Pride and Prejudice: Mr Collins proposes
Mr Collins proposes to both Elizabeth and Charlotte but their reactions are very different. What does the behaviour of all three characters during chapters 19, 20 & 22 tell us about the different attitudes to marriage in the early nineteenth century?
Throughout the book Pride & Prejudice, there are many different views towards marriage expressed. For example, Elizabeth Bennet wishes to marry for love whereas Charlotte Lucas doesn’t mind marrying someone she doesn’t love just for the security of marriage. Mr Collins, on the other hand, wants to marry to set a good example as the vicar, and on the advice from Lady Catherine de Bough.
These attitudes are different from ours today in that women today don’t need the security of marriage and rarely marry without even liking their prospective partner.
In chapter six, Elizabeth shows that she only wishes to marry for love and not for money or security. When Charlotte tells Lizzie her advice, that you should know as little as possible about your partner before you marry them, Lizzie says “You make me laugh Charlotte…you would never act this way yourself!” This shows that Lizzie does not agree with this view of marriage and finds it slightly ridiculous.
This is similar to our attitude to marriage today in that, like women today, Lizzie wants to know her partner properly, unlike Charlotte, and love them before she marries them.
Mr Collins proposes to Lizzie in chapter 19, but Lizzie declines because she does not love or even like him. This is very admirable of her as many women in her situation would have accepted purely for the security of being able to stay in her family home. However Mr Collins perseveres in his proposal, convinced she is only joking when she refuses him, and she becomes more adamant, saying “I am perfectly serious in my refusal – you could not make me happy, and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world who could make you so.” This shows she is headstrong and will only ever marry for love.
Her mother Mrs Bennet wants Lizzie to marry Mr Collins so that Lizzie will be in financial security and be able to stay at Longbourn. However Mr Bennet doesn’t want her to marry Mr Collins because he knows she doesn’t like him and wants her to be happy, also he doesn’t want her to have a marriage like his and Mrs Bennet’s because they didn’t marry for love.
When Charlotte tells Lizzie she has accepted Mr Collins’ proposal, Lizzie is very surprised. She says “Engaged to Mr Collins! My dear Charlotte – impossible!” which shows that she cannot believe her friend would get engaged to him so soon after she herself refused him. This tells us that her attitude to marriage is very different from her friend’s and that she can’t contemplate Charlotte marrying Mr Collins even though she does not like him
In chapter 15, Mr Collins’ attitude to marriage is described. He has decided to marry now because he has a good house and a very sufficient income, therefore he has a better chance of getting a wife as he can offer financial security. He chooses one of the Bennet girls to make amends with the family as he is to inherit Longbourn. This is not a good reason for marrying. He originally wanted to propose to Jane, however Mrs Bennet informs Mr Collins that Jane is ‘soon to be engaged’, so he changes his mind to Lizzie instead. This shows that his ‘love’ for Lizzie cannot be true because she is his ‘second choice’. Also it tell us that he is desperate to get married so won’t give up that easily.
When he proposes to Lizzie he states his reasons for marrying all in the wrong order. He mentions that “I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony in his parish” and “I am convinced it will add greatly to my happiness” all before he mentions any love for Lizzie. When Lizzie turns him down he cannot understand why and thinks she is joking. He says “…it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man who they secretly mean to accept…I am therefore by no means discouraged.” This shows he is very arrogant and thinks very highly of himself. Also, the fact that he would be prepared to marry a woman who does not even like him tells us that he is desperate to get a wise and that he doesn’t want to displease Lady Catherine de Bough and has advised him to marry.
He proposes to Charlotte just three days after Lizzie refuses him. This tells us that his ‘love’ for Lizzie was false as he moved on so fast. Also, if he had loved Lizzie his love for Charlotte could not have been true as he would not have gotten over Lizzie.
In chapter 6 Charlotte talks to Lizzie about her views on marriage. She says to Lizzie “Happiness in marriage is entirely and matter of chance.” This tells us that she doesn’t mind if she marries someone she doesn’t love, because it is a matter of chance if she is happy or not. This is very different to our attitude to marriage today as people today marry for love and don’t share Charlotte’s views that happiness is a matter of chance.
She accepts Mr Collins’ proposal because he has a good house and income and can offer her financial security. It is not surprising that she accepts because she is close to becoming an old maid and her views of marriage show that she does not want to marry for love but for security. This changes my opinion of her in that she is not as headstrong as Lizzie because she is so desperate for the security of marriage that she is happy to marry Mr Collins, whom she does not love. However, she followed her own advice from previous chapters and sticks to her views, which is admirable.
Elizabeth’s attitude to marriage is closest to our views today; she believes in marrying for love and not for security like her good friend Charlotte. Charlotte’s views reflect early nineteenth century attitudes to marriage. She believes in marrying purely for the security of marriage, and money. She accepts Mr Collins’ proposal because he can offer her financial security and a good home, and this supports the views she expressed in earlier chapters.
Mr Collins come to Longbourn to find a wife on the advice of Lady Catherine de Bough, whom he idolizes, and because he thinks it will set a good example in his parish. His attitude is quite different from today, as people today make their own choices about marriage and do not need to set a good example in their life and job by being married.
I agree most with Lizzie’s views on marriage because I think to be happy in marriage you should marry for love and not money or security. I do not agree with the early nineteenth century views on marriage because nowadays we do not need to marry for money or for a good home.
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