How did wealthier individuals in Pride and Prejudice have more choices than the poorer ones?
Although people were limited to a large extent by what were considered the appropriate behaviours, occupations, and partners for men and women of their class, the more money a person had, the more that person was free to act. William Paley was rumoured to have excused his not signing the Feathers Tavern Petition with the comment that a man with 8 children could not afford a conscience. In Austen, a common obstacle to marriage choice is money. Darcy and Bentley, being rich, can afford to marry beneath their social and economic station. Willoughby must seek his fortune through marriage and cannot really afford to marry a Bennett. Charlotte Lucas must marry the odius Mr. Collins to avoid being a burden to her family. Many of Austen's plots hinge on the economic constraints on marriage.