About marriage, what can we learn from Jane Austen

By Ann Bryant,2014-11-18 17:46
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    About marriage, what can we learn from Jane Austen?

    thIn the 19 century, marriage never failed to fascinate British’s parents. In Pride and

    Prejudice, Jane Austen showed us many different attitudes toward love and marriage by describing five marriages, thus reflected her own thoughts. In her view, marriage for property and status were improper. However, if one didn’t consider those

    above-mentioned factors, he/she was stupid. In this sense, Jane Austen rejected the marriage based on money and emphasized the importance of emotion in an ideal marriage.

    Marriage without love is unacceptable. Charlotte, Elizabeth’s friend, who got married

    with Mr. Collins, is the first person I want to analyze. Although Mr & Mrs Collins enjoyed high level of material life, there was no love in their marriage. Charlotte was avid of money and status of Mr. Collins. She even considered she had obtained a preservative from her marriage (volume I, chapter 22). And for Mr. Collins, the reason why he got married was just because of his three ridiculous reasons——to set an

    example, to add his happiness and to take suggestion from others (volume I, chapter 19). None of reason is about marriage itself. In Austen’s view, their marriage was

    “sacrificed every better feeling to worldly advantage” (volume I, chapter 22). This

    comment revealed an abnormal fashion in Britain at that time---they regarded marriage as a method of guaranteeing property and improving social status. And they paid attention to lineage and background instead of emotion (Polymercat 2009:6). Marriage drove by impulse is inadvisable. Lydia, Elizabeth’s younger sister, she was

an audacious and coquettish woman. And she didn’t receive firm education from her

    parents. Infatuated with young charming man, she was used by Mr. Wickham, a man who was handsome but dissipated and heavily in debt. Their marriage was most ridiculous and nobody thought it would last long (except Mrs. Bennet). It’s hard to say

    there was love in their marriage. And even there was, it must be the result of lust and impulses. Lacked of emotion and controlled by money, their marriage was destined to be failure. Consequently, as Austen said in the end of this book, “His (Mr. Wickham)’s

    affection for her soon sunk into indifference; hers (Lydia) lasted a little longer”

    (volume III, chapter19).

    When talk about non-ideal marriage, we have to mention Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Bennet. Because their marriage proved that marriage without adequate consideration is irrational. When Mr. Bennet was young, he was “captivated by youth and beauty” of Mrs. Bennet and he ignored her “weak understanding and illiberal mind” (volume II,

    chapter 19). Although they have equal social status, after they married, Mr. Bennet found his wife is a totally fool and he could not respect his partner anymore. Romance disappeared, as Elizabeth thought, her parents’ marriage was not suitable (volume II,

    chapter 19). Lacked of sufficient understanding and emotion doomed their marriage to failure.

    Above-mentioned three marriages reflect the prevailing marriage ideas among the

    thmiddle class of Britain in the 19 century. These people ignored the importance of

    emotion in marriage. They chased money, status and worldly interests. However, in Jane Austen’s view, conjugal felicity and domestic comfort were essential for an ideal

marriage. In her view, following couple’s marriages were satisfying.

    Ideal marriage needs confidence and expression of love. Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley experienced some twists and turns in their courtship. At the beginning of the book, the young couple fell in love with each other at the ball. Mr. Bingley was rich and he had intense and sincere character. He loved Jane. However, he had doubts in himself and he was too diffident to confirm the relationship with Jane. On the other hand, Jane was attracted by Mr. Bingley but she pretended she has nothing to do with him. “Her

    look and manner were open, cheerful and engaging as ever, but without any symptom of peculiar regard.” (volume III, chapter 12) Besides, as the eldest child in Bennet’s,

    she had to behave mild and restrained. Fortunately, Mr. Bingley realized his owe feeling on Jane and made a proposal to her. Finally, they received “the happiest, wisest, most reasonable end.” (volume III, chapter 13) In writer’s view, if you really

    love someone, you should face your feeling without outside interferences. Because love could overcome everything, includes family, money and status, etc. Ideal marriage also should be actively beneficial for both husband and wife. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy were most match couple in this book. Mr. Darcy was honest, kind and looked good. His income was 10,000 pounds a year and he was on upper middle class. Elizabeth was beautiful, confident and didn’t yield to social status. That’s why Mr. Darcy was attracted by her. At first, Elizabeth didn’t care for Mr. Darcy because of his arrogance and she soon grew up many prejudices and misunderstandings on Mr. Darcy. When Mr. Darcy made the proposal for Elizabeth for the first time, he was refused. After that, he remained his emotion and realized that he must do something to

    please Elizabeth and he must learn sacrifice and dedication.. In fact, this kind of pride/arrogance was due to the different social status. Afterward, Elizabeth realized that “he is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal.” (volume

    III, chapter14) Her attitudes changed gradually after she saw what Mr. Darcy done for her and her family. Elizabeth overcame her prejudices on Mr. Darcy. In the end, they lived a happy life. In writer’s view, the marriage between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy

    Elizabeth’s ease and liveliness could soften could bring advantages for both of them---

    Mr. Darcy’s mind and improve his manners; Mr. Darcy’s judgement, information and knowledge of the world could bring benefit for Elizabeth (volume III, chapter 8). Both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy learned a lot from each other, they were really the object of each other’ choice, and they were in the same class. So Jane Austen regarded

    their marriage as ideal marriage.

    These five marriages deeply reflect different ideas in most of marriages. Jane Austen set up an ethical standard about marriage by love stories. It’s fresh but reasonable.

    Love and marriage are popular topic in every field in the development of human civilization. Writers and artists always seemed to perform love and marriage in happy endings. Nevertheless, in fact, love and marriage could not always be match. “Where there is marriage without love, there will be love without marriage.” (Benjamin Frankin) Many young men and young women are still confused about how to balance of love and marriage. Fortunately, Pride and Prejudice is certainly an eye opener to

    many youngsters: The marriage without emotion would be short-lived; the marriage controlled by lust and money would not last.


    Austen-Leigh, William., and Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh. Jane Austen: Her Life and

    Letters: A Family Record. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc, 2006

    Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. New York: Penguin Group (USA) Inc, 1950.

    Cecilia, Jane and Summer. “Jane’s Character and Her Love with Mr.Bingley”.11 Dec.

    2011. 30 Oct. 2013.


    Copeland, Edward., and Juliet McMaster. The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen.

    New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

    Deirdre Le Faye. Jane Austen :the world of her novels. London :Frances Lincoln

    Limited, 2003.

    Rachel R. “In pride and prejudice how is Mr Bingley, Mr Bennet and Jane passive?”.

    April. 2013. 30 Oct. 2013.


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