It is not unusual for an individual to disagree with social customs or expectations. Some people are only happy when they can rebel against society. Most mature adults eventually realize that compromise is necessary to achieve happiness. This is the case in the early nineteenth century England setting of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. In the novel, Miss Elizabeth Bennet is a lively, independent woman, whose family's financial situation and whose strong mindedness suggest that she may never marry. Mr. Darcy, is a rigid and proper man, who falls in love with Elizabeth, despite their differences. By the end of the novel, Elizabeth and Darcy learn to compromise, and, in doing so, become truly happy. In marrying, they not only fulfill themselves as individuals, but also affirm the principle values of society. The marriage at the end of the novel shows Jane Austen's ideal view of marriage as a social institution.
The novel Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen gives us the reader a very good idea of how she views marriage, as well as society. The theme of marriage is set in the very opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice; "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife" (Austen, 1) As Norman Sherry points out, this is Austen's way of implying that 'a single man in possession of a good fortune' is automatically destined to be the object of desire for all unmarried women. The statement opens the subject of the romantic novel; courtship and marriage. The sentence also introduces the issue of what the reasons for marrying are. She implies here that many young women marry for money. The question...
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...s, Jane Austen makes them 'all right'." (Sherry, 92) By having Darcy and Elizabeth end the novel engaged in an ideal marriage is a significant detail. Jane Austen, in doing this is suggesting that society would be better if it followed Elizabeth and Darcy's example. By controlling pride and prejudice, and by learning that compromise is sometimes the best way to happiness, society can hope to improve itself. Marriage in the end, is the perfect ending, since it is both an affirmation of the values of society as well as a personal fulfillment, which it is for both Elizabeth and Darcy since they improve themselves by being together.
Austen, Jane. "Pride and Prejudice. New York. Bantam Books, 1813,1981.
Butler, Marilyn. Jane Austen and the War of Ideas. Oxford. Claredon Press, 1975
Sherry, Norman. Jane Austen. London. Montegue House, 1966
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