Explore Jane Austen’s attitude to marriage in Pride and Prejudice

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Explore Jane Austen’s attitude to marriage in Pride and Prejudice

Looking at the social, historical and cultural context

In the 19th century when Austen wrote ‘Pride and Prejudice’, the way in which marriage was viewed was very different. It would have been expected of a young woman to find a ‘suitable’ partner for marriage before they were thirty, as after this they could be seen as an embarrassment to their family. By suitable, it does not mean in the way in which marriage is viewed today. Today marriage is seen as an expression of deep love and respect for another person. In Austen’s time, a ‘good’ marriage was seen to be one where wealth and social status of the man and woman were socially suitable. There was very
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Each couple display compatibility, understanding as well as similarity in their characters. Many characters at different points in the novel remark on Jane and
Bingley, and how well suited they are. Elizabeth comments that Bingley is a, ‘sweet-tempered, amiable, charming man.’ She realises that Jane and Bingley are becoming infatuated with one another. ‘The train of agreeable reflections, which her observations gave birth to, made her perhaps almost as happy as Jane.’ This reflects on their compatibility. The other ‘ideal state’ of marriage, which is maybe more so than Jane and Bingley, is seen in Darcy and Elizabeth. Their compatibility is blinded to each of them because of Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth’s prejudice. As the book progresses, both characters manage to overcome these character flaws and various other obstacles and eventually realise their love for one another as their compatibility and understanding is increasingly revealed to the reader, ‘It was a union that must have been to the advantage of both.’ Darcy and Elizabeth’s similarities lie in their levels of intelligence, dedication to friends and their stance on expressing their opinions openly.
Regardless of what anybody said about their relationship, including Mrs. Bennet and the superior Lady Catherine, they ignored these various warnings. Lady Catherine mainly commented on
Elizabeth’s social inferiority to hers and her nephews.