Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen are two novels that show the different class structures and ranks of society during the 19th century. Throughout the novels the theme of marriage is portrayed because it often determines a women’s success. Jane Austen’s novels took place in a time when women relied on men to provide for them, and getting married was a way to guarantee a successful life. The characters in her novels desired to be wed into a wealthy family so they could achieve the favorable outcome of being successful and well respected. The only other way for women to achieve success in this time period is if they inherited a large sum of money, which neither Marrianne from Sense and Sensibility or Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice possessed. The importance of marriage in Jane Austen’s novels is shown through the behavior of her characters along with the correlation of money and love as it relates to marriage.

Marriage very clearly shows the contrasting lifestyles of various social groups. In Pride and Prejudice Darcy is a rich gentleman wanting to marry Elizabeth. During this time land ownership was an important basis that determined the social status of an individual (“How is the Theme of Marriage Presented in Pride and Prejudice”). Elizabeth possessed less land and money then Darcy, so Lady Catherine attempted to advise Elizabeth against marrying Darcy, all because of their different social class, and the negative impact on Darcy’s reputation if she married him. Elizabeth refused to listen and was unimpressed, as Lady Catherine continued to list off reasons as to why they should not be married:

Because honour, decorum, prudence, nay, interest, forbid it. Yes, Miss Bennet, interest; for do not expect to be noticed by his family and friends if you willfully act against the inclinations of all. You will be censured, slighted, and despised, by everyone connected with him. Your alliance will be a disgrace; your name will never even be mentioned by any of us. (296)

Lady Catherine’s choice of words against Elizabeth showed that just because of Elizabeth and Darcy’s class differences she felt that it would be a disgrace if they were to marry. Elizabeth and Darcy belonged to different social groups, and because of this it affected the success of their marriage, as many people did not agree with a gentleman like Darcy marrying a lower-class woman. The contrasting lifestyles of different social groups is very prominent in Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship.

Jane Austen made references as to how money can determine how happy and successful a marriage will be. During this time period an individual’s financial wealth was a large part of what dictated your success as a woman. Marriage was the only option for respectable women during this time, and in marrying a wealthy man it would have been considered the key to success. In her novel Pride and Prejudice, as Elizabeth was conversing with Colonel Fitzwilliam, he described to her that people of the upper class do not decide who they marry without paying some “attention to money” (156). This discussion shows how important money was at the time, and that without it you had an unlikely chance of being successful, especially as a woman. Within Austen’s novels she talks about whether happiness comes with marriage. In the novel, Charlotte is discussing Jane’s possible marriage and states that to be happy in a marriage is completely a “matter of chance” (21). This shows that happiness in marriage is associated with how much money can be found within the couple. Using this logic, it can be determined that if you have a lesser amount of money you will be unhappy in marriage, versus possessing a large sum of money.

In her novel Sense and Sensibility, Elinor and Marrianne face the same financial issues that Elizabeth faced. When their father passed away, certain laws surrounding inheritance prevented them from inheriting a large sum of money, and instead they were left with barely enough to get by (“Sense and Sensibility Themes”). During this period of time, it was not customary for women to work, so the sisters were left with no job, meaning that the only way to better their situation was to marry a wealthy man. Money also controlled the chances of Elinor and Marrianne finding a husband, as women who possess larger dowries are more likely to be the better option for marriage (“Sense and Sensibility Themes”). Within the two novels it is clear to see that money has a large impact on who you marry, and determines your success.

Men controlled the success a woman was inclined to have in marriage. In the 19th century men possessed the power to control women and everything that they do. In Pride and Prejudice, the mother, Mrs. Bennet does everything possible for her daughters to marry men that have large fortunes. Marriage is clearly an important theme in Austen’s novels, with men and their fortunes having control over who is to be wed. Mrs. Bennet is always delighted when she hears that a rich new bachelor comes to town, hoping to set her daughters up with a man who possesses a lot of power and money. Gender inequality becomes evident in the fact that Mr. Collins is the closest male heir to the Bennet’s estate. None of the Bennet sisters could inherit the Bennet estate just because they are females. In Austen’s novel she states that Mr. Bennet had a grand estate, but unfortunately for the Bennet sisters it was “entailed” by “default” to the closest male in the Bennet line to inherit (25). As Ava Cotliar previously stated, this example clearly demonstrated the unfairness and power differences between men and women in the 19th century.

Jealousy is discussed in each novel and had a large impact on which marriages became successful. Throughout Pride and Prejudice as well as Sense and Sensibility, jealousy broke up some marriages, while also starting new ones. In Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility, jealousy becomes a prominent emotion between Lucy Steele and Elinor Dashwood. Lucy confided in Elinor and told Elinor of her and Edward Ferrar’s engagement of four years. Elinor was very surprised at this but did not say a word, and while sitting with Lucy at a dinner party in Barton Park Lucy confesses to Elinor that she is a very jealous woman, but that she does not suspect Edward to be unfaithful at all. Elinor was secretly distraught about Lucy’s confession of being engaged to Edward, as she fancied him as well. This led to jealousy between the girls. Throughout the novel’s jealousy is prominent within almost every couple.

Willoughby becomes jealous of Colonel Brandon for marrying Marrianne, as he wanted to marry her as well. Jealousy can be found in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, as well as Sense and Sensibility. In Pride and Prejudice, Miss Bingley is jealous of Elizabeth because she wants Darcy to marry her instead, even though she does not love him. She desires to wed Darcy because of the money he possesses, and not out of love. Elizabeth eventually becomes convinced that Miss Bingley is in fact jealous of her, and noticed how “unwelcome” her appearance at the “Pemberley” had become (221). Jealousy can affect marriages such as Elinor and Edward, as she thought they were to be wed, when in fact a jealous Lucy had already been engaged to him. This jealousy leads to the failure of success in certain women that depended on marriage to achieve success.

Throughout the novels love was a deciding factor in marriage, but it was far from the most important. In most cases, to be married did not mean you were in love, and to be in love did not necessarily mean you were married. Plenty of women married solely for money, but in the novel Pride and Prejudice, Darcy and Elizabeth conquered pride, prejudice, and social hierarchies (“Love Theme in Pride and Prejudice Essay”). Elizabeth had considerably less money than Darcy, which would normally cause problems if they were to wed, because a woman with a larger dowry is the preferred choice. Although Darcy is cold to Elizabeth at first, he soon grows to love her and does not care how much money she possesses, asking her hand in marriage. Darcy walked into a room that Elizabeth inhabited and stated that his feelings will not be “repressed”, and that he admires and loves Elizabeth (160). This declaration of love is unusual because of the social differences between Darcy and Elizabeth. When Elizabeth eventually agrees to marry Darcy after his second proposal, it guarantees her success as a woman because of the amount of money he has accumulated, so she will no longer have to worry about being poor, and her social class would be elevated. In the novel Sense and Sensibility, marriage is also very important as it determines who inherits family fortunes including land, while also being of importance to women as their futures depend on the prospects from the men they wish to marry (Frederickson). Mrs. Ferrars only cares about her sons marrying wealthy women, and when she learns of Edwards love for Lucy, she cuts all ties with him simply because he loves a middle-class woman. This shows that her love for her son is only as great as her love for the money he could acquire.

Family and upbringing affect a women’s success regarding marriage. In the novel Pride and Prejudice, the Bennet daughters have been provided education and training in proper etiquette, as well as social ranking from their family (Fyfe). Their parent’s money, property and social status essentially defines the girls and determines how successful they will be later in life. Material things affect the girl’s probability of marriage, however their molded personalities from their upbringing also affects who they choose to marry (Fyfe). Jane and Elizabeth have grown into mature, sensible adults. Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle are a positive influence on Elizabeth and act like a mother and father figure, providing emotional support in times of stress. Mr. Gardiner helped his brother in “pursuing” Lydia in London after she went missing (245). This proves that they care for Lydia. Having adult figures in her life that constantly nurtured and cared for her molded her personality and affected her decision which gave her confidence to marry the man she wishes.

Women who do not marry often face a harsh reality. Unwed women have a bleak and humiliating future ahead of them, with no one to acquire money or property from without marrying. In the 19th century the absolute worst and most unimaginable status possible is to be an unwed old woman (“How is the Theme of Marriage Presented in Pride and Prejudice?). In the novel Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte is able to escape this terrible fate by having a loveless marriage. Charlotte’s brothers are relieved that Mr. Collins is marrying their sister, otherwise they would have to care for her until the latter part of her life. The brothers were “relieved” from their duty to care for charlotte until she faced her death as an “old maid” (106). Charlotte is saved from an unfortunate future with little success, as a women’s success is dependent on marriage. In Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility, there is little opportunity for women in society, especially unmarried women. In the novel Marrianne and Elinor did not inherit property and are unable to acquire a job, so their futures rely exclusively on the men they marry (Fredericksen).

In the novels, Jane Austen’s characters undergo an event that morally changes their being (“Essay About Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice”). In Sense and Sensibility, this change is more Prominet in Elinor and Marrianne. Throughout the novel they face situations that cause them to develop into mature adults, who have a good possibility of marrying a successful man. They were forced to move to a modest setting different from their previous estate, and having to face their father’s death humbles the sisters as they become exposed to new men who would make the perfect husband. In Pride and Prejudice, at the beginning of the novel Elizabeth and Darcy were two arrogant and self-centered adults that were single minded, but at the end of the book their views change completely, and they become liberal minded individuals (“Essay about Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice”). Elizabeth had a strong dislike for Darcy and turned down his proposal, but eventually opens her mind to the possibility that he is a good man and agrees to marry him. Darcy changed Elizabeth’s opinion on him enough for her to love him. Elizabeth told Jane that when she first met Darcy, she did not love him as much as she does now, but that she does indeed love him (311). Elizabeth and the Dashwood sister’s personality changes led them to marry successful individuals whom they would have not even considered unless this drastic change to their moral being took place.

In both novels, the main characters personalities reflect the titles, causing them to choose a partner their personality is compatible with. In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor represents “Sense” and Marrianne represents “sensibility” (“The Metaphor”). Marrianne is naïve and full of romantic idealism (“The Metaphor”). Her personality leads Marrianne to marrying a man like Colonel Brandon, a kind man who possessed great affection for her. Elinor is the opposite of Marrianne. She is understanding and logical, and not quick to judge. Elinor’s sensible behavior is shown when she learns of a secret engagement with Lucy Steele and the man she desired. Elinor did not fuss about it and kept the knowledge to herself, although it brought her sadness. The contrast within the sister’s personalities is most noticeable when Elinor is relieved that she does not have to share the news of Lucy and Edward, whereas Marrianne is quite dramatic and proceeds to tell her entire family about Willoughby and their love. Marrianne had a public discussion with Willoughby, where he coldly remarks that he did indeed receive her letters. This makes Marrianne very upset and she asks Elinor to talk to him, as she is “unable to stand” (121). With Elinor being “Sense” and Marrianne “Sensibility”, their personalities became noticeable when pursing a husband, as they both chose men who fit well with their different and unique personalities.

The women in Jane Austen’s novels are faced with oppression that affects their likelihood to marry. In the 19th century women had very little rights in society and were told how they could act, and what they could say. In Pride and Prejudice, oppression is seen through class snobbery. Class segregation is common, and because the Bennet family is part of the middle class, they are included in upper class events as well (“Female Oppression in Pride and Prejudice Essay”). This inclusion leads to the Bennet sisters meeting possible husbands such as Darcy. The segregation and oppression of the 19th century also prevents lower-class women to associate with middle- or upper-class men, similar to Marrianne and Elinor’s situation in Sense and Sensibility. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth is very adamant in what she believes, and never fails to speak her mind when she feels it is necessary (“Female Oppression”). Elizabeth’s strong will and desire to fight against her class oppression is a clear indication of her willpower (“Female Oppression”). In a discussion with Lady Catherine Elizabeth proves her strength and confidence when she stands up for herself after Lady Catherine says she is not suitable to marry Darcy. Elizabeth states that Darcy is a gentleman and that she is a “gentleman’s daughter”, so they are “equal” (297). This act of bravery proves that Elizabeth stands up to oppression, and that she will not let anyone’s opinion prevent her from marrying the man she loves.

Throughout the novels it is clear to see that love and money, as well as society and class have a strong influence on the compatibility of two individuals through marriage. Within the two novels the theme of marriage is portrayed because it determines a women’s success and ultimately her future. Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen are two novels depicted in the 19th century that represent how relationships developed in this idealistic society which often valued a couple’s financial status and class over love.


Cite this paper

Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. (2020, Sep 13). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/sense-and-sensibility-and-pride-and-prejudice-by-jane-austen/



Is Sense and Sensibility based on a true story?
No, Sense and Sensibility is not based on a true story. It is a work of fiction written by Jane Austen.
What did Jane Austen mean by sense and sensibility?
In Jane Austen's novel, "Sense and Sensibility," the two titular qualities refer to the characters' different approaches to life. "Sense" refers to practicality and logic, while "sensibility" refers to emotion and intuition.
What happens in Sense and Sensibility?
The story is about two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, who must deal with matters of the heart and of the mind. They must learn to govern their senses and develop sensible attachments to secure their future happiness.
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