The Dual Role of Marriage in the Society of Pride and Prejudice

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The Dual Role of Marriage in the Society of Pride and Prejudice In the time period that Pride and Prejudice takes place, social status and wealth were the most important aspects of one’s identity in society, entirely determining one’s reputation, and how one was treated. Because the marriage of a woman could result in the gain of money and land, it was key to either maintaining a good social image, or achieving a more advantageous one. The class system at the time was designed in such a way as to keep the classes separated--one did not often find them mixing together. Marriage was one very powerful way of preserving that separation, but it also provided one of the few opportunities a person might have to change from one social class to another. We see examples of both these roles of marriage through various characters within Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen uses the characters in Pride and Prejudice to emphasize the theme of the importance of marriage, and its dual abillity to both preserve the established social structure and act as a bridge between the ranks of society. Marriage in the upper class was primarily for maintaining and increasing wealth, and preserving the status-quo of a wealthy, high class family. Those in the higher class were excessively prideful - or as Mary would put, vain--towards their position in society, and did not appreciate the ease with which one of lower status could come to be wealthy through marriage. The prestigious members of the upper class generally had little respect towards the lower class with less money, and didn’t wish for them to damage, or even contaminate a family’s reputation through marriage to a person of status high above their own. Examples of this can be seen in the characters of Caroline Bingley and Mr. Darcy’s opposition to the marriage of Jane and Mr. Bingley. In a discreetly snobbish letter, Caroline
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