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Pride and Prejudice Marriage Quotes

Instructor: Kristin Huston

Kristin has taught college English and composition and has a Ph.D. in Literature and History.

In this lesson, we will take a look at several quotes from 'Pride and Prejudice' about marriage and see what they reveal about character and plot in the novel.

It Is a Quote Universally Acknowledged...

Pride and Prejudice is a novel full of quotable phrases. None, perhaps, are more famous than the opening line of the book: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. - Chapter 1

There's no false advertising here. When you're browsing a bookstore, grab Pride and Prejudice off the shelves, read the first line, and you'll know exactly what Austen has in store for the reader. Nearly all of the action that follows this line involves single men of fortune and their courtship of the female characters in the novel.

Austen is also being clever here, implying that men are the ones in need of a wife, not women in need of a husband. Of course, both are actually true. In the Regency period, there was a tolerance for wealthy bachelors, but men were still expected to settle down at some point, find themselves a wife, and have children to carry on the family legacy. In addition, women were not allowed to inherit their fathers' estates, so they needed an advantageous marriage in order to secure their future.

This lesson looks at several of the couples in Pride and Prejudice and how differently these characters view marriage.

He Would be Her Husband Whether She Liked Him or Not

Let's look first at the pragmatic approach to marriage taken by Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas. Mr. Collins is looking to satisfy the wishes of his patroness by finding a wife and Charlotte recognizes that accepting his proposal is a sensible choice for her.

Mr. Collins, to be sure, was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment to her must be imaginary. But still he would be her husband. Without thinking highly either of men or matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want. This preservative she had now obtained; and at the age of twenty-seven, without having ever been handsome, she felt all the good luck of it. - Chapter 22

At this point in the novel, Charlotte Lucas, a close friend of Elizabeth Bennet, becomes engaged to Mr. Collins, the heir to the Bennet estate, soon after Elizabeth has rejected him (a soap opera-worthy plot twist if ever there was one). While Elizabeth's mother expected her to accept Mr. Collins's proposal, thereby ensuring that the family estate would stay in the immediate family, Elizabeth refuses him, and he almost immediately proposes to her friend, Charlotte. While today we might see this as Charlotte putting a man-one she clearly doesn't even like that much-above friendship, neither Charlotte nor Elizabeth see it this way. As the quote demonstrates, Charlotte is happy with this match. While Mr. Collins is annoying, she is practical in her approach and knows that the marriage is a lucky one for her. In fact, later in the chapter when Elizabeth questions Charlotte accepting Mr. Collins' proposal, Charlotte basically says, 'I'm no romantic; I just want to be comfortable,' and comfort is something she feels certain Mr. Collins can provide.

What's in a Marriage?

Next, let's look at how Mr. Bennet's attitude toward Mrs. Bennet and how it may have affected Elizabeth's expectations of marriage.

Had Elizabeth's opinion been all drawn from her own family, she could not have formed a very pleasing picture of conjugal felicity or domestic comfort. Her father, captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humor which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and confidence had vanished for ever; and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown. - Chapter 42

A portrait of the Bennet family for the 1894 edition, by Hugh Thomson
The Bennet Family dawn by Hugh Thomson

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