Pride And Prejudice 4 Essay, Research Paper
Throughout Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the conflict between reason and emotion is conveyed through the marriage of several different characters. In the marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, it is quite clear that the two have never experienced much love and is done mostly for financial benefit and out of infatuation. Similarly, the marriage between Charlotte and Mr. Collins is done out of convenience, but unlike Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, the two do not seem to mind the lack of passion in their relationship. However, the marriage of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is a perfect example of matrimony where there is a strong bond of love. The unity of Elizabeth and Mr.Darcy is Austen’s ideal marriage because of their inherent passion and mutual respect for one another.
The marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet demonstrates the struggle amid reason and emotion, or lack there of. Mrs. Bennet’s motivation in marrying Mr. Bennet is knowing that he will be able to provide for her with his wealth. Their marriage is extremely dull since the two cannot even communicate with each other. “Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three and twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character” (Austen 5). In fact, Mr. Bennet entertains himself with witty comments that Mrs. Bennet can never seem to comprehend. For example, when one of the Bennet’s daughters, Kitty, is coughing, Mrs. Bennet foolishly scolds her and asks to “have a little compassion on my nerves” (Austen 5). Mr. Bennet humorously replies by claiming that “Kitty has no discretion in her coughs. She times them ill” (Austen 5). While, Mrs. Bennet married for money, it is evident that Mr. Bennet chose to marry purely because of Mrs. Bennet’s young and beautiful appearance. A reference is made to Mrs. Bennet’s past beauty when Mr. Bennet tells of how “you are as handsome as any of them, and Mr. Bingley might like you the best of the party” (Austen 4). Such a sharp-witted man would not marry such an absurd woman for any other reason than a temporary crush.
It is also quite clear that Mr. Bennet’s lack of affection for his wife translates into a lack of fondness towards his daughters who closely resembles her. Throughout the novel, the business of Mrs. Bennet’s life “was to get her daughters married” (Austen 5), while it seems as if Mr. Bennet is always reading in the library and may care less about his daughters who he views as “the silliest girls in the country” (Austen 20). Even Mr. Bennet acknowledges the fact that he has not paid enough attention to his daughters when his youngest, Lydia, shamefully runs away to elope. He asks Elizabeth to “let me once in my life feel how much I have been to blame” (Austen 191). This example illustrates the consequences of having a match between two people as dissimilar as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet.
Perhaps the finest example of the lack of passion in the marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet is when Elizabeth tells her father of her plans to marry Mr. Darcy, who as far Mr. Bennet knows, Elizabeth detests. Mr. Bennet begs his daughter not to marry merely for worldly considerations but to unite with someone whom she admires. “My child”, he explains, “let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life” (Austen 242). In essence, Mr. Bennet pleads that his daughter not make the same mistake in life that he has made.
The marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet parallels the marriage of another couple, Charlotte and Mr. Collins. The two marriages are quite similar in that each other’s spouses have almost no feelings for one another. Charlotte marries the ridiculous Mr. Collins since “it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune” (Austen 82). Her reason behind her choice for a life partner was purely based on money and had nothing to do with her feelings towards her husband. As Charlotte once said to Elizabeth, “happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance” (Austen 16). Thus, it is clear that like Mrs. Bennet, the logic behind her marriage is purely based on maintaining a high social status at almost any cost. Mr. Collins on the other hand, proposes to Charlotte only to satisfy and impress Miss DeBourgh. “To Collins only one person is worthy of deference” (Johnson 372). He has almost no intellect of his known and bases almost all of his actions on pleasing her. As a result of this loveless marriage, the two hardly speak to each other and purposely try to avoid each other.
Unlike the marriages of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and Mr. and Mrs. Collins, the matrimony of Elizabeth and Darcy is based on entirely different reasons. It exemplifies a marriage where there is perfect balance between reason and emotion. Both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy admire each other’s mind and not just one another’s external beauty and financial soundness. This can be seen when Elizabeth rejects Mr. Darcy’s first proposal because at the time she is repulsed at “your conceit and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others” (Austen 126). Such an event proves that Elizabeth must have highly regarded Mr. Darcy since she refuses to marry him the first time despite his attractive appearance and profound wealth. Moreover, Mr. Darcy definitely holds Elizabeth in the highest of regards since almost no one is to his pleasing. He even openly proclaims to Elizabeth “how ardently I admire and love you” (Austen 123). In this comment, Mr. Darcy does not just announce how he loves Elizabeth, but how he also appreciates her sense and reason.
Not only is it certain that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy respect each other, but it is also clear that the two love each other as well. In fact, it is apparent that Elizabeth has entered into this covenant for all the right reasons because Elizabeth had once told Charlotte that “it is not sound” (Austen 16) to marry someone with whom there is no strong bond. Additionally, Elizabeth shows that she truly loves Mr. Darcy when she explains to her father how her affection towards him was “not the work of a day, but had stood the test of many months suspense, and enumerated with energy all his good qualities” (Austen 242).
Mr. Darcy too, shares the same feelings of fondness towards Elizabeth. In fact, when Darcy first proposes to Elizabeth he tells of “how ardently I admire and love you” (Austen 123) in spite of “the inferiority of your connections” (Austen 125). Although Mr. Darcy’s explanation is far from romantic, it does demonstrate how in love he is with Elizabeth since he is willing to overlook her family’s shortcomings. Furthermore, when news of Lydia’s shocking elopement is known by all, Mr. Darcy aides Elizabeth’s family by making sure that the Lydia’s marriage takes place so that no further shame is brought to the family. This courageous act on Mr. Darcy’s part proves how much affection he has for Elizabeth since he is willing to provide assistance for a family who is not only of a lower social class, but more importantly he assists a man whom he abhors vehemently.
The marriage between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is without a doubt the ideal marriage for Jane Austen. The joining of these two people exemplifies how Austen was in favor of marrying for love and nothing else, regardless of wealth and outward compatibility. Austen illustrates the importance of love and respect in marriage by showing such marriages as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s and Mr. and Mrs. Collins. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet can never seem to agree on any subject matter, while Mr. and Mrs. Collins make an effort to avoid each other. Elizabeth “can never quite become reconciled to the idea that her friend is the wife of her comic monster. And that, of course, is precisely the sort of idea that Jane Austen herself could never grow reconciled to” (Harding 294). To Austen, the only acceptable marriage is of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy since it is pure and true.
The implementation of marriage in Pride and Prejudice helps to present the struggle between reason and emotion. The unity of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet as well as Mr. and Mrs. Collins demonstrate the lack of rationalism and sentiment within these marriages. On the contrary, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s marriage is a perfect example of matrimony where reason and emotion are at equilibrium. Through these marriages, Jane Austen shows how the only acceptable marriage is one where there is a balance between respect and love.