On Jane Austen’s View of Marriage ——Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen (1775-1817) is often viewed as one of the greatest realistic novelists in English literature in the 19th century. During the forty-two years of her life, she completed six novels and left behind three fragments, which vividly revealed the class relationship, social customs and morals of her time and depicted the life of the rural gentry in conservative and tight conditions.
In her works, innocent courting and proper marriages constitute the central strands of the story, but behind these we can see ulterior motive of loving and marrying for money and social position, which is the truthful reflection of the specific historical period. In Pride and Prejudice, Austen took the love affair between Elizabeth and Darcy as the clue, and described four marriages. The novel showed the social reality that economic status and property elements influenced marriages and women’s fates, meanwhile expressed her ideal marriage: We can not marry for money or regard marriage as a game.
She advocated the marriage for both love and economic consideration with love playing the leading role. And we can figure that out by comparing four different marriages in the novel. Elizabeth’s marriage —— with both love and money As her father’s favorite daughter, Elizabeth is intelligent, vivacious, humorous, perspective and quick-witted and she has strong personality and dignity. She is deeply aware of that if she wants to live a better life in the future she must find a good husband. She refuses Mr. Collins’ proposal, which makes Mrs. Bennet very angry, because she does not and will never love him.
She once holds good feeling towards Wickham, considering him to be the most agreeable man she have ever met, meanwhile feels it imprudent to fall in love with him. It is her steadfast pursuit of spiritual agreement that makes her image brilliant in the novel. And the finest quality of Elizabeth lies in her sense of dignity. She turns down the young aristocrat Mr. Darcy’s proud though honest proposal. For her the most unbearable thing is that he does not propose with love based on equality between men and women. Elizabeth first refusal makes Darcy realize his pride and egotism, so when hey meet at Pemberley again, Darcy becomes very courteous and quite different from what he was at the dancing party, which moves Elizabeth very much. Only then does Elizabeth realize they are congenial in thoughts, emotions and interests. Later, with more and more understanding of Mr. Darcy, she also regrets her prejudice and comes to admire him. When Darcy changed completely, she eagerly accepts his proposal. The temptation of money and social status can not make her disregard the inequality between men and women, and by refusal she has defend her personality and dignity as well as the purity of her love.
Jane’s marriage —— based on beauty, virtue, and fortune Jane, the eldest daughter of the Bennet family, is typical good-natured and gentle woman. At the dancing party in Meryton, Jane and Mr. Bingley fall in love with each other at the first sight. And on some later occasions, love between them develops smoothly. Even though Mr. Bingley leaves for London suddenly one day because of Darcy’s wrong judgment, and Jane somewhat feels disappointed and sad at Miss Bingley’s letter which tells her that Mr. Bingley loves Georgiana, Darcy’s sister very much, eventually misunderstanding disappears and they get married.
The marriage of Jane and Mr. Bingley is more or less based on their good looks as they love each other at first sight. Yet Mrs. Bennet is particular happy just because her son-in-law have a yearly income of four or five pounds. So in addition to their nice appearance, their happiness owes a great deal to Bingley’s large fortune. Lydia’s marriage —— with neither love nor money Far contrast to her two eldest sisters, Lydia, the youngest daughter of the Bennet family, is vain, ignorant, idle and absolutely uncontrolled and frivolous in her affair and marriage.
She is deceived by Wickham’s appearance of goodness and virtue, and elopes with him. Wickham’s true nature begins to show itself through his attachment to Miss King for purely mercenary purposes and then through Darcy’s exposition of his past and through his elopement with Lydia. Austen certainly does not appreciate their marriage. She expresses her feelings towards them through Elizabeth: How Wickham and Lydia were supported in tolerable independence, she could not imagine. But how little permanent happiness could belong to a couple who ere only brought together because their passions were stronger than virtue, she could easily conjecture. Charlotte’s marriage —— with money but without love Charlotte is quite different from her best friend Elizabeth. Her parents, like the Bennet couple, can give her little fortune, and she is as sensible and intelligent as Elizabeth, but her pursuit of spiritual happiness is not as brave and strong as that of Elizabeth. She perceives Mr. Collins’ pedantry and sycophancy and stupidity.
When she accepts Collins’ proposal, she is clear that he is neither sensible nor agreeable. But it is the only provision for a well-educated young woman with a small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness it must be their pleasantest preservation from want. In fact they include only money but no love. Charlotte’s pitiful fate is not caused by herself. The development of social economy and her social status determine that she has to depend on her husband to ensure food and clothing for the rest of her life.
Austen explored life of society and process of history, and revealed her progressive view of marriage and profound implication through a vivid and realistic description of family life. In the modern society, marriage is even not the only form for people to get together. However we appreciate the respect for others, the understanding of own heart, the correct moral principles learned by lessons and the pursuit of happiness and love which are shown by characters in Austen’s novel.