Discuss the presentation of Marriage in ‘Pride and Prejudice’

Marriage is one of the most important themes in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen. Money is also crucial and links in with the significance of marriage; Austen introduces this to the reader in the opening paragraph “it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” This sets the scene for the reader and gives them the foundations.

In Jane Austen’s era, marriage would have been as important as in the novel set in the early 19th century. Women at that time had a heavy reliance on their Fathers or Husbands and the only way for single women to secure any kind of livelihood after their Fathers died, would be to marry someone financially well-off as soon as possible. This is extremely evident through Charlotte’s delight at having secured a husband, even if it was Mr Collins whom she had no intimate connection with.

Most of the characters in the novel are fairly prosperous, the only one who has to work for a living and is lower class, is Mr Gardiner. The book is mainly set however amongst the middle and upper class of society. There are several female workers such as house servants and governesses mentioned in the book but this not considered an option for both Charlotte Lucas and the Bennett children, whose Mother is adamant that they each marry.

The reader is presented with 8 marriages in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ each one different in the way it is introduced and the respectability of the marriage itself. Four of these happen before the novel begins and the other four happen during the book, the latter are concentrated on more and further detail on each is given to the reader. All that can be concluded from the little that is shown of Mrs Hurst’s marriage is that she is very reticent with her husband and recognises his faults almost too intensively. This shows that the rich marriages are not always the happiest which is ironic when compared to the Gardiners’ who are lower class but have a blissful marriage and are the most civil and sophisticated couple.

The Gardiners’ are described to the reader as “a sensible gentleman-like man” and “an amiable, intelligent woman”. Even though the author describes each character, the reader can usually generate an opinion beforehand. The reason Austen promotes a positive image of the Gardiners’ at the beginning of the novel is because she wants the reader to see them in a good light. The Gardiners’ are also significant because they are the only encouraging role models for the Bennet children due to the poor quality of the Bennets’ marriage.

The Bennets’ marriage takes place before the novel starts, and the events which brought it about are never made clear but it is likely that Mrs Bennett was attractive in her youth and so Mr Bennet was pleased to marry her. Their changed feelings towards each other during the course of the book are made clear in several ways including through their dialogue and actions, their children and the narrator. Their marriage was a mistake and because divorce at the time was out of the question because it was so difficult to achieve, they have to live with the consequences. It is the first marriage in the novel not to be looked at as an ideal marriage as it is completely unsuccessful. The reader is made aware of this in their very first dialogue, “Do you not want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently. “You want to tell me, and I have no objection of hearing it.”

This is a perfect example of Mr Bennett’s sarcasm and unconcerned attitude towards his wife and the family affairs. He mocks her, which annoys Mrs Bennett immensely but she is not clever enough to retort. At one point Mrs Bennett is keen to meet the new Netherfield tenant, who might be a possible suitor for one of her daughters so she asks Mr Bennett to go and visit the tenant as soon as possible incase someone else seizes the opportunity first. Mr Bennett shows utter reluctance and no interest whatsoever, and only