Money and Marriage in Pride and Prejudice

2012-08-30 16:54:00 科学时代·下半月 2012年6期


[Abstract] Pride and Prejudice is a very famous novel written by Jane Austen and it is highly evaluated in British literature. That specific time decides that people at that time pay more attention to money in their marriage .In this paper we take some marriage cases of most characters in the book as typical ones to analyze how money influenced their matrimonial value orientation.

[Key word] Pride and Prejudicemoneymarriagematrimonial value orientation


English novelist Virginia Woolf ever said “among all the greatest novelist, Jane Austin was the most difficult to catch her greatness in the twinkling of an eye.” To Austens point of view, marriage was an inevitable problem . All her novels describe marriage. Pride and Prejudice was the most typical one without doubt. Pride and Prejudice, originally, drafted as “First Impression”, is Austens masterpiece. It mainly tells how the young ladies choose their husbands.

1. Background

Jane Austen was born at Stevenson, Hampshire in 1775, and the daughter of a clergyman. As a writer of the 18th century, though she lived mainly in the 19th century. She holds the ideals of the landlord class in politics, religion and moral principles. And her works show clearly her firm belief in the predominance of reason over passion, the sense of responsibility, good manners and clear-sighted judgment over the romantic tendencies of emotion and individuality. As a realistic writer, she considers it her duty to express the follies and illusions of mankind.

2. The great impact of money on marriage In Pride and Prejudice

In Pride and Prejudice, we can always see squires leisurely life with dancing parties, dropping in, drinking tea, having feast, playing cards, uncountable walking and chatting. But on the other hand, this is a world of living competition. In this society all depends on economic base.

2.1 The importance of money

We can see that this book is full of figures, different figures. Mr.Bennet owns an estate that can bring in two thousand pounds every year. Mrs.Bennet has four thousand pounds dowry. Each of their five daughters can get one thousand pounds after their mother dies. Mr.Bingley inherits property to the amount of nearly an hundred thousands pounds from his father and he has four or five thousand pounds a year. Miss.Bingley has a twenty thousand pounds dowry. Mr.Darcy has ten thousand pounds. After Wickham and Lydia eloping, he might not marry her unless he could blackmail at least one thousand pounds from Darcy. Colonel Fitzwilliam, Darcys cousin, would like to marry a woman who should have a property of at least fifty thousand pounds. Since he has no inheritance as a younger son of an earl. Mr. Collins frankly said he “must make such an agreement for tithes as may be beneficial to himself and not offensive to his patron.” In a word, you cannot do without money in marriage.

2.1.1 Money is a symbol ofidentity and status

Certainly, except the detailed figures of money, there is another factor, which has a great influence on marriage. That is social status determined by economic base .For instance, in the story, the Benets have some disgraceful relatives, Mrs. Benet s brother-in-law, Mr. Phillips, being an attorney in Meryton, and another one, Mrs. Benners brother, Mr. Gardiner, settling in London in a respectable line of trade. As for this Miss Bingley always laughs at them for these relatives. Mr. Darcy once said frankly that“it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world.” (132)

2.1.2 Money is very important in the marriage convention of society

Mr. Collins words after Elizabeth refusing his proposal can be taken as proof“…It dose not appear to me that my hand is unworthy your acceptance, or that establishment I can offer would be any other then highly desirable, My situation in life, my connections with the family of de bourgh, and my relationship to your own, are circumstances highly in my favor; And you should take it into further consideration, that in spite of your manifold attractions, it is by no means certain that another offer to marriage my ever be made you, your portion is unhappily so small, that it will in all likely hood undo the effects of your loveliness and amiable qualifications.”(87)

2.2 moneys powerful magic in marriage

In a word, it is money that decides peoples life, fate and their marriage. With sharp eyes, Jane Austen told people that the nature of capitalistic marriage was the combination of exchange of money and benefits.

2.2.1 Young ladies marry men for money

Mr. Collins is not an intelligent man. The subjection in which his father brought him up has given him originally great humidity of manner; but it is a great deal counteracted by the self –conceit of a weak hardwiring in retirement, and unexpected prosperity, he respect which he fells for lady Catherines high rank, and his veneration for her as his patroness, mingling with a very good opinion of himself, of his authority as a clergyman, and his right as a rector, makes him altogether a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility. His intention of choosing Elizabeth as his wife is his plan of amends-of atonement-for inheriting their fathers estate; and he thinks it is an excellent one, full if eligibility and suitableness, and excessively generous and disinterested on his own part. So he takes it for granted that Elizabeth will accept his proposal cheerfully and readily.

2.2.2 People without fortune cant choose marriage freely

In marriage, money is considered as the factor of extreme importance, not only to daughters, but also to younger sons. Colonel Fitzwilliam, Darcys cousin, was the youngest son of a count and could not inherit his familys fortune and the title of nobility. He frankly told Elizabeth that he spent money without restraint and could not disregard money in his marriage. He said that in terms of marriage, only Darcy could choose freely and not be restrained by money. Lets have a close look at the conversation between the respectable Colonel Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth:

“Unless where they like women of fortune, which I think they very of ten do.”(143)

“Our habits too expense make us too dependent, and there are not many in my rank to life who can afford to merry without some attention to money.”(248)

3. Peoples different pursuits and ideas about money and marriage

Lady Catherine whole-heartedly wanted her daughter, Miss Anna, to marry her nephew, Darcy so that they could unite two families property. And she thought Darcy was responsible and dutiful to do so. Miss Bingley tried her best to prevent the love between her brother and Jane and wished her brother to marry Darcys sister, Miss Georgiana. On one hand, it could increase fortune and improve her social status; On the other hand, the nearer connection could bring about the marriage between herself and Darcy. From the pant of Mr. Darcy, though he need not marry a lady with property since he is in great wealth, he does experience tong-time and fierce struggle in the process of acceptance of Elizabeth for her social position and low connections.

3.1 The social class also is considered in the marriage.

The rank is divided on the bases of fortune if someone owns a plenty of money, he will be respected and win a higher social stratum.

Mr.Darcy growings up in a strong awareness of rank and power from his very Childhood, which makes him pride and conceited. When he comes to Longbourn, the persons there and the manners they take care far different from what he is familiar with. Though there are so many pleasant girls ,“there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with .”(27)

3.2 Marriage was the balance of all kinds of interests basing on the money.

Darcy proudly refused to invite Elizabeth to dance and Elizabeth had prejudice against him. Darcy thought that they had those disgraceful relatives, and “it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world”. (56) He even couldnt imagine himself would propose marriage to her. In that case, how could they unite together in the end? They occasionally met at Pemkerley, Darcy found that Elizabeths uncle, a businessman in London, Mr. Gardiner and his wife were educated and graceful people. Though Mrs.Bennet lacked education, his own aunt, Lady Catherine, wasnt well behaved. And the scandal of Lydias elopement was as disgraceful as Darcys sister Georginanas attempted elopement. In the aspect of education of their relatives, their problems counteract with each other.

In pride and Prejudice, Austen put marriage into all kinds of social and economic relationship from beginning to end, which exposes a serious truth of society and economy around the capitalistic marriage.


There are many novels describing marriage in the history of Britain, they hardly can seize the nature of capitalist marriage system completely, the relations of economy like Austen in Pride and Prejudice. In brief, it is money that determines everybodys life and fate, especially marriage. As for its pragmatic meaning, it could be forceful and penetrating .No wonder that David Dax, a western Marxism critic said,“in the aspect of exposing the economics of human beings behavior, Jane Austen, to some extent, had been a Marxist before Marxs being born.” (15)


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[2] Tanner Tony, Jane Austen[J]. Harvard University Press. 1988.

[3] Thornley G.C. and Roberts Gwyneth, An Outline of English Literature[M]. Longman World Pulishing Corporation. 1984.

[4] Sanpson George, The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature [M]. Cambridge University Press. 1963.