In chapter 42 of Pride and Prejudice, how does Austen show that the Bennets' marriage is a failed marriage?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chapter XLII of Jane Austen'sPride and Prejudicegives us a very interesting look into the inside of the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet.

It basically explains that Mr. Bennet, as young man, is a lover of beauty and refreshing things. A young, future, Mrs. Bennet is apparently beautiful enough to catch his attention. However, as her personality unravels throughout the marriage, he loses interest in her and, alas, even loses much respect and admiration as well!

{Mr. Bennet} captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humor which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberalmind had, very early in their marriage, put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and confidence had vanished forever, and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown.

This is not entirely his fault; after all, we as readers witness the impossible behavior of Mrs. Bennet, her penchant for speaking her mind out of place, and her imprudence in meddling in her daughter's lives. It is no wonder that Mr. Bennet becomes quite disappointed at who he picks for a wife. After all, like the novel itself suggests, men are not given much time to pick, nor many choices to pick from.

To his wife he was very little otherwise indebted than as her ignorance and folly had contributed to his amusement. This is not the sort of happiness which a man would in general wish to owe to his wife; but where other powers of entertainment are wanting the true philosopher will derive benefit from such as are given.

Most importantly, Elizabeth is perhaps the only daughter who is aware of this. She also understands her father, since she is the only one of the five Bennett sisters who uses her common sense to think in most occasions. For this reason, Elizabeth's approach to marriage is way more realistic and less ridiculous than that of her mother's.

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Pride and Prejudice

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