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Marriage The Perfect Ending To Pride

Marriage: The Perfect Ending To Pride And Prejudice Essay, Research Paper Marriage: The Perfect Ending to Pride and Prejudice An individual often finds himself in a conflict with the rules of

Marriage: The Perfect Ending To Pride And Prejudice Essay, Research Paper

Marriage: The Perfect Ending to Pride and Prejudice

An individual often finds himself in a conflict with the rules of

society. Occasionally, rebelling is the path to happiness. However, usually,

the real path to happiness is through compromise. This is the case in the early

nineteenth century England setting of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. In

the novel, Miss Elizabeth Bennet is a lively, independent woman, whose family’s

financial situation and whose strong mindedness suggest that she may never marry.

Mr. Darcy, is a rigid and proper man, who falls in love with Elizabeth, despite

their differences. By the end of the novel, Elizabeth and Darcy learn to

compromise, and, in doing so, become truly happy. In marrying, they not only

fulfill themselves as individual, but also affirm the principle values of

society. As in many of her novels, this marriage at the end of the novel shows

us Jane Austen’s ideal view of marriage as a social institution.

The novel Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen gives us the reader a

very good idea of how she views marriage, as well as society. The theme of

marriage is set in the very opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice; “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) As Norman Sherry points out,

this is Austen’s way of implying that ‘a single man in possession of a good

fortune’ is automatically destined to be the object of desire for all unmarried

women. The statement opens the subject of the romantic novel; courtship and

marriage. The sentence also introduces the issue of what the reasons for

marrying are. She implies here that many young women marry for money. The

question the reader must ask himself is, does Jane Austen think this is moral?

Sherry shows us that Austen was not particularly romantic. She reveals these

sentiments through Charlotte remarks concerning her marriage to Mr. Collins.

“I am not romantic you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and

considering Mr. Collin’s character, connections, and situation in life, I am

convinced that my chance of happiness is as fair, as most people can boast on

entering the marriage state.” (Austen, 95)

Elizabeth, as Sherry points out, is not particularly romantic either, however

unlike Charlotte, Elizabeth has a certain picture of an ideal marriage in her

mind, and therefore would never marry for reasons other than love. We assume

that since Elizabeth is the main character, this is how Jane Austen sees

marriage. Since Elizabeth would not marry without love, we can also assume that

Jane Austen sees what Charlotte does as immoral. Elizabeth also feels that

marriages formed by passion alone are just as bad as marriages formed without

love. Elizabeth reflects on her sister Lydia’s marriage; “But how little

permanent happiness could belong to a couple who were only brought together

because their passions were stronger then their virtue, she could easily

conjecture” (Austen, 232) We again see reasons besides love as the reason for

marriage. Jane Austen is not very optimistic about marriage, in fact there are

almost no happy marriages in the novel at all. Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Bennet,

Lydia and Wickham, and Charlotte and Mr. Collins are examples of the ill-matched

and unsuccessful marriages in Pride and Prejudice.

The characters in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice are not all

miserable by the end of the novel. Happy marriages in Austen’s novels do occur.

Sherry illustrates this point. The right people eventually come together, for

example, Elizabeth and Darcy, the hero and heroine. The development of the

relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy is the most important proof of the

whole overall theme of compromise. This relationship took work, it did not just

occur. Elizabeth has to learn to control her prejudices. She forms her

opinions very quickly and does not change them easily. Darcy has to learn to

evaluate people on characteristics other than social rank. He is too proud of

himself, as well as his high social class, and it affects his ability to relate

to other people. Both Elizabeth and Darcy have to change a little and come to

understand each other before they can be together.

In the novel, the theme of pride and prejudice is first introduced in

chapter three at the dance. Darcy, acting on his own pride, insults Elizabeth.

He claims that she is not handsome enough to tempt him. Elizabeth, overhearing

his insult, considers his remark as a direct stab at her own pride. This

succeeds in invoking a prejudice in her, against him that remains for the

greater part of the novel. She feels that he is far too arrogant and proud.

When Charlotte points out to Elizabeth that Darcy has a right to be proud

Elizabeth replies; “That is very true, and I could easily forgive his pride if

he had not mortified mine”. (Austen 13) The entire novel consists of the

forming of pride and prejudice. The climax of pride and prejudice, as Sherry

sees it, is the first marriage proposal. It is the height of pride on Darcy’s

part, and the height of prejudice on Elizabeth’s part. The rest of the novel is

a sort of anti-climax, in which they begin to compromise and learn how to relate

to one another.

The theme of pride is built up in many different ways. One method

Austen uses to emphasize Darcy’s extreme pride is by surrounding him with

characters with similar faults, although, their pride is much more severe and

much more insulting. The character in the story who represents an extension of

Darcy’s pride is his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. s hen Lady de Bourgh meets

someone she sees only their rank and class in society. She does not appreciate

anyone for any other aspect of themselves. Sherry proves this by pointing out

the fact that she believes Darcy and her daughter should be married. She bases

her thoughts on their compatibility in ranks, neglecting the concept of love.

“My daughter and my nephew are formed for each other. They are descended on the

maternal side, from the same noble line; and on the father’s, from respectable,

honourable, and ancient, though untitled families. Their fortune on both sides

is splendid. They are destined for each other by the voice of every member of

their respective houses….” (Austen, 266) Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, also

represent the pride which Darcy possesses. The fact that they feel entitled to

think of themselves well and other badly is proof of this, as Marilyn Butler

points out. Examples of their snobbishness is the condescension they show

towards Elizabeth when she tells of her walk to Netherfield. “That she should

have walked three miles so early in the day, in such dirty weather, and by

herself was almost incredulous to Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and Elizabeth was

convinced they held her in contempt for it.” (Austen, 24) Unlike the others,

however, Darcy’s pride is humbled. Elizabeth manages this hefty task by

rejecting his marriage proposal.

We see the development of the theme of prejudice, right from the

beginning of the novel, when we have the pleasure of meeting Miss Elizabeth.

“Elizabeth’s corresponding sin is much more subtle and her enlightenment takes

up the space of the whole book”.(Butler, 206) As Butler shows, the readers

usually see the love between Elizabeth and Darcy as a love between two opposites,

because of the differences in attitudes and of course in rank in society.

However there are in actuality characteristics, although mainly faults, in which

there is a striking similarity between the two characters. This is Austen’s way

of emphasizing to the reader Elizabeth’s fault of extreme prejudice. Whenever

Elizabeth complains of Darcy’s faults, she also touches upon one of her own.

For example, Darcy’s disapproval of Wickham is very similar to Elizabeth’s

disapproval of Darcy. Elizabeth is quick to see the faults of others, however

she is reluctant to see her own faults. Her first clue that she has allowed her

prejudices to stand in the way of judgement is that she was wrong about Mr.

Wickham, which consequently makes her wrong about Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth knows

that she must learn to be less prejudiced. By getting together, they benefit

each other. Elizabeth makes Darcy realize his faults and vice-versa.

Other ways of looking at the novel come to the same basic conclusion of

compromise. ” Pride and Prejudice uses the familiar anti-thesis between art and

nature as the ground of the book’s action. Elizabeth is portrayed on the side

of nature, feeling, impulse, originality, spontaneity….it wasn’t possible for

Jane Austen to deprecate art all together.. the movement of the book is

compromise, as Elizabeth learns to take class into account, Darcy comes to share

Elizabeth’s genius for treating all people with respect for their natural

dignities”(Klinger, Jane Austen and the war of ideas, 199)

The difference between Pride and Prejudice and other eighteenth century

novels, is that the heroines differ.

“Instead of the innocent, impulsive fallible girl, the heroine of Pride and

Prejudice dislikes, teases, and ends in part by debunking the hero… Where

other heroines were sycophants of social and masculine prerogative, Elizabeth

Bennet is fearless and independent.” (Butler, 199)

The difference in the novel, is in Austen’s approach to Elizabeth. By

making her as independent, and lively as she does, perhaps she is trying to show

society that this is acceptable. If society would learn to compromise and lose

a bit of it’s rigidness, as Darcy did, then people would be able to fully

appreciate characters like Elizabeth Bennet.

Marriage is the only logical conclusion to this novel. Had the novel

ended any other way, it would have had no point. As said before, the movement of

the novel is towards compromise. Through marriage, Elizabeth and Darcy are

making the ultimate compromise. They are both changing a little about

themselves, so that their marriage can be successful. Had the novel ended

without marriage, then the realizations on both Elizabeth, and Darcy’s behalf

would have been for nothing. Also, through the novel we see that Jane Austen is

using marriage as a way of representing society. An ideal marriage is

representative of an ideal society. If people used the same methods as a couple

would use to obtain an ideal marriage, then perhaps we would be able to obtain

an ideal society. By researching Jane Austen we know that most of the heros and

heroines end up at the end of the story in an ideal marriage; “to do all her

heroines justice, we must conclude that they all marry for love, and not for

other considerations. As to the social and monetary aspects of their marriages,

Jane Austen makes them ‘all right’.” (Sherry, 92) By having Darcy and

Elizabeth end the novel engaged in an ideal marriage is a significant detail.

Jane Austen, in doing this is suggesting that society would be better if it

followed Elizabeth and Darcy’s example. By controlling pride and prejudice, and

by learning that compromise is sometimes the best way to happiness, society can

hope to improve itself. Marriage in the end, is the perfect ending, since it is

both an affirmation of the values of society as well as a personal fulfillment,

which it is for both Elizabeth and Darcy since they improve themselves by being

together.

WORKS CITED

1. Austen, Jane. “Pride and Prejudice. New York. Bantam Books, 1813,1981.

2. Butler, Marilyn. Jane Austen and the War of Ideas. Oxford. Claredon

Press, 1975 3.Sherry, Norman. Jane Austen. London. Montegue House, 1966

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