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

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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What are the main characteristics of Jane Austen's portrayal of love and marriage in Pride and Prejudice?

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One chief feature of love and marriage in Pride and Prejudice is the role of money and status. For financial and status reasons, women in the novel are under intense pressure to marry. Without marriage, the Bennet sisters, for example, will be impoverished after their father dies and the estate that supports them goes to their nearest male relative, Mr. Collins. Mrs. Bennet is acutely aware of this situation and some of the novel's comedy arises from her ceaseless efforts to marry her daughters off. Charlotte Lucas, a 27-year-old who is not particularly attractive, is also very aware of the need to marry so as not to be a burden to her family. She pragmatically chooses Mr. Collins, although she does not love him, because of the status and security he offers her.

However, Austen also examines the importance of companionate marriage. For her, the superior marriage is one based on love and mutual respect, such as what Elizabeth and Darcy (and Jane and Bingley) achieve during the course of the novel. Elizabeth initially rejects the status and wealth Darcy offers her because she cannot love or respect the man offering them. It is only after the two change, grow, and learn to better understand each other that Elizabeth is able to marry Darcy in what looks to be the ideal marriage. However, even in this case money matters, an issue Austen never loses sight of: Elizabeth thinks, when she sees Pemberley, that it would be something to be mistress of such an estate. Mutual esteem is important to a successful marriage, but money is too.

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