Saturday, 19 February 2011

Pride and Prejudice - just another love story?

What I like about Pride and Prejudice is that it is not simply a book about love. Money matters are at the heart of it. We have a group of women who depend on marrying well to guarantee their financial security. Mrs Bennet is keenly aware of her responsibility to find wealthy husbands for her daughters as she cannot make them financially secure herself. Mr Bennet seems incapable of grasping the urgency of the matter, and keeps to his library rather than seeing his daughters wed.

Austen is at pains to point out how annoying Mrs Bennet is and how tiresome the daughters find her. However, it cannot escape our notice that Lizzy's affections for Darcy changed as soon as she sees his big estate in Derbyshire and she jokingly admits to Jane that she must date her falling in love with Darcy from that point.

In fact, she does indeed fall in love with a wealthy man, and does, in fact, exactly what her mother would have wanted her to do. Perhaps the years of listening to her mother's plots for marrying them off has subliminally effected her. In this way, Austen shows herself to be very practical and not at all like the fairytale romance novelist that some readers consider her to be.

Charlotte Lucas, another clever female character, is similarly practical when it comes to affairs of the heart and secures her independance in the world, through matrimony, all be it a less than perfect union. Jane too marries a financially secure man with whom she has fallen in love. Indeed, she is so good, how could Austen deny her that? It is only Lydia, the youngest daughter who broke with all the social norms of the day, and ran away to live with Wickham outside of wedlock, who is unfortunate enough to be bestowed with an impoverished husband. It is clear that Austen punishes her for her unruly behaviour and for disgracing her family.

So, if we consider what advice Pride and Prejudice holds for young women, it is clear that Austen is nothing of not pragmatic: make sure you fall in love with someone who is wealthy, if you want a happy life, the happiest life.

What I love about the novel is that the more you read it, the more you see in it and the more you understand how comlicated the text really is.


1 comment:

Eileen said...

Elizabeth Bennett would have been quite happy with a poorer man, she just got lucky!

Charlotte Lucas could not have chosen a more pathetic husband! She would be miserable within a year. Even Elizabeth, (her best friend) was shocked!