Pride future and have an established estate.
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen has been said to be a clear example of how woman of the early 19th century were not equal socially and economically. Marriage of this era was more than for love, it was also for financial security.
Women often had no choice but to marry because there was no other way an income could be received. The novel could be read as a narrative account of marriage in this era where marriage was a market and young women are the merchandise. Marrying undesirably was not uncommon and this has been seen as being another form of prostitution. Prostitution can mean many things, in this case, it addresses the situation of women having no attraction or feelings for a man and selling themselves in marriage. They would do this to ensure they would be financially stable for the future and have an established estate. Charlotte’s marriage to Mr. Collins is an example of this type of marriage in Pride and Prejudice.
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This accusation is true to some extent, however not all marriages were as undesirable as this. Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage was not based on money, as they both loved each other, his wealth was just a bonus in this case as did Jane and Mr. Bingley. Mr. Collins’s character dealt with marriage as though it was a business transaction. When proposing to Elizabeth he listed all of the social and economic values he thought no one would ever discard.
When he is rejected, Charlotte sees it as an opportunity to finally get a husband. Although she is intelligent, Charlotte thinks this was the only option for her as she was getting older and more unattractive each day. She had no interest in Mr. Collins but “accepted him solely from the pure and disinterested desire of an establishment”(ch 22) The fact that she directed her efforts to getting Mr.
Collins to propose, having no interest in him at all could be seen as prostitution. “it’s (Charlotte’s kindness) object was nothing less, than to secure her from any return of Mr. Collin’s addresses, by engaging them toward herself.”(ch 22). This suggests that it is fair to say that what Charlotte did to gain Collin’s attention was a form of prostitution as she gave him a wife in order for financial security. On the other hand, with the pressures of society on young women at this time, most women had no choice but to marry without interest.
“Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honorable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.”(ch 22) They had no option of making a living for themselves and unlike Elizabeth and Jane, Charlotte’s time for finding a decent husband was running out. It would then be unfair to class this as prostitution because she didn’t do it out of will but because there was no other way out.Elizabeth, although she marries a wealthy man, would not be seen as a prostitute. At the beginning of the novel when Darcy is rude, she doesn’t put on an act of politeness for him to get on his good side. She disregards him, showing that she was looking for more in a relationship. “I believe Ma’am, I may safely promise you never to dance with himI could have easily forgave his pride if he had not mortified mine.
“(ch 5) It was only after he proposes that she realizes the mutual love they had for each other. “She grew absolutely ashamed of herself…How despicably have I acted! She cried. ..
.How humiliating is this discovery -Yet, how just a humiliation! Till this moment I never knew myself.”(ch 36) Elizabeth’s response shows that she did have feelings for him, which meant that she wasn’t marrying him undesirably. She does say she is delighted that she will be “mistress of Pemberley” so money maters, but other factors like love and understanding matter to her too.This is similar to that of Jane, who also would not be seen as a prostitute. When she had not heard from Bingley, she was genuinely sad, showing her love for him.
She also however didn’t go after him believing that if he didn’t love her she wanted nothing to do with him. After finding out the truth, it was known by the reader that they were meant to be together. “He has made me so happy,’ said she, one evening, by telling me that he was totally ignorant of my being in town last spring! I had not believed it possible Would you believe it, Lizzy, that when he went to town last November, he really loved me, and nothing but a persuasion of my being indifferent would have prevented his coming down again!”(ch 55).
Elizabeth and Jane acted in the opposite manner than Charlotte did where they waited for love while Charlotte sought after marriage and wealth. Other marriages in the novel were not as fortunate as those of Jane and Elizabeth, however the women would not be classed under prostitution either. Mrs. Bennet however does believe that “marriage means security and independence, irrespective of love”(Worksheet 4) which seems to relate to the prostitution thesis to some extent. Her marriage was based on looks, which didn’t last, so they no longer enjoy each other’s company.
In conclusion it is only fair to say that Charlotte was the only one to marry for money which could be seen as prostitution to some extent however under the circumstances there was not much more she could have done. Jane and Elizabeth were lucky in the sense that they were in love and had wealthy husbands. They had the ideal marriage, which unfortunately many women in this era didn’t have. Jane Austen uses Pride and Prejudice to show that the only marriages which end in happiness is those which begin in love and trust not money, lust or appearance. Overall it is reasonable only to judge a women in being a prostitute if their intention was only for an establishment and if they had other choices but still decided to continue in that manner.
There fore, Charlotte would only come under prostitution to the extent of marrying for money not doing it out of choice. Pride and Prejudice could be read as a clear representation of gender roles, marriage and society in the early 19th century through the eyes of Jane Austen.