Discuss the Theme of Marriage in the Novel, Pride and Prejudice
Marriage is undoubtedly a great factor in human life so far as happiness and success in life are concerned. In the novel, Pride and Prejudice it happens to be one of the major themes. Because of its importance in human life, Jane Austen has given its due importance and consideration in her novel and she tries to analyze the cause of success and failure in married life through a detailed discussion of five marriages: four new ones and a fifth old one. Marriage is not to be taken lightly and everyone should take into account the temperament and characteristics of his or her spouse before entering into the final contract.
Since love is the pillar on which marriage rests, men should think very seriously whether they would be able to love each other, the authorizer herself rejected a proposal of her marriage on this ground. In Pride and Prejudice, the theme of love and marriage, therefore, has been treated with minute observation. Although limited in the range of her experience, she had a clear understanding of the human heart.
In the beginning of the novel, the theme of marriage has been truck just on hearing the news of Mr. Bingley in their neighborhood. Mrs. Bennet argues her husband to pay a visit to that house because she hopes that one of her five daughters may eventually be married to him. So, the only business Mrs. Bennet has in the world is to get her daughters married off. Getting daughters married is a problem always and she is rightly anxious about her daughter’s marriages.
But this old couple is not happy. There is a just of difference between the husband and the wife because of the too-wide gap in their intellectual attainments and understanding. Love is not there, so Mr. Bennet is painfully indifference to his wife and criminally irresponsible to the family. Being infatuated with his wife’s uncommon physical beauty, he married her. Jane Austen has presented an unhappy husband and a tolerant wife in the couple. It is not physical beauty but the mental quality that may bind husband and wife permanently. The wife could not provide what the husband wanted from her, so the gap between the two has widened to a point where no abridgment is possible. Mr. Bennet ridiculed her not alone but in the presence of her daughters. So, she becomes a nervous wreck. The absence of understanding and of love between them has affected the mental growth of their children.
The couple that gets married next is Charlotte and Mr. Collins. But this marriage is also an unhappy union. Both of them hold different opinions on marriage and accept each other not out of love but out of necessity. Mr. Collins sets an example of matrimony by marrying Charlotte. On the other hand, she accepts him under economic pressure with full awareness that she is going to marry an ass. She is not romantic at all, but a realist.
The next marriage that takes place in the novel is between Wickham and Lydia. They elope before they get married. Here is no exchange of heart, nor any real understanding between the two captivated. For the external glamour of Wickham’s personality, Lydia falls in love with him. But Wickham is reluctant to marry her when pressed by Darcy. This marriage is found to be unhappy, as there is no bond of love between the two.
The marriage between Jane Bingley is, of course not based on any false understanding. They are in sincere love with each other and have great emotional compatibility. By nature, both of them are sweet and gentle and free from ill-will or malice. But their marriage is precariously fragile. Their temperamental harmony lacks the strengthening support of intellectual understanding and maturity. They will be happy because they are too good to forgive each other’s faults.
The most desirable marriage takes place at last. Darcy and Elizabeth enter into marriage bond knowing each other for a long time. It is modeled on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. In this comedy, Benedick and Beatrice, who hate each other in the beginning, are ultimately married at the end. Similarly, Elizabeth and Darcy are united in a hilarious spirit. They have taken a long time to move towards understanding. Elizabeth helps Darcy to shake off his prejudice while Darcy acts valiantly and magnanimously to win her love. They gradually develop mutual love and affection which are in fact, the basis of a sound marriage.
Jane Austen says,“It was a union that must have been to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened; his manners improved, and from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the worlds, she must have received the benefit of greater importance.”
Jane Austen has spoken of a tone of marriage and of its basis in the novel: mutual love and respect, understanding of hearts from the infrastructure of a matrimonial alliance. No marriage, unless inspired by love can make the partners happy. Jane Austen has expressed that universal truth for the benefit of all married and going to be the couples.