How does family affect marriage and courtship in Pride and Prejudice?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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One of the ways in which the family unit affects marriage and courtship in Pride and Prejudice is through obtrusion.

The Bennet family in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice represents a nuclear family in which boundaries and limitations are not set as firmly and consistently as they would in any other family of their class.

In Mrs. Bennet we see a hysterical and nervous mother who desperately tries to marry off her daughters to good husbands in order to avoid having them lose everything the family owns in the event that Mr. Bennet dies.

One most remember that the Bennets lived in Regency England, and during a time where women could not claim any social status nor financial possession unless they are married. Any status would come directly through their husbands. Hence, marrying is important. However, marrying WELL is even more important still.

The problem with Mrs. Bennet is that, in her hyperactive and imposing ways, she forgets to raise her daughters with the decorum that is expected of ladies of their generation. Kitty and Lydia, the youngest two, break with every code of proper courtship and spend their day running around having fun with male officers, which is an open invitation to scandal.

Lydia's eventual elopement with Wickham seals the entire Bennet clan with the label of shame, and makes every Bennet sister "stained" with social rejection. This is why Elizabeth, in learning of Lydia's elopement, understands why Darcy removes himself from her presence and asks her not to go to meet his younger sister, after all.

Hence, the lack of boundaries and limitations that the Bennet sisters are used to live by is the primary problem that they face when trying to find a good husband. It would be hard for a man of their classto look upon a Bennet sister without thinking of Mrs. Bennet's annoying and intrusive ways, of Lydia's elopement, and even of Elizabeth's outspoken and independent nature. If anything, the Bennet sister's biggest hindrance, is being born into the Bennet household.

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