Short on time?

Get essay writing help

Pride And Prejudice By Jane Austen: Marriage Expectations In The Nineteenth Century

Words: 1292
Pages: 3
This essay sample was donated by a student to help the academic community. Papers provided by EduBirdie writers usually outdo students' samples.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a perfect representation of marriage conventions in the nineteenth century. A women’s main purpose was to get married rather than to work; therefore they spent most of their lives preparing for marriage. They did not have many opportunities for a job, and sexism greatly impacted this. Women did not marry for love but instead for money and stability. There are several expectations of marriage for women during the nineteenth century in England and these are portrayed in the novel Pride and Prejudice. Women spent their days preparing for marriage and managing the household while men went to work because they were seen as weaker than men. Girls were educated on topics known as accomplishments (Hughes). Accomplishments were important because “‘a woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the world’” (Austen 39). After being educated, girls started searching for a husband at the age of seventeen. They did not know how to go about talking to men because they were prohibited to flirt or see any men during their childhood (Nelson). There were not many opportunities to meet men so they prepared in advance to impress them at events.

Many women would attend balls or casual dances to search for a husband. The men would ask the women to dance if they were interested in them. Normally, it was not appropriate to dance with the same person more than twice. If the man asked again, everyone at the ball thought they were engaged (Hatch). In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bingley asks Jane Bennet to dance and “‘she was the only creature in the room that he asked a second time”’ (Austen 14).

Later in the novel, it is clear that Mr. Bingley did have an interest in Jane. Jane likes Mr. Bingley because she has true feelings for him. She does not like him because of his social status and why women would normally be interested in a man like Bingley. Women typically got married in their twenties but the men were normally several years older (Hughes). Women tended to look for older men because their main concern was financial and social status. The man would need to be older in order to be wealthy because they had to work to earn money (Hall). The wealth of the man was more important “since we see every day that where there is affection, young people are seldom withheld by immediate want of fortune, from entering into engagements with each other” (Austen 143). Women had a hard time finding a husband because of sexism and all of the rules that went along with marriage.

It was not acceptable for a women to propose to a man. They had to wait for a man to propose to them and sometimes this opportunity never came. They also could not express their feelings of love towards a man until they were proposed to. An engagement lasted around six months to two years and if women were unsure of the man they were going to marry, they were supposed to forget about those feelings. Once women were married, they had no freedom and were controlled by their husbands. Women sacrificed their life to provide for their husbands and family (Nelson). Although women looked for a man that was wealthy and was in a higher social class, men looked for certain qualities in a woman.

Save your time!
We can take care of your essay
  • Proper editing and formatting
  • Free revision, title page, and bibliography
  • Flexible prices and money-back guarantee
Place Order

There was an ideal woman that men looked for and this included being modest, unintellectual, and unambitious (Nelson). It was also important for a man to marry a woman within the same social class as him. If the woman was below that social class, there was a possibility of the man ruining their family’s reputation. This is prevalent when Mr. Darcy becomes involved with Elizabeth Bennet. Darcy could ruin his reputation because he would not be able to advance financially with Elizabeth (Hall). After getting married, women had even more restrictions in their lives.

Women could not buy or sell property without their finances or husband’s permission (Nelson). When it came to inheriting property, the property always went to the oldest son if the owner passed away. If the owner did not have any children that were male, the oldest male relative would inherit the property. The property went to the oldest son or male relative to keep the estate running smoothly (Bailey). Widows had a hard time owning property as well. Anything they purchased while they were married had to go to whoever was supposed to inherit the husband’s estate (Nelson).

Because the Bennet’s did not have any sons, the estate was going to be inherited by Mr. Collins. To still have access to the estate after Mr. Bennet dies, Mrs. Bennet wants one of her daughters to get married to Mr. Collins (Bailey). Mr. Collins decides he wants to marry Elizabeth and expects her to agree because it was expected of a woman to say yes in this era. Elizabeth remains silent during the proposal and Mr. Collins believes this is Elizabeth’s way of saying yes (Nelson). Elizabeth declines the proposal by saying “‘you could not make me happy, and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world who would make you so”’ (Austen 105). Because Mr. and Mrs. Bennet gives Mr. Collins permission to marry their daughter, Collins does not think it is acceptable for Elizabeth to turn down his offer. Elizabeth is offended by Collins’s assumptions and both of them leave the conversation angry with one another (Nelson). This is one of many marriages in the novel that caused problems within the family.

Men would often seduce young women without the intention of marrying them. This is shown when Wickham and Lydia run off to get married in Scotland. Wickham was not going to marry Lydia unless he was paid. Mr. Darcy makes sure that Lydia and Wickham get married by paying off Wickham so that the family’s reputation stays intact. Marriages that involved minors were legal because the age of consent was fourteen for boys and twelve for girls. Although this was permitted, many family members did not approve of these relationships. Lydia was much younger than Wickham but the Bennet’s believed they were going to get married for financial reasons (Bailey).

The novel, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, displays many of the marriage expectations and discrimination against women in England during the nineteenth century. The novel shows the reader how marriage affected men and women during this era. Women spent their entire lives preparing for marriage through education and attending events to search for a husband. Once women got married, they had no freedom and were the property of their husbands. It is important to be educated on the sexism women endured in the past to prevent this from happening in today’s world. Pride and Prejudice is an example of how marriage should not be and women now have the freedom to resist this discrimination.

Works Cited

  1. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice 1813. Penguin Books, 2014.
  2. Bailey, Martha. “The Marriage Law of Jane Austen’s World ‘ #1.” Jane Austen Society of North America, 7 Nov. 2019.
  3. Hall, Rebekah. “Pride & Prejudice and the Purpose of Marriage.” Pride & Prejudice and the Purpose of Marriage | Forbes and Fifth | University of Pittsburgh, https:// Accessed 7 Nov. 2019.
  4. Hatch, Cosette. “The Structure and Social Function of Assemblies, Balls, Parties, and Dances.” BYU Presents PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, 31 Jan. 2014, Accessed 8 Nov. 2019.
  5. Hughes, Kathryn. “Gender Roles in the 19th Century.” The British Library, The British Library, 13 Feb. 2014, Accessed 7 Nov. 2019.
  6. Nelson, Heather Lea, “The Law and The Lady: Consent and Marriage in Nineteenth-Century British Literature” (2015). Open Access Dissertations. 525. Accessed 6 Nov. 2019.

Make sure you submit a unique essay

Our writers will provide you with an essay sample written from scratch: any topic, any deadline, any instructions.

Cite this Page

Pride And Prejudice By Jane Austen: Marriage Expectations In The Nineteenth Century. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 29, 2023, from
“Pride And Prejudice By Jane Austen: Marriage Expectations In The Nineteenth Century.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022,
Pride And Prejudice By Jane Austen: Marriage Expectations In The Nineteenth Century. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Sept. 2023].
Pride And Prejudice By Jane Austen: Marriage Expectations In The Nineteenth Century [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 16 [cited 2023 Sept 29]. Available from:
Join 100k satisfied students
  • Get original paper written according to your instructions
  • Save time for what matters most
hire writer

Fair Use Policy

EduBirdie considers academic integrity to be the essential part of the learning process and does not support any violation of the academic standards. Should you have any questions regarding our Fair Use Policy or become aware of any violations, please do not hesitate to contact us via

Check it out!
search Stuck on your essay?

We are here 24/7 to write your paper in as fast as 3 hours.