Nearly all characters in Pride and Prejudice are touched by economic concerns. A couple of economic concerns are described below.One example can be seen with respect to the Bennet family. The Bennet family is a member of the landed gentry class. Mr. Bennet owns an estate that...
Nearly all characters in Pride and Prejudice are touched by economic concerns. A couple of economic concerns are described below.
One example can be seen with respect to the Bennet family. The Bennet family is a member of the landed gentry class. Mr. Bennet owns an estate that earns its living from its tenant farmers. However, since Mrs. Bennet only gave birth to five daughters and no sons, the land will not stay in the family. It was not entirely illegal for women to inherit land. However, a woman could only inherit if there were no male heirs. We see this in the case of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. She inherited her estate and her only daughter Anne de Bourgh will inherit next. The real problem is that when there is more than one sister whoe can inherit from the parent, such as five Bennet sisters, then the land inheritance is split up equally among the sisters. Therefore, if the Bennet sisters were to inherit, all of Longbourn would be divided between them, which would greatly diminish the value of the land. The solution to the problem is entailment. Through the legal process of entailment, the next male descendant will inherit the land rather than the sisters. Hence, one of the Bennet family's economic concerns is that the Longbourn estate has been entailed to Mr. Collins ("Male Primogeniture Succession"). Hence, if the women are still living or still unmarried by the time Mr. Collins is due to inherit, the women will be turned out of the house as paupers. In order to remain as members of the gentry class, rather than having to become members of the working class, the Bennet sisters must also marry into the landed gentry class.
A second economic concern we see in Pride and Prejudice stems from the social phenomenon that was occurring during this time period. The social phenomenon was that many in the merchant class were becoming wealthy enough to be able to establish themselves among the landed gentry. The Bingley's were actually a part of this rising merchant class, as we learn when we are first introduced to them and Austen makes a point of describing the Bingley sisters as "entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others" despite the fact that "their bother's fortune and their own had been acquired by trade" (Ch. 4). The Lucases are also part of this rising merchant class. It is described that, before he was knighted, Sir Lucas also worked in trade, earned a "tolerable fortune" and became mayor of Meryton (Ch. 5). The king was so impressed by his work as mayor that he knighted him. Sir Lucas's response to becoming knighted was to quit his work in Meryton and to purchase his estate, Lucas Lodge, in order to continue living life as a gentleman (Ch. 5). The problem with this is that he was really not yet wealthy enough to have purchased an estate. His children had to do work around the house because he could not afford all of the servants he needed. Plus, there was not enough fortune to divide among his children. The difference between Mr. Bingley and Sir Lucas is that Mr. Bingley's father continued working, allowing the next generation the luxury of purchasing an estate, which ensured greater wealth for that generation. The result of Sir Lucas's poor choice is that Charlotte is forced to marry for money. She is forced to marry a clergyman who will later inherit Longbourn, all because she lacks a fortune of her own. Hence, economic concerns even touch the lives of the Lucases.