Marriage theme in austens novel

Essay, Custom Research Paper: Marriage in Jane Austen’s Works Marriage in Austen’s works is far from being mere union of two hearts, and each character involved is more or less concerned about such factors as wealth and social status, since they are part of a middle-class community in which comfort and happiness largely depend on material conditions. Marriage, in this sense, is not the simple advanced relation between a man and a woman, but ” means a complete engagement between the marrying couple and society–that is, it means not only ‘feelings’ but ‘property’ as well. In many cases, marriage is even used as a tool to gain or secure personal and family interests, and sometimes Austen has completely taken romance out of the affair with her satirical pen. In the disguise of formal civilization ” the hard, material and grim business of the marriage market is carried on at a primitive level. It is no wonder that many marriages in Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice are disclosed as a commercial deal. In Sense and Sensibility, it is very clearly revealed how the society has placed fortune above all in judging the value and practicality of a marriage. For example, although Willoughby is in love with Marianne, he chooses to marry a rich woman in order to obtain a large income and secure his comfort. Mrs. Jennings remarks with indignation, “… it is the oddest thing to me that a man should use such a pretty girl so ill! But when there is plenty of money on one side and next to none on the other, Lord bless you! They care no more about such things! Willoughby himself also confesses to Elinor repentantly, ” My affection for Marianne, my thorough conviction of her attachment to me–it was all insufficient to outweigh that dread of poverty, or get the better of those false ideas of the necessity of riches, which I was naturally inclined to feel and expensive society had increased…”. The ” necessity of riches” is the primary creed for the ” expensive society”. Willoughby has accepted this rule, so he pursues money rather than love, and only when he is no longer short of money, does he start to think of love, ” To avoid a comparative poverty which her affection and her society would have deprived of all its horrors, I have, by rasing myself to affluence, lost everything that could make it a blessing.” As a follower of the middle class creed, Willoughby submits to the temptation of wealth of his own accord, while as defenders of the creed, conservative families often compel and even threaten sons and daughters into marriage for interests. Edward Ferras has some affection for Elinor, but the intimacy between them is strongly opposed by his family, for she has no good fortune. Meanwhile, Edward has been long in private engaged to Lucy Steele, a girl with lower status and less property than Elinor. When the secret comes to light, John Dashwood describes his mother’s response as follows: ” All that Mrs. Ferras could say to make him put an end to the engagement,…, was of no avail… His mother explained to him her liberal designs in case of his marrying Miss Morton; told him she would settle on him the Norfolk estate, which, clear of land tax, brings in a good thousand a year, offered even, when matters grew desperate, to make it twelve hundred; and in opposition to this if he still persisted in this low connection, represented to him the certain penury that must attend the match. His own two thousand pounds she protested should be his all; she would never see him again; and so far would she be from affording him the smallest assistance that if he were to enter into any profession with a view of better support, she would do all in her power to prevent his advancing in it.” The mother first tries to persuade her son with material love, then lures him with a promise of material gain as long as he marries the rich Miss Morton, and finally threatens to deprive him of almost all his legacy and banish him from the family. The affection between mother and son is thoroughly replaced by the coldness between business negotiators. John Dashwood’s narration presents us how much a mother offers to buy the son’s right of choosing his marital partner, and how powerful the conservative force is in defending its interests by destroying feelings or love. In extreme case, marriage has been cruelly made a deal at the expense of lovers. For example, Colonel Brandon and his cousin Eliza are long attached to each other, but in order to rescue the declining family estate, Colonel Brandon’s father, who is the lady’s uncle and guardian, forces her to marry colonel’s elder brother. As Colonel Brandon recalls, ” Her fortune was large, and our family estate much encumbered.” And when their attempt for elopement fails, ” she was allowed no liberty, no amusement, till my father’s point was gained.” Here we see how Eliza, as a meek and weak woman with wealth, has fallen into prey of the mercenary marriage, and Colonel Brandon, as an obedient son, is robbed of happiness by the commanding authority in the family. As far as the evils in the marriage market are concerned, Sense and Sensibility seems quite bleak, but is Pride and Prejudice, as Jane Austen put it in a letter to her sister Cassandra, ” rather too light, and bright, and sparkling? Does it want shade? It is true that the latter presents a brighter picture than the former in substance, for at least the major male characters Darcy and Bingley are economically independent and does not face the difficulty that frustrates Willoughby and Edward, but Pride and Prejudice is certainly not lacking in shade. The most conspicuous of all is Charlotte Lucas’s marrying Mr. Collins. She is a woman of 27 with plain features and without good fortune. IN her opinion, ” Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. ” On the basis of this idea, what she means to seek through marriage is the material advantages, decently settling down in particular. When Elizabeth has rejected Mr. Collins’s proposal to marriage, Charlotte takes the opportunity to hunt him by design. It is not hard to read Charlotte takes the opportunity to hunt him by design. It is not hard to read Charlotte’s mind: ” Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honorable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.” This psychological description reveals the typical perceptions of marriage of those women who are in the same boat as Charlotte. Their materialism originates from their need to maintain their goal at the expense of feelings. Charlotte has no love for Mr. Collins, while ” his attachment to her must be imaginary”. Mr. Collins’s pursuit of a wife is depicted like a series of caricatures. Mr. Collins is the heir of the Longbourn, for Mr. Bennet has no son. To make amends for the Bennet family, he intends to choose one of their daughters as his wife, ” if he found them as sounds like a failr deal for mutual benefit. Jane first attracts his attention. ” Miss Bennet’s lovely face confirmed his views, … and for the first evening she was his settled choice.” The word ” settled” is rather ironical, for when Mrs. Bennet hints that Jane is in love with someone done…” The shortly after his proposal is rejected by Elizabeth, he averts his eyes to Charlotte; on the day before leaving Longbourn, he hastens to ” throw himself at her feet” and accomplishes his plan in the end. In a worldly community, the union of the two is less ridiculous than reasonable, for their mutual demands are satisfied, and it is not the only commercial marriage in Pride and Prejudice. The worldliness and materialism in the middle class society projects a great deal of shade over courtship and marriage in Austen’s earlier works. Despite her own ideal, Austen described objectively the bleak side of reality that her eyes observed. A couple can be joined for many other reasons, if not for love; men and women may change their choice of marital partners simply for better profit and higher social status, such as Willoughby, and Lucy Steele, who deserts poor Edward and marries rich Robert Ferras. Many marriages mirrored in Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice can be compared to a commercial exchange, and the civilized community is in a sense similar to the marriage market, so few are ashamed of being a marriage broker or contractor. In contrast to the prevailing shade, there is a ray of light in the commercial world: marriage for love, which is not too romantic to be true in Austen’s novels. The central plot in Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice are both concerning main characters seeking true love in happy marriage despite a chain of ups and downs. Although thee ideal of marriage in the middle class community cannot be achieved without some attention to money, it is expected to have love as its solid foundation. Judging from Austen’s presentation, marriage for love ought to stem from mutual understanding and appreciation, but not from physical attraction. ” This love was not sexual passion, but the result more of spiritual and cultural affinity,” Many marriages in Austen’s works grow dull, because those pairs of partners possess enough of the former but lack the latter. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bennet for her beautiful features; yet soon he finds her ignorance and compensates for the consequent disappointment by making fun of his wife. Lydia Bennet, a copy of her mother, elopes with Wickham on impulse and later gats married with Darcy’s help, so that Elizabeth cannot but doubt ” how little of permanent happiness could belong to a couple who were only brought together because their passions were stronger than their virtue,…” As a result, ” His affection for her soon sunk into indifference; hers lasted a little longer…”‘ Different from ungoverned passion that finally leads to empty married life, the love for happy marriage is based on lovers’ sensible knowledge of each other. It involves the mind as well as the heart. As far as Darcy and Elizabeth are concerned, ” 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 judgement, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance.” Likewise, Edward and Elinor in Sense and Sensibility also from a harmonious couple. Either of them has a reserved and composed character, has no ambition for fame or fortune and prefers leading a simple life. These two novels indicate that love does not mean only passion; instead, it should be the combination of feeling and reasoning, and love under the guidance of sense leads to conjugal felicity. The inner world is not free from influence of the outside world, so the ” spiritual affinity” between lovers is faced with the ordeal of materialism and worldliness in the society. Marriage for love is often opposed and attacked by a conservative force, when or if it is against family interests or social conventions. The characters in pursuit of love have to stand a test, and ” what will be tested will be their integrity of ‘feeling’ under the cruelly threatening social pressures.” Through Austen’s design there are a few characters that manage to stand the test, although people around them have given up. In Sense and Sensibility, the triangular relationship between Edward, Elinor and Lucy is simplified by the outside ordeal. Neither of the women is wealthy, and both seem to be in love with Edward; the former appears calm and reserved, while the latter firm and impassioned. Edward has a long secret engagement to lucy because of his immaturity, but later is attracted by Elinor for her elegance and virtue. When his engagement is disclosed, his family force him to break up with Lucy. He is given two choices: to marry a rich lady and be comfortably settled or to continue his engagement and be banished from home. Edward is amiable and obedient by character, but his moral values are well above his family. He would rather take material loss than betray Lucy, though he does not love her any more. By keeping his pledge he maintains his integrity of never shows her affection for him because of his engagement to Lucy, but she comprehends his mind and respects his decision. Whereas, Lucy claims to share weal and woe with Edward, but before long informs him of her marriage to his brother, who is economically advantaged and the favorite son of their mother. Thus the test of love sets Edward free from Lucy and enables him to express his love to Elinor. After going through the ordeal laid by the conservative family, the pair of lovers at last enters the happy matrimony. In Pride and Prejudice, the chief characters cannot avoid overcoming some obstacles to their union. The courtship between Darcy and Elizabeth is held back by both outside and inside obstacles. Where the outside obstacle is concerned, they are confronted with economical and social disparity. Darcy has a large income and estate, and comes from a noble family, while Elizabeth, a daughter of a businessman, has no fortune, and worst of all, her mother and younger sisters are aall unintelligent, inelegant and vain. For this reason, Caroline Bingley ridicules Darcy’s attachment to Elizabeth; Lady Catherine condescends herself to visit Elizabeth and forces her to stay away form Darcy. Although the outside obstacle casts some shadow on their union, the inside one is the main power that once kept them apart–they hold different kinds of prejudice against each other. Despite his love for Elizabeth, Darcy is not blind to her vulgar relatives and the disgrace of their future marriage. After he speaks out his opinion of her family in his proposal and partly for this reason is rejected, he remarks, ” Could you expect me to refoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition is life is so decidedly beneath my own?” We can see that Miss Bingley, : ady Catherine and Darcy have a common attitude toward Elizabeth’s family: a deep-rooted social prejudice against the relatively inferior in the middle class, from which their pride stems. In this case, if Elizabeth accepted Darcy’s proposal, it would end in one more mercenary marriage, and she would be just another profit-minded Charlotte. Here Elizabeth chooses to be faithful to her feelings and moral values. However, the gap between Darcy and Elizabeth is later bridged by their introspection and mutual understanding. He is liberal and open-minded enough to reexamine his behavior and improve his manners, so the pride is humbled; she, knowing more about him from later experiences, comes to realize his merits, so the previous prejudice is removed. The conclusion is that understanding triumphs over individual prejudice, and liberality and love over social prejudice. In a materialistic community, characters in pursuit of marriage for love are inevitably confronted with one challenge or another. By highlighting the process of love-ordeal-marriage, Austen draws above the shade a ray of light. It reveals that the inner world is capable of reacting to the outside pressures and achieving true happiness. However, Austen is not among romanticists. She never excludes material concern from romance. The ideal marriage does not aim at material gains, but in the middle class has to be maintained by money. In Sense and Sensibility, Edward and Elinor ” were neither of them quite enough in love to think that three hundred and fifty pounds a year would supply them the comforts of life” In Pride and Prejudice, the beginning states clearly ” it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”, and the unstated ” truth” is that a single woman must be in want of a husband in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”, and the unstated ” truth” is that a single woman must be in want of a husband in possession of a good fortune. Although Jane and Elizabeth Bennet are not described as materialistic, they are finally joined with rich men. The material reward to the characters who have withstood moral tests seems to imply that Jane Austen is more realistic than romantic. Though marriage to property is objectionable, happy marriage does demand money as well as love. Just as there light and shade in one painting, marriage for love is coexisting with marriage for interests in the middle class community. In Austen’s view, the love, defined as the combination of mutual understanding and moderate passion, is the cornerstone for conjugal felicity, though wealth may help to secure daily necessity. In a materialistic society, when marriage for love conflicts with family interests or social expectation, it cannot avoid being hindered by those profit chasers. On the way to true happiness, the chief characters undergo outside setbacks and inside frustration. However, guided by their own sense of values, they choose their love as marital partners. This choice distinguishes these characters from the money-minded crowd, and for the spiritual superiority, they are rewarded with happy marriage and even material advantages. It should be noted that marriage and even material advantages. It should be noted that marriage for love does not mean marriage without money. Austen seems to try to find a balance point on the scale with money and love at each end, and attempts to suggest an agreement between the inner world and the outside world. In Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen presents to readers a vivid picture of various marriages with the peaceful English country as its background. Both male and female characters of marriageable age are seeking a martial partner. According to the different motives, the marriages are classified into two types: marriage for interests and marriage for love. But what is Austen’s attitude toward her subject? Does she negate the former and advocate the latter as a pure moralist? How dose Austen think affect the characters’ decision? All these questions are connected with the inner world as well as the fictional world of Austen. First of all, Austen, undoubtedly, had a moderate romantic attitude toward love and marriage. In one of her letters to her niece Fanny Knight, who, faced with a gentleman’s courtship, had asked for her advice, Austen wrote, ” I shall… entreat you not to commit yourself farther and not to think of accepting him unless you really do like him. Anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without Affection; …”. It plainly and directly shows her view of marriage. Moreover, her preference to marriage for love has been repeatedly reflected in her earlier works. In Sense and Sensibility, despite the shortage of material support, Edward and Elinor make an engagement and in the end lead a contented and cheerful married life. By contrast, the matrimony between Robert and Luncy, the union of good fortune and charming features, is characterized by ” the frequent domestic disagreements” In Pride and Prejudice, money is no object for Bingley and Darcy and therefore marriage for love is achieved with much less concern about material factors. Being faithful to the heart Jane and Bingley manage to enter into the state of matrimony after a long time of separation. The story between Darcy and Elizabeth is more dramatic for their trudge from conflict to comprehension, and it is their mutual affection that helps to destroy one; s pride and the other’s prejudice-the main barrier of their union. Besides, in reality, Austen sticked to her principle in marriage. It is believed that once she accepted the proposal from the young heir of a Hampshire family but changed her mind the next day. She had chance to get well married, and she rejected it perhaps because she, as she had said to her niece, did not ” really like him.” With clear perception toward and high expectation of marriage, she stayed single in the whole life. Despite her personal view of marriage, Austen was well aware of the middle class conventions and restrictions. The priority for them was to obtain or maintain economic and social security, and thus marriage, which could connect individual to either higher or lower rung of society, had to be carefully planned in order to serve the vital purpose. In Sense and Sensibility, Willoughby is in debt for luxurious living habits and satisfies his need of money by marrying a wealthy woman; Lucy Steele, inferior in fortune and birth, improves hr existence and social position by capturing Robert Ferras. In Pride and Prejudice, the union between intelligent Charlotte and grotesque Mr. Collins is exposed as the most ridiculous and funny sight. It is hard to say who hunts whom, for the former cannot afford to stay single and the latter is eager for a wife. But from the social point of view, the marriage elevates Charlotte to Mr. Collins’s social status. Austen satirizes and criticizes marriage for interests, but her criticism is mild rather than severe; instead of totally negating this type of marriage, she seemed to think that those materialistic partners deserved each other, and therefore pecuniary marriage was tolerable and bearable. She is critical about middle class vanity and materialism, but she is not cynical and no reformist. Judging from her earlier works, as an insider, she is contented with making fun of the evils in the social conventions, so it is not surprising to see the union of snobbish Lucy and selfish Robert, the mercenary pair of Mr. And Mrs. Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, and the marriage of vain Lydia and hypocritical Wickham, the passionless pair of marriage-seeders Charlotte and Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice. Despite her satire and irony, Austen as a woman writer had a keen sympathy for her gender, fro whom marriage was still the main goal of life in the late 18th century, and whose choice would mainly determine her future existence and social status. From the economic viewpoint, women had little chance to inherit large fortune from parents. Traditionally, ” estates in most wealthy families descended to the eldest son, an arrangement which avoided dispersion of wealth and therefore power. In practice, even though a family had no son, the inheritance would not be distributed to daughters but some male relatives, which particularly agreed with the situation of the Bennet family in Pride and Prejudice. Since a woman could not depend on her father for ever, she had to hunt a husband fro economical survival, and that was why a single woman was always in want of a husband in possession of good fortune. Besides, as far as social position was concerned, the husband’s status affected the wife’s. If she married up, her status would be elevated to his, while if she married down, her status would fall to his level. Thus a middle-class young lady was generally supposed to capture a rich man in her class or even above her class. In addition, the 18th century English social pattern put women under great pressure to marry themselves off. ” Not to be married-to be a spinster-was to face a certain degree of social opprobrium, it was to live, in most instances, with one’s family under conditions that were bound to cause discomfort, and it was to forfeit the economic advantages that went to the woman who became a wife.” In those days women’s role was largely domestic, changed from daughter in one family to wife and then mother in the other. The spinster was inevitably exposed to economic and social inferiority, and was considered a burden to her family. In Sense and Sensibility, Lucy Steele does not break up with Edward until she marries Robert, Elinor explains to Edward, “… she lost nothing by continuing the engagement, … and if nothing more advantageous occurred, it would be better for her to marry you than be single.” The pressure to get married is fully revealed in Pride and Prejudice when Charlotte’s engagement to Mr. Collins spreads in her family. Her parents five their consent ” with a most joyful alacrity”; ” the younger girls formed hopes of coming out a year or two sooner than they might otherwise have done; and the boys were relieved from their apprehension of Charlotte’s dying an old maid.” Under such social pressure, women of marriageable age could not afford to wait for their love, but expediently hunted a husband for secure existence. In such a society there might not be many women as fortunate as Jane and Elizabeth, who enter the matrimony with love as well as money in fiction. By examining the marital choices the female characters have made or have to make, Austen showed her discontent and criticism about the established social pattern, and for the disadvantaged sex she held a deep compassion despite their vanity, shallowness and vulgarity. By and large, Jane Austen held a rather complicated attitude toward marriage due to her social status, her personality and even her gender. On the one hand, she was personally in favor of marriage for love. In her earlier major works, the chief characters g through the passage from love to marriage by overcoming this obstacle or that and are rewarded with almost perfect happiness in the end. On the other hand, she also faithfully depicted the materialistic side of marriage seeking in the middle class, satirizing money-minded marriage seekers and disclosing the social evils that provided the soil for marriage for interests. She disapproved of mercenary wedding, but she seemed to tolerate rather than criticize severely. As a woman she had shrewd sympathy for the female characters in general, though most of them were represented as superficial and ignorant, because she was well aware of the economic and social restraints which narrowed women’s prospects and made them focus on material gains of a marriage. Marriage is the common subject in Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Though the latter surpasses the former in many ways such as characterization, narrative techniques and mode of satire, they share the same thematic approach as Austen’s earlier works: mirroring the variety of marriages of the English landed gentry of her time. Obviously, marriage for interests and marriage for love coexist in these novels. In a materialistic community, marriage is viewed as a business deal for mutual benefits. Individual vanity and mercenary social environments determine the wide existence of marriage for interests, just as revealed by Steele’s and Charlotte’s choice of a wealthy husband, Willoughby’s and Wickham’s hunting of a rich wife. However, there are some, though very few, characters that persist in the pursuit of happy marriage, the fulfillment of ” feeling”. The tension between personal choice and social expectation is woven into marriage for love. Both couples, Edward and Elinor, Darcy and Elizabeth, experience the opposition and obstruction from conservative families in their passage from love to marriage. Austen prefers light in proportion to shade in her depiction, so her stories always end in the happy matrimony of central characters.