Pride and Prejudice Quotes About Money

Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

In this lesson we will analyze several quotes about money in Jane Austen's ''Pride and Prejudice''. We will focus on money's role in the characters' views of marriage and social class in England during Regency period of the early 1800s.

Money in Pride and Prejudice

Great obstacles are essential to great love stories. Would we remember Romeo and Juliet if their families had been friendly? Or Lancelot and Guinevere if she hadn't been King Arthur's wife? Or Elizabeth and Darcy if they had been of equal wealth and social status?

As we see in Pride and Prejudice, during the Regency period in England wealth and status defined relationships. It was rare, even unseemly, for a rich, upper class gentleman to marry a middle class woman. Although Lady Catherine is more interested in arranging her own daughter's marriage to Darcy, her objection to a marriage between Darcy and Elizabeth is consistent with social norms of the period. She makes her case clear when she says, referring to her daughter and Mr. Darcy:

They are descended, on the maternal side, from the same noble line; and, on the father's, from respectable, honorable, and ancient -- though untitled -- families. Their fortune on both sides is splendid.

Let's take a closer look at other quotes about money in Pride and Prejudice as it relates to marriage and social class.

Money and Marriage

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

This famous first line of Pride and Prejudice sets up the story's themes of money and marriage that drive much of the plot. In this period, money played a particularly important role for women because they could not by law inherit money. Therefore, Mr. Bennet's entire estate would go to his male cousin Mr. Collins with nothing to go to Mrs. Bennet or the five Bennet daughters. With limited career options, women had to look to marriage for financial security.

So, when the Bingleys first move to Netherfield Park, Mrs. Bennet wastes no time in trying to convince her husband that Mr. Bingley would be a perfect match for one of their daughters. Declaring to her husband that Mr. Bingley is indeed:

…single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!

After Jane Bennet charms Mr. Bingley, Mrs. Bennet tries to steer Mr. Collins toward Elizabeth, when he seeks a wife among the Bennet daughters. Much to her mother's dismay, Elizabeth declines Mr. Collins' proposal because she intends to hold out for love.

When Mr. Collins turns to her friend Charlotte, who accepts his proposal, Elizabeth is shocked. Charlotte explains her pragmatic view:

I am not romantic, you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home.

Meanwhile, Mr. Darcy is falling for Elizabeth but his problem is quite different, as he knows he is expected to marry a woman in his own class. He begins his first proposal to Elizabeth by saying:

In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed.

He then goes on to explain why her family relations have made it so difficult to accept his feelings for her. In the end, his proposal offends her and she rejects it feeling only:

…his sense of her inferiority -- of its being a degradation -- of the family obstacles which judgment had always opposed to inclination.

Later, Mr. Bennet is surprised by the news that Mr. Wickham will marry Lydia Bennet. Mr. Bennet tells Elizabeth:

…no man in his senses would marry Lydia on so slight a temptation as one hundred a year during my life, and fifty after I am gone… Wickham's a fool, if he takes her with a farthing less than ten thousand pounds. I should be sorry to think so ill of him in the very beginning of our relationship.

Money and Social Class

Money is associated with social status, which clearly affects people's attitudes during the novel. When we first meet Mr. Darcy we quickly learn that he is very wealthy, more so even than Mr. Bingley. That quite probably influenced the popular first impression that Darcy is:

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