Marriage is the main theme addressed in Pride and Prejudice. It questions the tradition, definition, and purpose of marriage.
Pride and Prejudice, written by Jane Austen, is a classic romance from the 19th century. The title itself gives away two out of the three main themes of the story: pride and prejudice. The last theme, constantly referred to during the novel, is marriage. In the novel, Jane Austen presented many different couples, each with their own nature and characters. Through this, she is able to communicate her belief regarding an ideal marriage, which should include a high degree of love, understanding, and commitment.
Lydia and Wickham is portrayed as the least unstable couple, because they have a serious lack in all three virtues that Austen set up as requirements for the ideal marriage. Through Elizabeth’s voice, Austen speaks of her disapproval of Lydia and Wickham. She refers to Lydia as a person who “wanted only encouragement to attach herself to anybody.” (Austen, 200). And since, in her opinions, it’s an “astonishment that Wickham should marry a girl whom it was impossible he could marry for money”, the union of these two disgraceful people is both surprising and amusing news. Lydia would have attached herself to any other officer, clearly implies that there is no love in this relationship. The fact that Wickham has been such a scammer before shows that he does have commitment, but it’s commitment to the money, not the girl he marries. With that, there are high doubts that there could be understanding between two people, who marries each other not out of love and commitment, but because of lust and money.
Next, Austen describes the marriage between Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas as a typical marriage during the Regency Period, which completely lacks love, but includes a moderate degree of understanding and a lot of commitment. Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins married each other mainly to maintain their social status. It is understood that Mr. Collins does not possess “any charm that could make a woman wish for [his courtship] continuance” (91), while Lucas “accepted him solely from the pure and disinterested desire of an establishment” (91). Though their marriage, under Austen’s eyes, is considered more favorable than Lydia and Wickham, the lack of love makes it seem more like a business agreement than a spiritual attachment.
When referring to spiritual attachment, it could be agreed that the fact that Jane and Mr. Bingley possess love for one another that makes their marriage an ideal one, though perhaps not quite the most ideal one. Mr. Bingley is quite attracted to Jane and his “attentions to [Jane] had given rise to a general expectation of their marriage” (143). They both get along very well, and given their status and education, Jane and Bingley both shared a mutual understanding and are committed to their partner at a high degree. However, the missing ingredient in this marriage is the commitment to change. Like many other happy couples, Jane and Bingley met, their personalities work well with each other, they fell in love, and became married. Neither had to change themselves or alters any of their daily rituals to match the other. Their relationship simply did not encounter as many obstacles as the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.
Elizabeth and Darcy, on the other hand, are portrayed as the ideal couple for an idea marriage. Mr. Darcy “ardently love and admire” (138) Elizabeth, who eventually returns the same affection to her companion. Not only that, the couple had to overcome many difficulties before they can unite. First, they had to overcome their personal differences. Elizabeth was prejudiced against Mr. Darcy because she let the first bad impression become the judgment of Mr. Darcy’s characters as a person. While Mr. Darcy, was too proud to lower himself to socializing with a girl from a middle class family. Then, the conflicts that Wickham brought, which includes both his seductions of Georgiana and Lydia, and his overall ill-natured personalities makes the situation appears even more awkward for Elizabeth and Darcy. Mr. Darcy, with a commitment to their relationship, stepped up and paid Wickham to marry Lydia and save the Bennet family from any further humiliations. The relationship between Jane and Mr. Bingley also put some more restraints on Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy because Elizabeth misunderstood Mr. Darcy as attempting to ruin Jane’s happiness. And lastly, the opposition from Lady Catherine also acts as an obstacle to their union. Yet despite all these hardships, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy still admire, respect, and love one another. It takes great force and motivation to overcome all of the obstacles and their success proved their great commitment to each other as well as the commitment to change. For this reason, Austen portrayed Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy as the most ideal couple in the story.
Love, understanding, and commitment are all important virtues that an ideal marriage should possess. Jane Austen, with her writing skills, shared this belief with her audience in hope of encouraging younger couples to pursue this tradition. It was because of mindsets like hers that marriages today is no longer as heavily influenced by social status and money as they used to be back in the Regency Period.