Pride And Prejudice


Throughout Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, the conflict between reason and emotion is conveyed through the marriage of several different characters. In the marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, it is quite clear that the two have never experienced much love and is done mostly for financial benefit and out of infatuation. Similarly, the marriage between Charlotte and Mr. Collins is done out of convenience, but unlike Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, the two do not seem to mind the lack of passion in their relationship. However, the marriage of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is a perfect example of matrimony where there is a strong bond of love. The unity of Elizabeth and Mr.Darcy is Austen's ideal marriage because of their inherent passion and mutual respect for one another.
The marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet demonstrates the struggle amid reason and emotion, or lack there of. Mrs. Bennet's motivation in marrying Mr. Bennet is knowing that he will be able to provide for her with his wealth. Their marriage is extremely dull since the two cannot even communicate with each other. "Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three and twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character" (Austen 5). In fact, Mr. Bennet entertains himself with witty comments that Mrs. Bennet can never seem to comprehend. For example, when one of the Bennet's daughters, Kitty, is coughing, Mrs. Bennet foolishly scolds her and asks to "have a little compassion on my nerves" (Austen 5). Mr. Bennet humorously replies by claiming that "Kitty has no discretion in her coughs. She times them ill" (Austen 5). While, Mrs. Bennet married for money, it is evident that Mr. Bennet chose to marry purely because of Mrs. Bennet's young and beautiful appearance. A reference is made to Mrs. Bennet's past beauty when Mr. Bennet tells of how "you are as handsome as any of them, and Mr. Bingley might like you the best of the party" (Austen 4). Such a sharp-witted man would not marry such an absurd woman for any other reason than a temporary crush.
It is also quite clear that Mr. Bennet's lack of affection for his wife translates into a lack of fondness towards his daughters who closely resembles her. Throughout the novel, the business of Mrs. Bennet's life "was to get her daughters married" (Austen 5), while it seems as if Mr. Bennet is always reading in the library and may care less about his daughters who he views as "the silliest girls in the country" (Austen 20). Even Mr. Bennet acknowledges the fact that he has not paid enough attention to his daughters when his youngest, Lydia, shamefully runs away to elope. He asks Elizabeth to "let me once in my life feel how much I have been to blame" (Austen 191). This example illustrates the consequences of having a match between two people as dissimilar as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet.
Perhaps the finest example of the lack of passion in the marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet is when Elizabeth tells her father of her plans to marry Mr. Darcy, who as far Mr. Bennet knows, Elizabeth detests. Mr. Bennet begs his daughter not to marry merely for worldly considerations but to unite with someone whom she admires. "My child", he explains, "let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life" (Austen 242). In essence, Mr. Bennet pleads that his daughter not make the same mistake in life that he has made.
The marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet parallels the marriage of another couple, Charlotte and Mr. Collins. The two marriages are quite similar in that each other's spouses have almost no feelings for one another. Charlotte marries the ridiculous Mr. Collins since "it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune" (Austen 82). Her reason behind her choice for a life partner was purely based on money and had nothing to do with her feelings towards her husband. As Charlotte once said to Elizabeth, "happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance" (Austen 16). Thus, it is clear that like Mrs. Bennet, the logic behind her marriage is purely based on maintaining a high social status at almost any cost. Mr. Collins on the other hand,