Analyzing the Meaning of Being Happy: "Pride and Prejudice" Essay

Submitted By Ashley-Ailstock
Words: 1151
Pages: 5

Pride and Prejudice The significance of the first sentence, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Is the idea that a man needs a wife sometime in his lifetime to live a good one. I believe that this quote means that even though men are seen as independent, masculine, can do everything themselves, and superior, they eventually need a wife to be happy with the life he has led, and to have a life that is considered as successful. When I read this quote I also think that men are expected by society to marry a woman and have a family. The pressures that society puts on people takes away the meaning of being happy.
This first quote also sets the tone for the rest of the novel by showing that throughout the whole book the Bennet family and other families as well are mainly focused on marrying their children off to a wealthy man or family. For example, when Mr. Bingley moves to Netherfield Park he attends parties and throws his own in order to find a woman suitable for marriage, and not for happiness but because that is what is expected from the society they live in.
Marriage in the 1800’s was very different from what we see today, it was not a state to be entered into lightly. Marriage was almost always for life English divorce law during the pre-1857 period almost the only grounds for divorce was the sexual infidelity of the wife; a husband who wished to divorce his wife for this reason had to get the permission of Parliament to sue for divorce; and the divorce trial was between the husband and the wife's alleged lover, with the wife herself more or less a bystander, she had no say in the matter. Divorce cost quite a bit of money, so that only the rich could afford divorces. There was also the possibility of legal separations on grounds of cruelty where neither spouse had the right to remarry but the husband generally had absolute custody rights over any children, and could prevent the wife from seeing them at his whim. Any property that a woman possessed before her marriage automatically becomes her husband's, unless it is settled on the "fortune-hunter" phenomenon which is men who marry a woman only for the sake of the woman's fortune after the marriage, the woman and her money are legally in the husband's power without any of the limitations of pre-nuptial legal "settlements", which the wife's family might have insisted upon if she had married with their approval This is the reason why Wickham tries to elope with Georgina Darcy, who has £30,000. The other side of was the forced marriage to ensure that her money passes into family-approved hands; this appears in Colonel Brandon's story in Sense and Sensibility.
In families who weren’t wealthy it was a priority to marry your children off to a family or man who was wealthy or owned land. In the 1800’s and even earlier than that, women could not work for their own money they relied on men such as their fathers or their husbands to support them. "If you go on refusing every offer of marriage, you will never get a husband and I am sure I do not know who is to maintain you when your father is dead." Mrs. Bennet said to Elizabeth. This quote shows that since Elizabeth refuses to get married if anything were to happen to her father she would have no one to support her or no way for her to earn her own living so she needs a man to survive. I find it very interesting that women need to marry to make a living and survive while men marry to have a family and be apart of societal norms.
Society has a big impact on the decision to get married, which makes men change their mind about marriage and creates pressure to marry and start a family. The idea that marriage should be based on love, and the free choice of partners, was gathering support throughout the eighteenth century, but it was still felt that children who were old enough to marry didn’t always understand their own best interests such as,