Pride And Prejudice Essay, Research Paper
Beneath the surface of the romantic comedy Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen presents an underlying theme of the economic situation faced by women in the early nineteenth century. The best representations of this in the story is how two of the women in the novel approach marriage, and what they hope to achieve or gain through it.
The two girls mentioned above are Elizabeth and Charlotte. Elizabeth is one five sisters in a family with no male heir. Their father’s estate is entailed in such a way that no one in their immediate family will receive it, so when their father dies all that they will have is the small amount of money that belongs to
their mother. One of the problems that both of the girls, and the rest of the women in their society for that matter, faced was the fact that even the most educated woman could not support herself. Unless you are very wealthy woman or had very wealthy parents then marriage seems to be the only way you can live a decent
life. Most people of the day thought that marriage “was the only honorable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune.” It became a source of financial security that in many cases went no further.
Elizabeth is the first woman in the story to be proposed to, and she did a very peculiar thing. She is proposed to by Mr. Collins, the very man who is going to inherit her father’s estate. She refuses his offer even though his “situation in life…[his] connections….and [his] relationship to [Elizabeth], are circumstances highly in [his] favor.” Elizabeth simply says that “[he] could never make [her]happy…and [she] is the last woman in the world that could make [him] so.” What makes her decision so peculiar is that in marrying this man she could keep her father’s estate in the family and become financially sound for the rest of her life.
Being a woman in this time and being in a situation where she looks as to inherit almost nothing a marriage such as this does not seem unreasonable but she thinks differently. Even though her economic outlook does not look good at all it does not constrain her and she still treasures love and happiness above her financial standing. This decision is extremely brave considering that once her father is dead
she will have almost no means to support herself. Her constraint is that she will not enter marriage for any other reason but love, and she proves this by denying Mr. Collins her hand in marriage.
Elizabeth’s closest friend Charlotte is not as interested in the aspect of love and happiness that Elizabeth believes should come with marriage. She would probably better represent most of the women of the day. When Mr. Collins proposes to Charlotte she “accepted him solely from the pure and the disinterested desire of an establishment.” Elizabeth is extremely upset that her friend could
make such a decision only considering her financial security. Charlotte counters by saying that she is, “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 with him is as fair as
most people can boast on entering the marriage state.” Charlotte is constrained by the fact that all she desires is wealth and stability and the only way to achieve those things is through marriage. Love is not a neccesity in her relationships, but she bleieves that love between Mr. Collins and herself would probably blossom in
As you can see, the situation faced by these two women did not leave them many options. To choose a marriage based on love was to risk your future, and to risk the future of your children as well. While basing a marriage on wealth and financial security jeapordizes your future happiness. Elizabeth claims that giving up love in marriage is “sacrific[ing] every better feeling to worldly advantage,”
but that was a choice every woman like her had to make. Women of the day seemed to have faced one of two constraints in marriage. Either they had to have a husband that made them happy, or they had to have a husband that had enough money and promise to support them. The biggest constraint, however, was that they did not have the opportunity to provide for themselves and establish their own
status. Without this constraint, all of the others would seice to exist.