Explore Proposals Of Marriage And The Representation Of Married Women In Pride And Prejudice

1953 words - 8 pages

Explore proposals of marriage and the representation of married women in Pride and Prejudice

     Marriage is the ultimate goal in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The book begins with the quote 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife', and this sets the tone for all the events that are to follow. It manages to present a miniature version of all that happens over the course of the novel, the entire plot of which is basically concerned with the pursuit of advantageous marriage by both male and female characters. The obsession with socially beneficial marriage in nineteenth-century ...view middle of the document...

It is painfully obvious that Lydia will soon become disillusioned with her hasty marriage, but Mrs Bennet still sees it as 'delightful indeed' 9169). It is very likely that Austen's use of Mrs Bennet's character is only a deliberate device to highlight the necessity of marriage for young women to avoid scandal or scorn and to ensure that they are provided for, and this explains why her character is never developed any more than necessary. Charlotte, however, is still given as much attention after her marriage as she was before, and this is probably because Austen wants to let us as the reader see how her marriage of convenience affects her. She is not exactly unhappy in Mr Collins presence, but she is, it seems to Elizabeth, markedly happier without him - 'When Mr Collins could be forgotten, there was really a great air of comfort throughout, and by Charlotte's evident enjoyment of it, Elizabeth supposed he must often be forgotten.' (91) After Lydia is married, her image changes slightly. She goes from a careless, shallow girl who thinks only of chasing men, to a proud and boastful woman who can only patronise her older sisters - 'I am sure my sisters must all envy me. I only hope they have half my good luck… I dare say I shall get husbands for them before the winter is over' (175). She is still presented as stupid, and she is not a character that the reader can identify with.
     The proposals of marriage are directly linked with the way in which Austen wishes to present the various male characters. For example, Mr Collins does not see marriage as at all romantic, but instead he views it almost like a business venture, or a duty; once he has accomplished 'a good house and a sufficient income', he desires to proceed to the next step, which is logically marriage. He decides to choose 'one of the daughters, if he found them as handsome and amiable as they were represented by common report' without even seeing them, and Austen comments that it was his 'plan of amends - of atonement - for inheriting their father's estate'. By saying this, Austen backs up the image she has portrayed, and goes on to portray him as; 'not a sensible man', with the 'self-conceit of a weak head' (44) and 'the stupidity with which he was favoured by nature' (73). Basically, Collins is presented as quite disagreeable, and virtually emotionless - his feelings are not hurt when he is refused by Elizabeth, only his pride - 'though his pride was hurt, he suffered in no other way' (67). Similarly, he does not marry Charlotte for love, or even as a rebound action from Elizabeth's refusal, but because he believes it to be a good idea. His actions are not ruled by his heart, like Elizabeth or Darcy, but by his head. Darcy's proposal is also typical of his character - it is to the point and honest, but not overly emotional or passionate, and this is the impression that we receive of him from Austen throughout the novel. Before Darcy asks Elizabeth to marry...

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