Pride and Prejudice Essay

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Pride & Prejudice


The institution of marriage is one of the primary themes of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice. The emphasis placed upon marriage by the vast majority of the characters in the novel, however, is largely due to the fact that most of them see a successful marriage as a principle means of achieving happiness. However, the specific conditions of an individual marriage account for the degree of happiness its participants will be afforded, and Austen spends a good deal of the novel illustrating the fact that virtue is an integral component of a happy marriage. She presents this idea to the reader by showing acts of commission of virtuous qualities and acts of omission of virtuous qualities, and indicating their effects on a marriage largely through the perceptions of Elizabeth Bennett.

The marriage of Elizabeth's best friend, Charlotte Lucas, with Mr. Collins is one which largely omits virtuous intentions and behavior.
Consequently, Elizabeth criticizes the projected effect such a marriage will have upon the couple, as indicated by her comments to Jane in the following quotation. "You shall not…change the meaning of principle and integrity, nor…persuade yourself or me that selfishness is prudence, and insensibility of danger, security for happiness (p. 159)." The selfishness Elizabeth refers to is the decidedly non-virtuous reason for Charlotte's agreement to marry Collins -- which is for money. This quotation shows that Elizabeth believes virtues such as principle, integrity and prudence are valid qualities that will lead to a happy marriage, which the aforementioned marriage does not have.

In contrast to this example is the committing of virtuous action by Fitzwilliam Darcy, which precedes Elizabeth's acceptance of his marriage proposal. Elizabeth had initially rejected Darcy, but later consented to him after his selfish, overbearing manners had largely been reformed by her rejection, which the following quote from Darcy….....

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