The April A to Z Blogging Challenge is a month-long event where I, and more than 2000 other bloggers, will post every day of the month (except Sundays) using a different letter of the alphabet. The theme of my posts will be “What I Love About Pride and Prejudice.” Click the link above or the A to Z badge in my sidebar to visit other participants.
L is for LOVE!
“She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was a union that must have been to the advantage of both: by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved; and from his judgement, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance.” –Jane Austen Pride & Prejudice
Marriages in the 1800s were not always love matches. The idea that we have to care for our future partner is a somewhat new concept. In the Regency Period, the gentry were supposed to marry out of family duty and to maintain reputations. Affection was something that came later.
If Jane Austen agreed with these standards, she would have had Elizabeth Bennet marry Mr. Collins. Here was the perfect chance for Lizzie to keep her family home “in the family.” She couldn’t bring herself to comply. Who could blame her?
There are plenty of weddings taking place throughout the story. Charlotte Lucas marries Mr. Collins. Lydia Bennet marries (…ehmmm) Mr. Wickham. [SPOILER – HA!] At the end of the book Jane marries Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth marries Mr. Darcy.
The first two are not love matches. Charlotte, not being a romantic, weds to secure her future. Lydia and Wickham marry because he is bribed by Mr. Darcy. Jane Austen makes it clear that these marriages are not happy.
Jane and Elizabeth, though, do marry for love. Even with the rocky first steps the couples face in the beginning work out for the best. The misunderstandings between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy work to make the love that they feel for each other strong. Because they had to work for it, perhaps they have to value it more.
All of Jane Austen’s novels finish with at least one loving marriage. That is the happy ending her characters strive to achieve. She herself never married. Much has been written about her engagement to a wealthy man who was friends with her family. The reports are that it lasted one day before she called it off. There are other stories that suggest she was deeply in love with another man, but his lack of wealth and family responsibilities kept them from marrying. In Jane Austen’s time real affection wasn’t considered necessary for a successful marriage, but it’s clear from the stories she wrote that she knew that it took more than just money. Jane Austen knew that love was crucial for happiness.
Pride and Prejudice is considered one of the greatest love stories ever told. Jane Austen wrote about a girl who refused a comfortable marriage (thank goodness) because she couldn’t respect or love the man who offered. She would hold out for affection over fortune. Lucky thing is, she got both.
Could it be that our ideas today of romantic love come from Jane Austen? What do you think? I LOVE your comments and remarks!