The Theme of Marriage in Pride and Prejudice Essay

3563 Words15 Pages
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." The second half of this opening sentence of the novel reveals that the "universal truth" is nothing more than a social truth. When claiming that a single man "must be in want of a wife", Jane Austen reveals that the reverse in also true; a single woman is in, perhaps desperate, want of a husband. In nineteenth century Britain, what people did and their behaviour was very much governed by the social class they were born into. Class distinction in Jane Austen's time was in fact very rigid. The land-owning aristocracy belonged to the highest rank of the social ladder. The class immediately below them was the gentry who had…show more content…
The reader can see two very distinct partnership ideologies, voiced by Charlotte Lucas and Elizabeth Bennet. After Charlotte has voiced her views, the more progressive Elizabeth reacts with laughter, assuming that Charlotte's strategies are much like her own and that she would actually never act in this manner. These different partnership ideologies collide when Elizabeth rejects Mr. Collins because she does not love him, followed quickly by Charlotte accepting his marriage proposal out of sheer practicality. Elizabeth's romantic view of marriage results in her feelings of disappointment and shock when she finds out. Elizabeth is blind to Charlotte's practical reasons for marrying Mr. Collins and she can not conceive of Charlotte being happy in such a marriage. Austen clearly shows that the Lucas family feel triumphant about the proposal. They are ready and anxious to sacrifice their daughter to a fool in order to guarantee her economic security: "Miss Lucas, who accepted him solely from the pure and disinterested desire of an establishment, cared not how soon that establishment were made." Jane Austen is not a romantic, but she conveys clearly that she disapproves of marriage based on such materialistic grounds. Austen uses the character of Charlotte to stand as a contrast against Elizabeth. Both of these young girls are clearly without financial security, but one is prepared to sacrifice her life in order to guarantee this
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