During the Victorian age, men and women courted others of the same education, wealth, and social status. This was the social norm as it was considered uncommon for someone to marry beneath them or to marry for love. In the novel, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen opposes the idea that love should be used for materialistic gain and proposes that it should only be acknowledged as a genuine act of truly loving someone. Through the course of the novel majority of the marriages are unsuccessful and dysfunctional, which is shown through many different characters of varying backgrounds. Jane Austen does this to point out the human greed and ignorance that takes place in these marriages.
Though there are very few perfect marriages, the idealistic one would be Darcy and Elizabeth, as well as Jane and Bingley. These relationships are based purely on love and affection, and not looks, status, or wealth. Jane Austen illustrates that a happy marriage comes not from the compliance with social customs, but rather from the compatibility between two individuals and the power of true love. Throughout the novel, Jane Austen criticizes the traditional class system and presents an idea that marriage should be based on love and not anything else. However, many conflicts begin to arise surrounding this idea. The novel opens with the line, “it is a truth acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,” (Austen 1). This famous opening line not only foreshadows the conflict of finding a significant other, but also further establishes the idea that love is not the goal of marriage but it is financial security and social standing that come first. Similarly, the marriage between Mr.
Darcy and the daughter of distinguished Lady Catherine, is expected because both come from equally significant families. Lady Catherine is a wealthy aristocrat which allows her to be rude to people she considers beneath her with little consequences, this is especially seen in her rude interrogation of Elizabeth Bennet, when it is revealed that she is engaged to her nephew. Upon hearing this news Lady Catherine retaliates back and says “It was the favourite wish of his mother, as well as of her’s. While in their cradles, we planned the union…to be prevented by a young woman of inferior birth, of no importance in the world, and wholly unallied to the family!” (304).
Lady Catherine is appalled that the anticipated marriage between Darcy and her daughter may be prevented by a young woman of “inferior birth” and “of no importance in the world” (304) she makes every effort to prevent any chance of an engagement between Darcy and Elizabeth. Lady Catherine’s reaction is the primary example of society in the 19th century in relation to the typical marriage. It is not just the wealthy that believe in the concept of marrying somebody with a reputation and a prestigious background.
This is exemplified when Mrs. Bennet is trying to marry off her daughters and ignores all factors that make a successful relationship when she says “Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes.” (2) To Mrs. Bennet, love is more about proximity than compatibility. Mr.
Bingley according to Mrs. Bennet is likely to fall in love with her daughters because he is going to be nearby, and he’s rich and single, while her daughters are female and single. This quotation goes to show that marriage is never supposed to be about actually loving the person but instead about reaping the benefits from them.There are many marriages in the novel that are surrounded by societal prejudices and characters that have conformed to these customs, because of this there are virtually no happy relationships in the novel. Jane Austen explores the idea that happiness and love are created through marriage and not that love and happiness are a result of marriage, this concept is shown clearly throughout the novel with multiple relationships. Starting with Mr.
and Mrs. Bennet’s marriage, which is portrayed to be unsuccessful due to the fact that they are not compatible. Elizabeth knows this when she is reflecting on her parents marriage “Her father captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour, which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind, had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her” (202). This shows how when Mr.
Bennet met Mrs. Bennet, he was blinded by her beauty but didn’t pay attention to her personality and the consequence of this was having to deal with a woman, who he didn’t really love for the rest of his life. Another ill-matched couple is Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins’ their relationship is based on status, image, and the title of being married.
They are not in love with each other and are both simply looking for a significant other and happen to find each other. Charlotte is a wise and intelligent woman but because she isn’t young, pretty, or rich, she ends up married to the dim-witted Mr. Collins. When Elizabeth finds out that Charlotte is engaged to Mr. Collins she initially was surprised because days before the announced engagement Mr. Collins’ was propositioning her, but after hearing Charlotte explain why she has accepted Collins’ proposal of marriage, she finally understands.
“I am not romantic you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness is as fair, as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.” (109) Although Elizabeth always knew that she and Charlotte had different views of marriage, Elizabeth is not romantic either, however unlike Charlotte, Elizabeth has a certain idea of an ideal marriage in her mind, and would never marry for reasons other than love. The relationship that Elizabeth’s sister Lydia has with Mr. Wickham is a marriage based on lies, status, and money.
Lydia is blind to this as she only cares about the title of being married because she thinks that is what makes one successful. “‘I am sure my sisters must all envy me. I only hope they may have half my good luck.
They must all go to Brighton. That is the place to get husbands'” (270). Ironically, she wishes her sisters good luck and wants them to be happy like her. Once again, there are reasons besides love as the reason for marriage.Jane Austen depicts the perfect marriage is one based on love and affection, and not about looks, status, or wealth.
The ideal view of marriage is like that of Darcy and Elizabeth or Bingley and Jane, who all built their marriage out of true love. These idealistic relationship are rare, as most women like Charlotte are willing to settle for someone they do not truly like, if it means financial security. At the start of the novel Darcy and Elizabeth’s 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. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy truly love each other and are in love before they are engaged; much like what is typical in our society today. It is due to Elizabeth who does not conform to the general views of the society or what her family considers right, that she makes decisions based on her heart and what she believes is right.
This is supported when Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth and Elizabeth turns him down because it is not what she wants. “your hope is rather an extraordinary one after my declaration. I do assure you that I am not one of those young ladies (if such young ladies they are) who are so daring as to risk their happiness on the chance of being asked a second time. I am perfectly serious in my refusal.
” (93) Elizabeth straightaway makes it plain to Mr. Collins’ that she is not interested in marrying him and stands by her decision even with the pressure from her family and society to marry as soon as possible. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s relationship is not based on traditional influences but is based upon their true feelings and emotions. Elizabeth describes Mr. Darcy’s feelings for her when she says, “‘..
.you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the who were always speaking and looking, and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused, and interested you, because I was so unlike them'” (327). This quotation shows the personality of Mr.
Darcy and why he began to fall in love with Elizabeth and didn’t just “chose” a wife. It was because Elizabeth was unlike the rest, that she finally succeeded in accomplishing what she set out to do. Much like Darcy and Elizabeth, Jane and Mr. Bingley’s relationship is also one of true love rather than money or status. After Mr.
Bingley goes to London and leaves Jane, she is clearly unhappy and worried, prompting Elizabeth to think “Jane was not happy. She still cherished a very tender affection for Bingley” (194). This shows that she really does love and care for Mr. Bingley and isn’t just using him for his money. Likewise, Mr.
Bingley also misses Jane but doesn’t come back because Mr. Darcy believes that Jane really is not in love with him. Although Mr. Bingley and Jane’s relationship may not be as sincere as Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s, their reason for getting engaged is because they are in love, and not for money or status.
These relationships were successful because unlike many couples in the novel they all believed that love makes a marriage, not that marriage creates love. In closing, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice provides an overview of love and marriage in the early nineteenth century, and challenges some but not all of the prejudices of that period. Throughout the novel Jane Austen portrays marriage to be a negative element of life, showing various failed marriages and its impacts on people. However, through dark there is always a light and that light is Darcy and Elizabeth, who are the embodiment of true love. Jane Austen illustrates that a happy marriage comes not from the compliance with social customs, but rather from the compatibility between two individuals and the power of true love.
True love can fight the pride and prejudice which exists in society and especially among the representatives of different social classes.