Happy, Unhappy, and "Eh, whatcha gonna do" MarriagesA similar question came up on the Q&A the other day. How does Austen define happiness in marriage? Everyone ends up "happily"...
A similar question came up on the Q&A the other day. How does Austen define happiness in marriage? Everyone ends up "happily" married in the end, but are their degrees of satifisfaction?
You have asked an excellent question, and it is well worth analysing the last Chapter to compare and contrast the different marriages at the end of the tale. Certainly Lydia and Wickham cannot be described as happily married due to their want of money and character defects. It appears though that Lydia is happy with her lot, but doubts are raised as to whether this will last, and certainly she is only happy because her character defects match so well with Wickham's.
Jane and Bingley are of course happy, but interestingly in the novel there characters are very "flat" in the sense that they do not develop much or grow or "learn" new things about themselves. Their relationship seems to be a bit fairy-tale, idealised, or perhaps "fake" because of this. Of course, the happiest couple are Lizzie and Darcy, because we have seen their characters grow and develop during the course of the novel - they know much more about themselves and about each other - both good aspects and faults - and thus can appreciate each other that much more.
Can you give some specific Pope allusions? This might be quite useful to a student looking for a paper topic and some direction.
I too think Jane and Bingley will be perfectly happy, and they probably don't realize what they are missing in a "deeper" connection. Is this acceptable for some people without intellectual depth?
Also, do you think Lydia and Wickham's main problem is an excess of emotion and lack of reason? I do think there is definitely an attempt to show that both sides must be balanced. Look at the Bennet's....the father too heavy on reason, the mother too heavy on emotion. Or, looking at Charlotte and Collins, a dirth of emotion on both sides (but also a dirth of reason?)
Austen is all about reason and balance: she is Enlightenment through and through, and I see Pope all through her writing. With out a doubt, the marriage that balances reason with tempered emotion is the ideal). Jane and Bigley are less reasonable. They will be happy, but their happiness does not include the possibilities of deep companionship that Darcy and Elizabeth will be able to experience.