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The Problems with Marriage: The Contrasting Relationships in Pride and Prejudice

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Essay title: The Problems with Marriage: The Contrasting Relationships in Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is about a small country town in England, where life is all about having money, getting married, and having more money. In this novel, Austen focuses in on one particular family, the Bennets, who consist of five daughters and one over-obsessive mother who is looking to marry off each of her daughters before her husband passes away, for they do not have a son to inherit their estate and therefore her daughters will be left without a home, money, or respect in society. The story has ups, downs, and surprises around every corner for each of the relationships that are formed, broken, then formed again between the daughters and other men, until finally four sharply contrasting marriages emerge to show how real marriages are to be built. In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen effectively shows her theme that happy strong marriages take time to build by contrasting Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship with the marriage relationships of, Mr. Wickham and Lydia, Mr. Collins and Charlotte, and Mr. Bingley and Jane.

Darcy and Elizabeth are made up to be an example of the perfect couple. They are the ones who discover that a relationship will not last without love, and manage to balance love with the need of money and social power. Although, in the beginning, Darcy seems to be a very “. . .disagreeable man . . .” (Austen 14), he begins opening himself up to the Bennet family, near the end. The journalist, Martin Amis points out that Darcy ends up dealing with the issues surrounding Lydia and Wickham’s relationship and ends up freely inviting Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle to come live with them at Pemberley (4). This marriage is also a force that will lead to the end of the division between the two classes; an article in Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism notes that by marrying each other they “forged a contract between the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie”(“Austen: Pride” 35).

While Darcy and Elizabeth do end up living happily ever after, there were certain opposing forces to their relationship, such as Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Lady Catherine is the aunt of Darcy and had been planning all his life to have him marry his cousin. When she finds out about all the mischievous happenings between Darcy and Elizabeth she pays a visit to Elizabeth to tell her to stay away from her nephew because she does not think Elizabeth is worthy enough to have him: “Your alliance will be a disgrace; your name will never be mentioned by any of us!”(Austen 257). Elizabeth is ashamed and slightly embarrassed by Lady Catherine’s confrontation, but is able to stand up for herself and her family with a firm resolution: “I am only resolved to act in that manner which will, in my opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you . . .”(Austen 258,259). This verbal battle over Darcy ends with Elizabeth standing tall as she asks Lady Catherine to leave her house immediately. Besides Lady Catherine, there was also other resistance to the idea of Darcy and Elizabeth being together. The Bingley sisters constantly ridiculed Elizabeth, her family, and their low status in society: “Her manners were pronounced to be very bad indeed, a mixture of pride and impertinence; she had no conversation, no style, no taste, no beauty”(Austen 26). There is also a slight undertone of affection towards Darcy by Miss. Bingley, which causes jealousy of Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship.

Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationships have many ups and downs throughout the story, but their strong personalities and confidence in each other end up holding them together. The first time Darcy proposes to Elizabeth she intensely turns him down telling him: “I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed to marry”(Austen 193). Even though this may have discouraged Darcy slightly, his pride in himself still remains (“Austen: Pride” 36). As Amis observes, Elizabeth can not marry without there being love, and she does not love Darcy at that point and time (2), but at the end, their “struggles will lead to a reconciliation of personal and social claims”(Marcus 92).

As Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship continues to grow they begin to come to an understanding about one another. They show readers how important it is to know your partner, which will eventually grow to an understanding of each other, the building block of a strong relationship (“Pride and Prejudice” 1). Elizabeth’s feelings begin to grow for Darcy and she begins to explore them, mulling over the idea of becoming Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy, but then stretches out the development of commitment in order to figure out how far Darcy’s affections go (Kneedler 301). “[I]f he is satisfied with only regretting me, when he might have obtained my affections and hand, I shall soon cease to regret him at all”(Austen 300). This outstretch

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