Bingley's wealth did not hurt the relationship either. He was "a young man of large fortune" (1) with an income of four or five thousand pounds per year. His wealth made him a suitable marriage partner because he could provide financial security for Jane. One of the first comments Mrs. Bennet makes after hearing about the impending marriage is, "Why, he has four or five thousand a year, and likely more." The fact that they got along well was less important than his economic status.
The Ideal Marriage
According to Hinnant, "One of the unstated conventions of the courtship novel is that the lovers must undergo traumatic experience, a violent shift from innocence to self-knowledge before their union can be consummated (1). In the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth, Austen explores the connection between two people who originally loathe each other but grow and change throughout the novel. Unlike the other characters that tend to remain static throughout the novel, Elizabeth must undergo a mental and emotional journey before she and Darcy can achieve a successful relationship.
When Elizabeth first meets Darcy, she believes that he is the most disagreeable man that she has ever met. He is "haughty, reserved and fastidious, and his manners, though well bred, were not inviting" (11). She decides that her first impressions of Mr. Darcy were correct after spending some time with Mr. Wickham, who accused Darcy of defrauding him of his inherited property. Morgan states, "One of the most powerful facts in Pride and Prejudice is that after Elizabeth has her moment of shame and revelation at Hunsford so many of her perceptions continue to be quite wrong" (66). Morgan indicates that Elizabeth is almost always wrong about Mr. Darcy. Despite her sister Jane's reasoning, she misjudges him at every opportunity. She begins to suspect that she had judged him incorrectly after a letter in which he explained his side of the story regarding Mr. Wickham's inheritance, but does not realize just how badly she has misjudged him until she discovers that he has intervened in the affairs of her family by traveling to London to bring about the marriage of Lydia and Wickham by agreeing to pay off Wickham's gambling debts. At this point she realizes that he is a good man and that she was foolish to turn down his offer of marriage.
Darcy has a large estate. He is worth over ten thousand pounds per year. Although Elizabeth does not directly mention his wealth when she discusses her reasons for pursuing a second proposal, she reveals a good deal in her conversation with Jane on page 272. When Jane asks, "Will you tell me how long you have loved him?" Elizabeth answers by saying partly in jest, "It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley." Although Jane urges her to quit joking and to be serious, there are several quotes that indicate her feelings when she saw the estate. First, on page 177 when she first sees Pemberley she is in wonder at the size and grandeur of the estate. "At that moment she felt, that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!" On page 178 she thinks with evident regret, "And of this place…I might have been mistress!" His wealth was not what first interested her in him, but it ensured the financial security and well-being of herself and her family.
Throughout the reading, it becomes evident that the more money the man has, the more successful the marriage. Mr. Bennet and Mr. Wickham have little money to spare, and their relationships are both dismal. Charlotte married Mr. Collins for his money and considered herself exceedingly fortunate to have landed such a prize. Her marriage lacked love or passion, and yet it was more successful than that of the Bennets or Wickhams, who had less money.
The next most successful marriage was between Jane and Bingley. They had similar temperaments; more importantly, he was quite rich. Finally, the most successful marriage was made between Elizabeth and Darcy. Out of all five of the marriages, Darcy had the most money and the biggest estate. It can hardly be coincidence that their marriage was the most successful.
In summary, the emotional aspect of marriage is important in determining whether a couple will get along. However, it is second to social status and financial security. In a society where women had few options other than marriage to secure their futures, the wealth of the future husband was paramount to ensuring the success of the relationship.
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