Illustration of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy with neutral expressions on their faces

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen
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“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” In light of this first sentence of Pride and Prejudice, discuss the situation, attitudes, and actions of the following four men, with regard to courtship and marriage: Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, Mr. Collins, and Mr. Wickham. What are these men “in want of” when it comes to marriage? You should consider the two possible meanings of “want”—to positively desire a wife and to be in need of a wife. What is the thinking of these men about marriage, if any? What is their situation with regard to their “fortune,” their social position? You should concentrate on the most interesting cases, as you see them, but make sure you refer to all four of these characters, if only for the sake of comparison and contrast. Make sure your essay has a clear thesis and a title that indicates the focus of your discussion. Are there any secondary male characters, besides these four, who are relevant to your discussion?

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This is a big question, but I will try to answer it in brief to get you started.

Mr. Darcy wants (desires) a wife of some beauty who will stand up to him and be an intellectual equal. In other words, he wants/desires Elizabeth . However, he has been taught...

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This is a big question, but I will try to answer it in brief to get you started.

Mr. Darcy wants (desires) a wife of some beauty who will stand up to him and be an intellectual equal. In other words, he wants/desires Elizabeth. However, he has been taught to be proud and to want (to feel he needs) a wife of a higher social class than Elizabeth. He is in a quite enviable position as to fortune, being a lord with a large estate and 10,000 pounds a year in income.

Mr. Bingley desires Jane, and she is also everything he perceives he needs in a wife. He has a large fortune based on his father's success in trade and can easily support a woman like Jane who has no dowry. His stumbling block is that Darcy persuades him against pursuing Jane: otherwise, there are no obstacles.

Mr. Collins wants/desires to please Lady Catherine, and for that he wants/needs a wife of sufficient social status to pass as a lady. He really could care less who he marries as long as Lady Catherine approves. He takes the first woman who will have him. He has an ample living as a clergyman and will inherit the Bennet estate, which will leave him quite financially comfortable. He can easily marry Charlotte even though she has no dowry.

Wickham is the hardest one to understand for certain. It appears he would want/desire to marry Elizabeth, but he wants/needs to marry for money, as he doesn't have any. It is hard to understand why he runs off with Lydia, who also has no money, except to imagine that he planned to love her and leave until he was paid off to marry her.

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