Who is Charlotte Lucas in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice?

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In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte Lucas is Elizabeth's character foil. A foil is a character whose traits contrast with the traits of another character, usually the main character. An author will use opposing traits to highlight specific traits and make a point. In Pride...

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In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte Lucas is Elizabeth's character foil. A foil is a character whose traits contrast with the traits of another character, usually the main character. An author will use opposing traits to highlight specific traits and make a point. In Pride and Prejudice, Austen contrasts Charlotte Lucas's pragmatic nature with Elizabeth's more romantic ideals to show that, sometimes, romantic notions should be tempered with pragmatism.

Charlotte Lucas is the eldest daughter of Sir William and Lady Lucas. In Chapter 5, the narrator explains that Sir William had been a tradesman in Meryton who earned a considerable fortune and became mayor of the town. While being mayor, he had also been knighted by the king. After being knighted, he quit his business in Meryton and purchased Lucas Lodge to take up the life of a gentleman. However, the narrator comments that he really gave up his business too soon, and, as a result, he had no fortune for his children to inherit. Since he has no fortune to pass down to his children, Charlotte knows she must marry a man with a comfortable income or else be a burden to her family. Unfortunately, since she is plain and 27 years old, she does not have many marital prospects. Hence, when Mr. Collins proposes after being rejected by Elizabeth, Charlotte is very happy to accept due to the practical reasons that he can provide her with a comfortable home and that his character is good enough to make her as happy as most married women.

Elizabeth is at first shocked to learn Charlotte had accepted Mr. Collins's proposal since Elizabeth places more value on feelings than on practicality. Yet, when she sees Charlotte being happy and making the best of her new home, she is obliged to admit that Charlotte's decision to marry Mr. Collins was the best one for her. Austen uses Charlotte's happiness to show that one needs to use a balance of practical judgement and emotions in making decisions, especially decisions concerning marriage.

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