What are the similarities and differences between marriage in as portrayed in Austen's Pride and Prejudice as opposed to marriage today? And how does this bring insight into the novel?
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The institution of marriage has historically been handled as a business agreement between men for various reasons. Money, land, inheritance, and social class seem to have been the foundations upon which many societies are shaped. In Austen's time, women were not allowed to own land, choose a spouse without a father's permission, or vote. Happily, that isn't the philosophy for today's thriving societies. Through the different interactions of the characters, Austen's novel seems to show the differing viewpoints of marriage in her day. For example, Darcy and Lizzie choose to marry for love while the Colinses marry for status and stability. Further, Lady Catherine wants Darcy to marry her daughter for financial and social reasons because she is prejudice against anyone "beneath" her. Lady Catherine certainly exemplifies the highest level of the aristocracy.
As for today, parents do not have authority over who marries, but they still want what is best for their children. Today, too, people who marry for money and status still exist. Marriage is used as a device to propel one forward in life in many different ways, as seen in politics, religion, and civil law. Also, family members today tend to harp on single adults to get married and settle down. Then, the question of who should be the "bread winner" still comes up as working mothers find themselves divided between home and family and career.
The novel brings up many questions about marriage and how it should be approached from many different angles. This fact can help readers to gain greater insight to the institution of marriage after the the vows have been made. The fact that Austen writes so much about marriage and relationships shows that this might have been a subject of great concern for her and her peers during her lifetime. Many of the characteristics discovered in Austen's novels show how England really was at that time and how women struggled without a voice.
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