In the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, describe the importance & pressure to marry within one's social class by examining the opinions of three characters.

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pride and Prejudice describes the main focus of the novel by Jane Austen and also the pitfalls experienced by having such a philosophy.

Elizabeth Bennett has fixed opinions of Mr Darcy, which she will only learn much later are unfounded and Darcy provides the perfect foil for Elizabeth.  Elizabeth is proud of her stand and her ideal that marrying for love is the only consideration. She is well aware of the pressures of society and that a woman would do well to marry comfortably.  Darcy it seems to her the epitome of all that is wrong with the concept of maintaining reputation by marrying this way as he is "the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world."(Ch 3)She has her opinions and her mother, after he snubs Elizabeth "simply detest(s) the man." 

Appearances are often deceiving and even Darcy himself contributes to his poor standing, finding Elizabeth "tolerable." Elizabeth has no reason to question Wickham when he speaks ill of Darcy and her opinion is entrenched throughout.Thus when Darcy makes his first marriage proposal, he comes across as arrogant and "his countenance expressed real security" (Ch 34) , showing how he expects Elizabeth to accept his marriage proposal.  

Elizabeth feels disillusioned and questions Darcy's motives when it appears his proposal goes " "against your will, against your reason and even against your character" (Ch 34)When She reads his letter and realises that "vanity, not love has been my folly" (Ch 36), or so she thinks, she feels ashamed.

Darcy is also reduced from his ideas of grandeur and self-importance as he comes to appreciate how he has been "properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased." (Ch 58)

By contrast, Charlotte Lucas intends to marry William Collins and lives up to the very attitude expressed in the opening lines as she cannot understand what could possibly be wrong with this viewpoint :

IT IS A TRUTH UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

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Pride and Prejudice

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