In Pride and Prejudice, what is the difference between Elizabeth's views on marriage and those of Charlotte? Is there more merit in Elizabeth's view or Charlotte's?
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Elizabeth's view of marriage is an emotional, romantic one. This is best illustrated by her ideas and reactions relevant to Jane's romance with Mr. Bingley. Elizabeth understands her private ideas thus doesn't look further (as she later confesses) into other peoples' ideas than her satirical humor delves.
Charlotte's view of marriage is a rational, practical one. This is best seen in her rationale for marrying Mr Collins. Charlotte understands the larger realities of her society and her particular situation. She is the daughter of a knighted country gentleman who has been presented at Court to receive his knighthood.
Yet, Charlotte spends "the Social Season" (beginning in spring and running through summer's end) in the country at Lucas Lodge rather than going to London as was typical for daughters of landed gentlemen of wealth. But that's the thing: though Sir Lucas has a title, he has no wealth. As a result, Charlotte's chances of finding a marriage partner are slim and slimmer.
Elizabeth is in the same economic situation--no money in her prospects--but for different reasons. Expecting a son to be born, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet lived beyond their means. Elizabeth, like Charlotte, thus stayed in the country during The Season, except when Aunt and Uncle Gardiner offered her escape to London or a tour of the North country.
Elizabeth had a romanticized view of all this, a Love will find me out sort of attitude, while Charlotte had a practical view of it: Charlotte realized Love didn't often travel to Lucas Lodge.
"You must be surprised, very much surprised—so lately as Mr. Collins was wishing to marry you. But when you have had time to think it over, I hope you will be satisfied with what I have done. I am not romantic, you know; I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; ....." (Chapter 22)
These different views are why Elizabeth rejected Mr. Collins without giving any thought to his offer and why she scorned a man of such high status as Mr. Darcy, even though Charlotte warned her against such an attitude. Similarly these views are why Charlotte deliberately planned her future by engaging Collins' affections and by accepting his proposal, even though she knew Elizabeth would disparage such a practical reason for marrying.
In the end, both views proved to be true: Elizabeth was courted at Longbourne by Love who came calling from Netherfield and Charlotte took Love where it could be found, which was technically at the next door neighbor's house (where Collins was staying at Longbourne). So what does this tell us about the merit of the two views? Perhaps it tells that if you're the right person in the right place at the right time, it's fine to be a romantic, but if you're not the right person in the right place at the right time, you must construct your happiness with the material at hand or risk losing happiness altogether. And from this conclusion, there seems no way to assign more or less merit to either view.
[Elizabeth] was received, [with] kindness. Mr. Darcy said very little, [but had thoughts of] admiration of the brilliancy which exercise had given to her complexion, ... (Chapter 7)
Elizabeth would like to see marriage as made for love, not for any other reason. Mrs. Bennet sees marriage as a way to ensure she and her daughters eat. Mr. Bennet has a similar outlook on marriage, but not quite as extreme as his wife. Charlotte sees marriage as a necessity to be sure that she has a life ahead of her. So that she is not an old spinster and a burden to her family. The merrit in the opinions would have to be up to you.
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