinterested desire of an establishment." She was twenty-six years old and her family was beginning to be worried. Upon hearing of her engagement, her brothers were "relieved from their apprehension of Charlotte dying an old maid." Charlotte wanted nothing more out of marriage than financial stability and that is what she got. In Hunsford it seems that Charlotte did nothing but tend to the chores of maintaining her home and pleasing Lady Catherine. I do not believe that Charlotte and Mr. Collins were in love at all and they did not really seem too happy in each other's company. I think their marriage was an illustration of why you should not marry just for financial reasons.

Lydia's marriage to Wickham was simply for romance and lust. For a good while, the flirtatious teenager had had her eye on military officers. I believe that when Wickham showed her attention she fell in love and henceforth came their marriage. The sad fact is that she liked him a great deal more than he cared about her. Wickham had many debts and used the money he got from marrying her to pay them off. Therefore, Lydia is married to a man that doesn't really care for her all that much and Wickham is married to a girl that cannot really offer him anything. This couple shows that you should marry someone who feels the same towards you or eventually you will be unhappy.

The marriages of the two eldest Bennet daughters were pleasant and appear to be ideal. Jane had longed for Mr. Bingley for quite a while. Bingley was handsome, rich, kind, and well liked. He and Jane shared many conversations and had complimentary personalities. They were pleasantly matched and I believe that they shared a happy life together. Elizabeth and Darcy's marriage was an excellent match. They were equal in intellect, had physical attraction and deep love for one another, financial security, romance, and companionship. They are the two I believe would be most happy in life.

Austen wanted the reader to know that marriage should be approached as a package deal - a package of love, financial stability, physical attraction, and happiness.

Word Count: 705


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