These past weeks, I have been speaking about different types of relationships and commitments, but I have focused primarily on marriage. I decided that I wanted to take a quick look at different literary works and see what was their position was with regards to marriage and the interpretation that our society upholds. After doing a lot of research, I remembered that in one of my many English courses we actually focused on marriage and its interpretation in the famous novel "Pride and Prejudice" written by Jane Austen.
In the novel, the foundation of marriage is extremely important and relevant. The story itself is a reflection of the importance that matrimony had during the time period the story took place. As the novel develops, Austen establishes that marriage was viewed as a way to obtain status, recognition, and prestige in society. Men who were considered well positioned and had a good economic status were viewed in society as valuable citizens who were believed to be good husband prospects and were destined to find a wife. To be more precise, marriage was looked upon as a way for a man to obtain or maintain their status. Matrimony was a business that only served to give prestige to the man. As stated in my past articles, in many societies, marriages were very male-oriented, meaning that marriage was only meant to satisfy the needs of men. Women were obligated to be submissive to the needs of their husbands.
"Pride and Prejudice" is a story that focuses primarily on the idea of marriage and the approach to it by its different characters. As we are introduced to Elizabeth and Charlotte, two good friends, we as readers are able to perceive that they have totally different views and opinions of what they perceive to be a marriage. Elizabeth is a strong young woman with a very clear idea of what she wants from a marriage; she is perceived to be more advanced than the other girls from her generation. Her father, Mr. Bennett, describes her as such: “Lizzy has something more quickness than her sisters” (4). Meanwhile, her friend Charlotte is described to be more traditional and believes that she must accept her destiny and accept the candidate her family chooses as her mate.
Charlotte ultimately marries Mr. Collins, a man she does not love. She accepts him in order to be respected in society. Jane Austen uses Charlotte's less romantic perception of marriage and her unusual relationship with Mr. Collins to show the reader the importance of marriage in the society, but especially the impact it had on women. Austen also uses Charlotte to more significantly show the advancement of Elizabeth’s thinking and how willing she was to challenge those values that were mainly ingrained by her mother, who felt that marrying her and her sisters off was a priority. Most importantly, to emphasize women’s self-value, Elizabeth valued her dignity as a woman.