The main values for the young women in the nineteenth century were their successful marriage and family. This fact can be explained by the dependent economic position of a woman in society.
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Thus, to receive the economic security, a woman should be married or inherit the income from her male relatives. Traditionally, girls and their mothers became preparing for the further marriages in advance because it was the major event in the life of a young woman.
In spite of the predominance of this vision of the marriage and the woman’s role in society, Jane Austen in her Pride and Prejudice proposes several possible variants of realizing the scenario of meeting the further husband and the marriage which can be considered as rather controversial from the point of the ideals of that period.
Although marriage in the nineteenth century is the guarantee of the woman’s definite social status, Jane Austen accentuates that the happy marriage cannot be based successfully on the other factors differed from the mutual love, respect, and understanding.
The social status of married and unmarried women in the British society differed greatly, and mothers used any opportunity to help their daughters marry a noble man with the income. Thus, “it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” (Austen 1).
These words open the novel written by Austen and reflect the opinions of the majority of the women in Britain of that period. This idea was also interesting for Mrs. Bennet who could think only of her own unhappy marriage and successful marriages for her daughters in the future (Shapard). Mrs. Bennet’s example emphasizes the viewpoint that marriage depends not only on the amount of money and status but also on sincere and deep feelings. However, Mrs. Bennet’s personal vision is quite opposite to this statement.
That is why in the case of the unhappy marriage between Lydia and Mr. Wickham the problem of the family status was much more significant for Bennets than the question of real feelings. “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance” (Austen 14). Charlotte Lucas also agrees with this opinion and understands the law of the strict social rules and norms.
Her position seems to be strange for Elizabeth Bennet, the main character of the novel, who is inclined to contradict the social norms, if these norms and rules are opposite to her personal visions. That is why her ideal of marriage is based on the principles of love and respect. If it is difficult to marry such a man who can love you and be intelligent and noble, it is better to be unmarried.
Elizabeth’s position depends on her pride and prejudice. Nevertheless, following her principles, she can be happy in her marriage with Mr. Darcy who is the best part for her.
Moreover, examining all the variants of the marriage presented in the book and shifting from the rational approach to the romantic one, it is necessary to concentrate on the relations between Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley. These relations and their marriage are based on the sincere feeling of love which is not broken by possible social prejudices and personal rationality.
In her novel Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen vividly discusses the theme of marriage which is realized in the context of the British society of the nineteenth century. This context is familiar for the author. Austen’s rather ironical tone in depicting different visions of marriage accentuates her own position according to the issue with determining the principles of love and understanding as the key ones for marriage.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. USA: Dover Publications, 1995. Print.
Shapard, David M. “Introduction”. Pride and Prejudice. Ed. Jane Austen and David M. Shapard. USA: Anchor Books, 2007. xv-xxxii. Print.