Does Jane Austen demonstrate in Pride and Prejudice that rich women were the target of men in Regency England?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Several examples of wealthy women becoming the target of men in Regency England can be found in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Men especially targeted rich women for wives.

Two examples are shown with Mr. Wickham's character alone. As we learn in Mr. Darcy's letter to Elizabeth, Wickham, Darcy's best friend while they were growing up, seduced Darcy's sister and tried to persuade her to elope with him, making her believe she was in love with him. As Darcy explains, "Mr. Wickham's chief object was unquestionably my sister's fortune, which is thirty thousand pounds" (Ch. 35). Hence, Wickham pursued Georgiana only for the sake of gaining her money.

Mr. Wickham does something similar closer to the time period that Elizabeth meets him. While at first Wickham shows interest in Elizabeth, he begins pursuing and becomes engaged to Miss Mary King who has inherited 10,000 pounds. However, Miss King is saved by being whisked away by her uncle to stay with him in Liverpool.

Even Colonel Fitzwilliam alludes to the fact that he cannot marry a woman of his choice, but must marry a wealthy woman. Colonel Fitzwilliam, Darcy's cousin, whom Elizabeth meets at Rosings Park while visiting her newly married friend Charlotte in Kent, is the younger son of an Earl. As a younger son, he won't be inheriting much for his fortune. Therefore, he tells Elizabeth that he "cannot marry where [he] likes" and that he cannot marry a woman who has no fortune (Ch. 33). Elizabeth believes he makes the comment specifically for her benefit to show her that he admires her but can't possibly consider her due to her lack of inheritance.

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Pride and Prejudice

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