Pride and Prejudice - Marriage
Uploaded by jrblacky on Sep 29, 2001
Explore the social institution of marriage in Austen's society in a comparison of the proposals of Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth Bennett
In this essay, I will attempt to answer the above question by going through a number of stages. I will firstly gather a detailed knowledge of what marriage was like in Austen’s society. From this I will be able to apply my findings to the proposals of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Collins. Whilst doing this, I will compare and contrast the two proposals and look at the reasons why they wanted marriage, their approaches to the matter and their reactions from the responses of Elizabeth Bennett.
In Jane Austen’s society, marriage was hugely different than that of today. This was evident in every aspect of marriage. Marriage was necessary for women in Austen’s society. Without it they would have no income and could not create one for themselves. Women were also unable to inherit property after the death of a previous landowner. These factors mean that women were keen to marry early and not for the reasons associated with marriage of today.
Nowadays, people wouldn’t even consider marrying if love wasn’t involved. During the time in question, however, love was somewhat irrelevant. Public perception of the couple was taken into consideration, however, regardless of the intentions of the couple. Marriage was seen as a status symbol and was closely linked to the class system.
Jane Austen knew this society well as she was the unmarried daughter of a clergyman which fell in the social class known as gentry. She had no income and therefore had to depend on her brothers for support.
All these factors must be considered when looking at the proposals of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Collins.
The Bennett family has five daughters ranging in age from fifteen to twenty-five. They have no sons. In Austen’s time, this would have been seen as a burden rather than an advantage. For each daughter that is married, a dowry has to be paid and in the case of the Bennett’s, you are looking at a huge financial burden.
The Bennett family is relatively well off and own land – ‘Longbourn House’. As daughters cannot inherit, the land would pass on to Mr. Collins, a cousin of the family.
Mrs. Bennett is desperate to find husbands for her daughters. Because of this, she is somewhat rash in making decisions for her daughter’s futures.