Jane Austen Questions and Answers

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How was marriage and wealth portrayed in the world of Jane Austen ?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Austen understood the connection between marriage and money in her novels, and while all of her heroines marry for love, none of them are foolish enough to marry for love without a secure and reasonably comfortable income to support the couple.

For example, Elizabeth realizes early on that, although she is attracted to Wickham, it is not a match that can go anywhere because neither of them have money. Mrs. Gardiner warns her away from him for that reason, and Elizabeth understands the value of the advice. While she will not marry Mr. Collins, a man she dislikes, for his money, neither will she throw caution to the wind and let love sweep her off her feet. Darcy is the exemplary Austen husband: Elizabeth esteems him and he her—and he has an ample income.

Likewise, in Persuasion, Anne Elliot takes her aunt, Lady Russell's advice, not to marry Captain Wentworth, whose fortunes are uncertain. She later regrets being so persuaded, but that is after Wentworth comes home well established financially. One wonders if Anne would have felt the same way had Wentworth ended up penniless.

Throughout Austen's novel, the ideal marriage is one in which a secure and comfortable income is paired with two partners who love and respect one another. Austen is hard headed and realistic in her understanding of the importance of financial security to wedded bliss.

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Marriage and wealth are predominant themes throughout many of Jane Austen's classic novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.  The famous opening line of Pride and Prejudice links marriage and wealth:

"IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" (1).

For the most part, many of the women in Austen's novel are trapped by circumstance into positions where they must marry in order to secure their well being.  Elizabeth Bennett faces down a horrid marriage proposal from Mr. Collins, which her mother thinks she should accept, all because it would provide for her future.  The wealthy gentleman in Austen's novels offer an ends to a mean for ladies.  Marriage, in many ways, was like a business transaction, focusing less on love, and more on the importance of aligning family fortunes. 

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