Courtship In Pride And Prejudice And Great

Expectations Essay, Research Paper

In Pride and Prejudice and Great Expectations the theme of courtship is found throughout the novel. In Pride and Prejudice Austen depicts courtship through the young Bennet sisters particularly, Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Bennet. Similarly, in Great Expectations Dickens depicts courtship through Pip s search for love, and the marriages of Biddy and Joe and Estella and Drummle. Austen and Dickens both take on the important concept of courtship and in different ways exemplify the important moral, philosophical and social issues that are reveled through courtship. In Austen s novel the question regarding motives for marriage and circumstances under which people choose a marriage partner arises; whereas, in Dickens novel, infatuation is mistaken for true love and marriages based on companionship prove to result in a happier outcome than those based on social status.

One of the main themes of Pride and Prejudice is stated in the first sentence of the novel: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” (Austen 5). In this statement, Austen has cleverly done three things: she has declared that the main subject of the novel will be courtship and marriage, she has established the humorous tone of the novel by taking a simple subject to elaborate and to speak intelligently of, and she has prepared the reader for a chase in the novel of either a husband in search of a wife, or a women in pursuit of a husband. The first line also defines Jane s book as a piece of literature that connects itself to the 18th century period. Pride and Prejudice is 18th century because of the emphasis on man in his social environment rather than in his individual conditions. David Monaghan notes, the use of satire and wit, a common form of 18th century literature, also contributes to label the book as 18th century (Monaghan 15). In the figure of Elizabeth, Jane Austen shows passion attempting to find a valid mode of existence in society. Passion and reasons also comes together in the novel to show that they are complementary of marriage.

The marriage between Darcy and Elizabeth reveals the characteristics that constitute a successful marriage. One of these characteristics is that feeling cannot be brought on by appearances, and must gradually develop between the two people as they get to know one another. In the beginning, Elizabeth and Darcy were distant from each other because of their prejudice. Elizabeth has no real feelings for Darcy at the beginning of the novel, where he is seen as having a strong sense of social superiority and pride. It is not until Elizabeth pairs her impressions of Rosings and Pemberly that she is finally able to achieve a more introspective view into aristocracy that she begins to understand Darcy. Similarly, David Monaghan notes, it is not until Darcy meets with Mr. Collins and Sir William Lucas at Rosings and the Gardiners at Pemberly that he gains a more clear understanding of the middle-class (Monaghan 68). One of Darcy and Elizabeth s first encounters sets the stage for these misunderstandings to occur at the Netherfield Ball. Monaghan notes that the entire dance invitation motif surrounds the aura of courtship, and the Netherfield ball scene serves as a microcosm of the relationships and issues that arise during the first part of the novel (Monaghan 69). Mrs. Bennet, whose own marriage is nothing close to ideal, only wants her daughters to get married. For example, when Bingley arrives at Netherfield the Bennet household is filled with nothing else but endless chatter about the mysterious Bingley. In fact Mrs. Bennet s mind soars into a whirlwind of thoughts regarding her daughters and Bingley; partners for the evening or partners for life, her thought almost become interchangeable as Mrs. Bennet only thinks of matrimony: To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley s heart were entertained. If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield, said Mrs. Bennet to her husband, and all others equally well married, I shall have nothing to wish for (Austen 11).

At the Meryton Ball when the charming Bingley asks Darcy to join in the dancing: Which do you mean? and turning around, he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew he own and coldly said, She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me, and I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by young men (Austen 13). Darcy could not resist Elizabeth s beauty despite his feelings of Meryton society, but no sooner had me made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes (Austen 26). Soon after Darcy s realization he learns to separate his feelings between Elizabeth and her world.

Because Darcy s attitude to her society is no better than it was when he rejected Bingley s similar proposal at the Meryton ball, Elizabeth is quite justified in refusing him. After the Meryton Ball, when Elizabeth assures her mother, I may safely promise you never to dance with him (Austen 19). Elizabeth s true understanding of Darcy is exemplified in her conversation with Charlotte Lucas. Charlotte believes: His pride .does not offend me so much as his pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, every thing in his favour, should think highly of himself. If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud (Austen 21). Elizabeth on the other hand, believes that because of his pride the aristocrat is inevitably offensive in his dealings with those he considers to be his inferiors when she says, I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine (Austen 21). At the end of the novel when Elizabeth finds her true love for Darcy was in her heart all along she writes in a letter, I am happier even than Jane; she only smiles, I laugh (Austen 308).

The real problem that lies with Darcy and Elizabeth is the fact that they allow their own pride and prejudice to blind their true feelings for one another. Both of them, though they are, in essence, perfect for one another; allow the difference in their social class and status to challenge their love for one another. In essence Darcy and Elizabeth are kept apart by the belief that a deep social rift lies between them (Monaghan 80). Although it takes time for them to discover their true love for one another, and look beyond the social barriers, they ultimately find true happiness and an intellectual match in one another.

However, it is Jane and Bingley that illustrate how mistaken they are. Although Bingley, who inherited property to the amount of nearly an hundred thousand pounds from his father (Austen 16) is much wealthier than Jane is, he on the other hand, does not regard himself as her social superior. The marriage between Jane Bennet and Bingley is also an example of successful marriage. Jane Austen, through Elizabeth, expresses her opinion of this in the novel:”…. really believed all his [Bingley] expectations of felicity, to be rationally founded, because they had for basis the excellent understanding, and super-excellent disposition of Jane, and a general similarity of feeling and taste between her and himself.” (Austen 282). However, unlike Darcy and Elizabeth, there is a flaw in their relationship. The flaw is that both characters are too gullible and too good-hearted to ever act strongly against external forces that may attempt to separate them:” You [Jane and Bingley] are each of you so complying, that nothing will ever be resolved on; so easy, that every servant will cheat you; and so generous, that you will always exceed your income.” (Austen 281)

The marriage between Mr. Collins and Charlotte is based on economics rather than on love or appearance. It was a common practice during Austen s time for women to marry a husband to save her from spinsterhood or to gain financial security. However, Jane Austen viewed this as a type of prostitution and disapproved of it. In Pride and Prejudice, Austen dramatizes this form of women s inequality and show that women who submit themselves to this type of marriage will have to suffer in tormenting silence as Charlotte does: ” When Mr. Collins said any thing of which his wife might reasonably be ashamed, which certainly was not unseldom, she [Elizabeth] would involuntarily turned her eye on Charlotte. Once or twice she could discern a faint blush; but in general Charlotte wisely did not hear.” (Austen 138) In fact when Charlotte was talking to Elizabeth about the possibility of Jane and Bingley getting married Charlotte said, happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the partiers are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least (Austen 22)

These marriages contribute to the theme that a happy and strong marriage takes time to build and must be based on mutual feeling, understanding, and respect. Hasty marriages acting on impulse, and based on superficial qualities will not survive and will lead to inevitable unhappiness. It is evident that Austen did not believe that social class should play a role in marriage, and that in order for true happiness to be achieved you must overlook extraneous circumstances.

In Great Expectations the theme of courtship seems to be expressed in a much different manner. A young boy, Pip, who tells the story in his words, introduces the novel to us, and his perceptions utterly define the events and characters of the book. As the novel progresses Pip is hired by the mysterious Miss Havisham, a wealth, elderly recluse, as a playmate for her beautiful, haughty, adopted daughter, Estella, whom he immediately falls in love. Miss Havisham had her heart broken at the altar and has vowed to turn Estella into a cold-hearted benefactress to seek revenge on all men.

For example, when Pip goes to Miss Havisham s house and is told to play for her she calls upon Estella to join him. As Estella walked down the dark hallway her light came along the long dark passage like a star (Dickens 72). When Miss Havisham tells her to play cards with him she complains, Why, he is a common labouring boy! (Dickens 73). Miss Havisham replies, Well? You can break his heart. (Dickens 73). Despite the fact that Estella treats Pip as beneath him socially and constantly refers to him as boy and Jacks (a lower-class name for servants or laborers) he becomes infatuated with her. Miss Havisham and Estella both taunt Pip, leading him on. For example Miss Havisham asks Pip what he thinks of her because she says many hard things of him and he never says anything. Pip says that he thinks she is very proud and very pretty (Dickens 74). One day when Estella and Pip are playing Estella tells Pip Come here! You may kiss me if you like (Dickens 101). Their nonchalant ways of leading Pip on are part of what makes Pip believe that Miss Havisham is actually Pip s secret benefactor.

Pip never seems to enjoy home much and his life at home has never been pleasant for Pip, even though Joe has done his best to make it so, but now it seems all coarse and common thanks to Miss Havisham and Estella. Pip would like to run away, but he doesn t because Joe has always been good to him. At this time, Pip s greatest fear is that Estella may see him work and jeer at him. Joe s standards of living and his occupation were measurements of his manhood for Pip. Now those standards have been scoffed at, ridiculed and rejected by a girl whom Pip admires. Estella is a cold siren, luring him, with the help of Miss Havisham, to another world.

Pip s new life as an apprentice is disturbed only by his annual visits to Miss Havisham. Soon thereafter, Pip becomes aware of Biddy. Her appearance has changed and now she is cleaner and fresher not beautiful like Estella, but wholesome and sweet-tempered. On a long Sunday walk to the marshes, Pip confides to Biddy I want to be a gentleman (Dickens 131). Pip reveals that he has particular reasons for wanting to be a gentleman, namely Estella. Biddy gives him the sensible advice that it s not worth changing his ways to spite Estella, and that if he has to change himself to win her, then she is not worth winning. Pip realizes that Biddy is a good woman, and that at any given moment Estella is fully capable of making Pip miserable. In fact, Pip tells Biddy, If I could only get myself to fall in love with you (Dickens 134). But you never will, you see replies Biddy (Dickens 134). Pip knows that however much Pip should love Biddy he doesn t, and for good reason: she, like the forge world, is good, but only good. She can t dream. Michael Cotsell points out that the forge provides Pip with simple faith and clear home wisdom, but he needs more in life, and we applaud his reaching out, however inadequately the world rewards the reaching out, however insistently the older Pip characterizes the reaching out as vanity (Cotsell 177).

Pip s expectations dazzle him. He does not realize for quite sometime how Miss Havisham toyed with him, he believes her to be his good angel, the answer to his prayers. Nor does he perceive the true worth of Biddy who has taught him much and who takes care of him and Joe. To Pip love is simply proof of his folly, and is the constant target of his best mocking irony. He says to Biddy, If I could only get myself to do it [fall in love with her], that would be the thing for me (Dickens 134). Pip knows that if he falls in love with Biddy he could get Estella out of his head, and when he sees things clearly, he knows that Biddy is immeasurably better than Estella (Dickens 158). When Pip chooses to turn away from Biddy and the forge it is a rejection of goodness, instead Pop chooses Estella and becoming a gentleman. At the end of the novel Estella marries a man named Drummle who she marries for his social status and wealth and he ends up abusing her. Despite Drummle s unsympathetic qualities he is highly instrumental in humanizing Estella. Drummle and Estella s marriage exemplifies a marriage based on only social aspects rather than love or emotion, proving to be an unsuccessful one.

On the other hand, courtship is expressed through Biddy and Joe during the novel. After Mrs. Joe, Pip s sister, who raised him by hand (Dickens 27) Joe falls in love with Biddy. Biddy and Joe s relationship is one that is based on companionship and they ended up finding a good marriage on their own. Joe married Mrs. Joe, but their marriage was not always a pleasant one. Perhaps Dickens is saying that when it comes to love, if at first we don t succeed, try and try again. When Pip arrives at the forge and finds out they are married he tells Biddy enthusiastically, you have the best husband in the whole world you couldn t love him better than you do (Dickens 434). When Pip greets Joe he says to him, you have the best wife in the whole world, and she will make you happy as ever you deserve to be (Dickens 435).

Biddy and Joe are seen as being archetypes of Christian passivity; they endure everything cheerily, and it is in fact, Pip s unwillingness to devote his life to such mere endurance, which makes him great, and dangerous. For Pip, he was unable to find happiness like Biddy and Joe and what was his greatest crime? Michael Cotsell points out that Pip s greatest crime was, simply the fact that Pip loved too grandly, despite failure of the women to deserve it; to aspire, despite society s failure to provide anything worth aspiring to; and to dream, despite the fact that in our society dreams equate to monetary value (Costell 178).

Thus, in conclusion, through the eyes and worlds of both Austen and Dickens courtship is addressed in an array of ways. Both the authors seem to believe that love cannot be handed to you on a silver platter and love can never be perfect. Marriages aren t perfect and love can often be filled with trials and tribulations. Austen and Dickens both seem to believe that in marriage you must learn through experience. None of the characters are experts in love and therefore, their mistakes should be seen as learning experiences. As seen in both novels marriage means different things to different people. In the case of the Bennets in Pride and Prejudice, the series of events which Elizabeth and Darcy both experienced gave them the opportunity to understand one another and the time to reconcile their feelings for each other. Thus, their mutual understanding is the foundation of their relationship and will lead them to a peaceful and lasting marriage. The relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy reveals the importance of getting to know one s partner before marrying. For Jane and Bingely Austen seems to assert the idea that in order to love someone you much look beyond their social class and seek true happiness in your love for one another. In Great Expectations courtship is revealed through Biddy and Joe who find true happiness by just looking next to them. Biddy and Joe developed a strong friendship and their compassion and love for one another makes their marriage a good one. For Estella and Drummle, their marriage was a mistake from the beginning. Possibly the only good thing to come out of it was that Estella may have learned her lesson and became more human as opposed to the young girl with a heart as cold as ice as Miss Havisham had taught her to be. Estella and Drummle s marriage indicates that a marriage based solely on social class and position will never be a happy one. In a way this is similar to Charlotte and Collin s whose marriage seemed to be more of a marriage of convenience. Charlotte knew that she was becoming old and Collin s was a financially stable man who would be able to take care of her. Although we are never told the outcome of their marriage the reader could assume that it was not a love-filled, enjoyable one. For Pip, he learned the hard way that his great expectations cannot be filled with money or material wealth, but real happiness lies in love and feelings.

Works Cited

Cotsell, Michael. Critical Essays on Charles Dickens Great Expectations. G. K. Hall & Co. Boston, Massachusetts. USA. 1990.

Monaghan, David. Jane Austen Structure and Social Vision. Harper & Row Publishers Inc.

Barnes & Noble Import Division. New York. New York. 1980.



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