Forever And Ever? Essay, Research Paper
Forever and Ever ?
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. This sentence, the first of the novel Pride and Prejudice is the statement of one of the major themes in the book. Within this novel there are seven different marriages that exist, and Austen uses each one to represent different attitudes that people have towards marriage in the society in which she lived. In addition, her ultimate goal was to show the reader the marriage that she believes to be the most idealistic one.
The first marriage that we encounter in the book is that of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. The Bennets are not well matched at all in character or social background. Mr. Bennet is intelligent, and a gentleman , while Mrs. Bennet had little money and much lower social connections before their marriage. Their union was based on an initial physical attraction-Mr. Bennet found Mrs. Bennet to be beautiful, and Mrs. Bennet wanted the economic and social status that this marriage would provide her with. However, a marriage that is based on this kind of superficial attachment is doomed to failure, because as the years go on and the beauty fades Mr. Bennet is left living with a woman whom he absolutely does not respect at all.
There is also no communication between the Bennets because they are not on the same wavelength at all. While Mrs. Bennet is constantly worrying about getting the girls
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married, Mr. Bennet spends most of his time retreating to his library so that he will not have to deal with the silliness of his daughters that are growing up to be just like his wife. We see how much Mr. Bennet regrets his marriage decision later on in the book when Elizabeth tells him that she is going to marry Mr. Darcy. Mr. Bennet thinks that Elizabeth dislikes him and is only marrying him for his social status, so he proceeds to tell her, ..let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life. (314) This statement obviously stems from the fact that he has learned from his own mistakes and does not want his daughter to fall into the same situation.
Another marriage in the book that is strikingly similar to that of the Bennets is the marriage of Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins. They really do not have any feelings for each other whatsoever, and are merely getting married because it works out conveniently for them. Charlotte Lucas is twenty seven years old, and she is afraid that she is going to become an old maid without getting married. As she says to Elizabeth Bennet, I m not a Romantic you know, I never was. I ask only for a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins s 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. (108). Charlotte is happy with marrying Mr. Collins because practically it makes the most sense for her, she does not believe that love and respect are integral to a marriage. In the same way, Mr. Collins is also marrying Charlotte for nothing but the convenience of it. He wants a wife, and she accepts his proposal, so he will marry her. We see as the story goes on, that this union does not make for such a happy marriage, because most of their time is spent not talking and avoiding each other. It is very clear
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that Charlotte has found happiness for herself as long as she keeps her husband out of the picture.
While the Collins marriage was based on their mutual need for each other for practical purposes, we have a third marriage in the book that is based on far less than that. The marriage of Lydia Bennet to Mr. Wickham is a completely superficial union that is based on absolutely nothing. Lydia is no more than an irresponsible, immature flirt, while Wickham s greatest love in life is money. We see this very clearly when we find out that he had tried to elope with Georgianna Darcy and that he only started paying attention to Miss King when she inherited a fortune.
Lydia and Wickham s relationship started with them running away together. They were both just acting upon their desires to have fun and to put a little bit of excitement into their lives, without stopping to think about the consequences of their actions. The only reason that they end up getting married is because Wickham was able to be bribed by Mr. Darcy who gave him a lot of money in order to go through with it. We see that this marriage is also not going to work out very well. Just as in the Bennet s marriage, the love will fade because it is not based on anything other than physical attraction.
A fourth marriage which we have in this book is the marriage of Mr. And Mrs. Gardiner, the aunt and uncle of the Bennet girls. While we do not know very much about their marriage, they do seem like an extremely intelligent and sensible couple. It seems like they communicate and work very well together in their day to day lives. We know that Elizabeth and Jane respect them very much, and that Elizabeth discusses things with
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Mrs. Gardiner rather than with her own mother. The fact that Elizabeth and Jane who we respect so much are so close with the Gardiners makes the reader look up to them as well.
The Gardiners are much more dedicated to the Bennet girls than their own parents are. In fact, when the whole incident with Lydia takes place, Mr. Gardiner is the one that is combing the streets looking for her long after Mr. Bennet has returned home. In a way, I think that the Gardiners are the ones that Elizabeth and Jane look up to as role models for what their marriages should be like.
The marriage of Jane Bennet to Mr. Bingley is a marriage that is based on love and mutual respect. They are both very nice, sweet, intelligent and easygoing people. Austen approves of this marriage, they married for the right reasons and we are told that they have a very happy, uncomplicated marriage. The only negative in their relationship is that they are both so overly nice that Mrs. Bennet is worried that people are going to take advantage of them. We see that this worry did have some basis to it, because the Wickhams do in fact take advantage of the Bingley s by staying in their house for extremely long periods of time and constantly writing to them for money. However, despite this, Jane and Mr. Bingley are genuinely happy and completely in love with one another.
The last and unquestionably the most complicated of all of the marriages in
this novel is the marriage of Elizabeth Bennet to Mr. Darcy. When they first meet at the dance in Meryton, neither one of them is attracted to the other. Elizabeth thinks that Mr.
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Darcy is an upper class snob, while Mr. Darcy views Elizabeth as, tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt. (12). In addition, Mr. Darcy will not even contemplate dancing with someone in a lower class. As time goes on, Elizabeth only begins to dislike Mr. Darcy even more after hearing the stories that Mr. Wickham has to tell about him, but Darcy slowly begins to fall in love with her despite her social status.
When Darcy finally decides to swallow some of his upper class pride and propose to Elizabeth, he admits that he has tried very hard not to love her because of the inferiority of her family, and he says that it would be a degradation for him to marry her. Needless to say, Elizabeth gets very upset by his words and rejects his proposal. This is very shocking to Darcy, he never imagined that Elizabeth would say no to somebody of his rank and wealth. However, this shows us the strength of conviction that Elizabeth posesses, she absolutely refuses to marry for anything other than love and respect.
Later on in the novel, after finding out the truth about Mr. Wickham, and speaking to Mr. Darcy s servant at Pemberley, Elizabeth begins to realize that the picture that she had of Darcy had not been completely accurate. She actually starts to admire him very much for his impeccable manners and intellect, and she notices for the first time that he really is a good person. This feeling is only intensified when she finds out that Darcy was instrumental in working out the situation of Lydia and Mr. Wickham. Elizabeth realizes how much he really must love her if he was willing to bribe the person he most hated in order to defend the honor of her lower class family. The second time that Darcy
proposes he does so much more humbly and is very careful not to insult Elizabeth or her relatives, and this time Elizabeth finally accepts the proposal.
I think that in Austen s opinion, the marriage of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is the best marriage. They have achieved the perfect balance between emotion and intellectualism. They both admire each others minds, rather than merely superficial, physical beauty. They did not marry out of convenience, rather it was because the really, truly love and respect each other. In addition, their engagement and love was not as simplistic and uncomplicated as Jane and Bingley s, rather they had to work for it. As Elizabeth says to her father, that her love for Mr. Darcy was, not the work of a day, but had stood the test of many months suspense. (314) While Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have a lot of similarities, they also have many, many differences so they had to work much harder to achieve their relatioship, but once they achieved it, it was the greatest relationship possible.