How do Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham compare and contrast with respect to views on marriage, as seen in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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One way in which Darcy and Wickham are both similar with respect to views on marriage is that they both, at first, actually reject the idea of marrying Elizabeth or any Bennet. Mr. Darcy rejects the idea because he knows that, while the Bennet sisters are the daughters of a land owning gentleman, he also knows that their mother comes from the merchant class. Their mother's sister, Mrs. Philips, is married to a lawyer in Meryton while their mother's brother, Mr. Gardiner, is a merchant in London. Regardless of the fact that Darcy's close friend is actually also a member of the merchant class whose father earned their fortune through trade, we observe Darcy snubbing the girls for their relations, saying that their mother's social background "must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world" (Ch. 8).

While Wickham does not snub the girls due to their relations, but is rather always very well mannered and friendly, especially towards Elizabeth, Elizabeth is well aware of his penniless situation and that he would never marry a woman who also had no fortune, like herself. However, his manners to her are so open and warm and so sincere in wishing her happiness that, even after he becomes engaged to Miss Mary King, Elizabeth is convinced he has not forgotten that "Elizabeth had been the first to excite and to deserve his attention, the first to listen and to pity, the first to be admired" (Ch. 27). Hence, while he is kind, even Wickham snubs the Bennet girls due to their lack of inheritance.

In contrast, while Darcy snubs Elizabeth at first, his admiration for her character and love for her becomes so passionate and sincere that he is forced to do away with his first inclinations to resist the connection, even though Elizabeth has no fortune and some of her family members are from the merchant class. Wickham, on the other hand, never feels any true love or admiration for anyone. His primary motives continue to be self-gratification and money. He even acknowledges that he had no intention of marrying Lydia and that she ran off with him due to "her own folly alone" (Ch. 52). Hence, Wickham is only persuaded to marry Lydia with Darcy's money.

Thus, while at first both Darcy and Wickham relate marriage with social class and money, Darcy soon genuinely loves despite those things while Wickham continues to be self-serving and only marries for money.

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