Persuasions #11, 1989 Page 99-109
Sisterhood and Friendship in Pride and Prejudice: Need Happiness Be "Entirely a Matter of Chance"?
DEBORAH J. KNUTH
It is a truth universally acknowledged that
the first sentence of Pride and Prejudice has been analyzed and
more than any sentence Jane Austen ever wrote. One suspects that, like Elizabeth and Darcy, the author prides
“say[ing] something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down
posterity with all the eclat of a proverb,”1
this sentence certainly meets that challenge. Despite the sacred status of these words, however, the many
of the famous formula “that a single man in possession of a good
be in want of a wife” (3) always acknowledge the inaccuracy of the
– we always insist that it is, on the contrary, dowerless young women
desperately in want of wealthy single men.
is not always so with another famous and devastating line from the
one in my title: “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.”
Charlotte Lucas, one of those relatively impecunious old maids,
upon her proverb: “If the dispositions of the parties are ever
known to each other, or ever so similar before-hand, it does not
felicity in the least” (23). It
is curious that this ruthless assessment is not universally suspected
of Jane Austen to be as dubious as the novel’s first sentence. In fact, critics are remarkably sympathetic to
Lucas’s theory of marriage and her practical application of it when she
“engag[es] Mr. Collins’s addresses towards herself” (121). Ivor Morris has recently devoted an entire book to Mr. Collins,
personified case-in-point who renders Charlotte’s theory so frightening
practice. In the course of his
project, Morris asks whether Elizabeth Bennet’s judgment of this
self-important yet servile clergyman is completely to be trusted.2 Indeed, the many critics from the “didactic” school use the
heroine’s reaction to Charlotte’s engagement to blast Elizabeth’s
high-spirited self-confidence in her own judgments.3
Kenneth Moler emphasizes the “theme” of art and nature in the
as a context for Charlotte’s disagreement with Elizabeth about marriage:
The Charlotte Lucas-Mr.
Collins marriage is, of course, purely a marriage of the head:
into it with feelings of, at best, tolerance for her husband.
At the other extreme is Lydia Bennet’s marriage, which, although
“heart” may be too kind a term to apply to it, is certainly [not] based
on any rational considerations. (44)
The distinction here between “head” and
“heart” – between rational and presumably irrational or sentimental or
“natural” considerations – is a standard way of reading Austen’s moral
realm as if it were, say, Samuel Johnson’s.4
In accepting that the contrast is best expressed thus, however,
to dismiss the terms Elizabeth herself chooses to criticize Charlotte’s
actions when she discusses them with Jane:
oblige you, I would try to believe almost anything, but no one else
benefited by a belief [that Charlotte may feel something like regard
for Collins]; for were I persuaded that Charlotte had any regard for
should only think worse of her understanding, than I now do of her
My dear Jane, Mr. Collins is a conceited, pompous,
man; you know he is, as well as I do; and you must feel, as well as I
the woman who marries him, cannot have a proper way of thinking ….
You shall not, for the sake of one individual, change the
principle and integrity, nor endeavour to persuade yourself or me, that
selfishness is prudence, and insensibility of danger, security for
Elizabeth’s terms here may at first seem
to indict Charlotte primarily for deficiencies in feeling (“her
understanding” versus “her heart”), but as the passage
the more abstract language of “reason” intrudes: “cannot have a proper
of thinking … principle … integrity … selfishness.” Is it, after all, possible to see “head” and “heart” as
in determining how to choose a life-partner? We can assume that Austen ironically criticizes Charlotte’s
“prudence” when she summarizes her motives in setting an early date for
marriage: “the lady felt no inclination to trifle with his happiness. The stupidity with which he was favoured by nature, must guard
courtship from any charm that could make a woman wish for its
Miss Lucas, who accepted him solely from the pure and disinterested
an establishment, cared not how soon that establishment was gained”
emphasis mine). The addition of
“pure” to “disinterested” would seem to seal the business.
critics note the appeal of a Mr. Collins to one in Charlotte’s
we must note that, though Elizabeth leaves Hunsford regretting, “Poor
Charlotte! – it was melancholy to leave her to such society!” she
herself that Charlotte “had chosen it with her eyes open … [and] did
seem to ask for compassion.” Having
chosen to regard her marriage as a purely material exchange, Charlotte
really forfeited compassion; if she is able to find “charms” in “[h]er
home and her housekeeping, her parish and her poultry, and all their
concerns,” it is hard for us to judge which deficiency is paramount –
of the understanding or that of the heart (216).6
An economic and social understanding of Charlotte’s motives
fully explain or excuse them: as Joseph Wiesenfarth has pointed out,
clearly suggests the true value of money by subjugating it to personal
and love in the relationship of Darcy and Elizabeth, and its false
dramatizing its first importance in the lives of Lady Catherine, Mrs. Bennet,
and Charlotte Lucas, none of whom is admirable.” Gene Koppel argues that neither “ ‘economic anxiety’ –
kind of anxiety – [can] really justify … the flagrant rationalization”
Charlotte undergoes in making a choice so “wrong in every way.”7
exponents of what we might call feminist criticism may help us best to
the flaws in Charlotte’s proverb-making approach to marriage. Susan Morgan points out the echo from the novel’s first sentence
Charlotte’s assessment of her situation: marriage “was the only
provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however
of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want”
(122-23). Morgan analyzes
Charlotte’s “abstraction, [which,] unlike her author’s, is without the
saving consciousness of irony”:8
“satisfactory” reflections on having gained her point are untenable.
Marriage is not “the only honourable provision” for Charlotte,
as it may be the provision she prefers. We
can be sure that honor is not better satisfied
by marrying Mr. Collins than by remaining an old maid …. For
Charlotte, marriage also
the “pleasantest preservative from want.”
But living at home at Lucas
Lodge she was not, in fact, in want …
decision is immoral. (93-94)
Alison G. Sulloway is if anything more
thorough in her condemnation of Charlotte’s statement: “Charlotte is
blaspheming the sacrament of marriage.” And
Brian C. Southam reminds us in this context that “marriage does have a moral
relation to love.”9 Even where a sensitive critic is inclined to assess Charlotte’s
decision as “realistic,” “a lesser evil,” or otherwise “sympath[etic],”
her choice still stands out as “the darkest note in the novel” (to
Paris) and “grotesque” and “rather chilling” (to James Thompson).10
purpose here is not so much to condemn Charlotte Lucas and her maxims
as to use
the contrasts between Charlotte and her friend Elizabeth to explore
treatment of the issue of “happiness” for relatively genteel women
adequate dowries. Most views of the
question assume that men and marriage only are required for happiness. Nina Auerbach attributes to men a “mysterious power” that can
“draw women together,” despite their natural tendency to compete for
attention, as she argues in a chapter that discusses the Bennet sisters
the title “Waiting Together.” 11 She characterizes the Bennet sisters as “talk[ing] of nothing
Bingley and Darcy, speculating over their motives and characters with
of two collaborators working on a novel” (45). (Elsewhere, Auerbach refers to the sisters in their pre-marital
being in “limbo” [39 and 48] and as “lead[ing] a purgatorial existence
together” without men  – in hardly a state to “relish” any topic of
conversation.) If the unmarried
state is really characterized by such unrelieved sniping among
such exhaustive collaboration between sisters in the struggle for a
Charlotte Lucas’s strategy must earn the novelist’s approval and all
ambiguity is at an end. But if we
examine the novel’s rather extensive treatment of Charlotte’s marriage,
may find another way to interpret the relationships between Elizabeth
and Elizabeth and Charlotte that clarifies how Jane Austen would have
Charlotte’s choice of a husband.
Some three weeks after the engagement, Elizabeth and Jane are discussing Bingley’s sudden departure and Charlotte’s marriage. Elizabeth observes,
are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well.
The more I see of the world, the more I am dissatisfied with it;
every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human
of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either
sense. I have met with two
instances lately; one [Bingley’s defection] I will not mention; the
Charlotte’s marriage. It is
unaccountable! in every view it is unaccountable!”
dear Lizzy [Jane replies], do not give way to such feelings as these. They will ruin your happiness.”
“Happiness” here has a much more general
application than marital security. Elizabeth
has been disappointed in her judgments of two people: Bingley, who was
but declared lover of her sister and hence a soulmate of sorts, one who
estimate Jane’s value even as she does; and Charlotte, who “was
Elizabeth’s intimate friend” to whom at one point she “told all her
after a lengthy absence of “almost a week” (18 and 90). Disappointment in these two presumably like-minded people to
made Elizabeth cynical about the values of “‘all human characters’”
and the meaning of “‘the appearance of either merit or sense’”; these
sweeping indictments transcend the petty discussions of men and
are often presumed, and not only by Auerbach, to make up the stuff of
sisterly conversations. If we focus
on Elizabeth’s disappointment in Charlotte, we can see how the loss of
friend could in fact “‘ruin [a heroine’s] happiness.’”
Charlotte Lucas has shared so many confidences and jokes with her friend that when we see them together at a dance, both without partners, the scenes feel habitual, as if these women have passed many partnerless evenings enjoying each other’s company.
does Mr. Darcy mean,” said [Elizabeth] to Charlotte, “by listening to
conversation with Colonel Forster?”
is a question which Mr. Darcy only can answer.”
if he does it any more I shall certainly let him know that I see what
about. He has a very satirical eye,
and if I do not begin by being impertinent myself, I shall soon grow
his approaching them soon afterwards, though without seeming to have
intention of speaking, Miss Lucas defied her friend to mention such a
him, which immediately provoking Elizabeth to do it, she turned to him
not you think, Mr. Darcy, that I expressed myself uncommonly well just
I was teazing Colonel Forster to give us a ball at Meryton?”
The mischievous tone in which these women
declare themselves to be above the sordid marketplace of marriage seems
its own reward. It is right after
this exchange that Elizabeth refuses to be handed by Sir William Lucas
Darcy as a partner – a humorous foreshadowing of her response to his
proposal. She recalls, of course,
overhearing his refusal to be introduced to her at the assembly (11-12). But the atmosphere of defiance of men in the conversation with
pervades the scene as well (26-27).
at the dance at Netherfield, Elizabeth stations herself next to
describe the onerous attentions of Mr. Collins, to leave her only when
inextricably engaged to dance with that “awkward and solemn” gentleman.
“The moment of her release from him was extasy [sic].” Elizabeth “returned to Charlotte Lucas, and was in conversation
her, when she found herself suddenly addressed by Mr. Darcy, who took
much by surprise in his application for her hand, that, without knowing
did, she accepted him … [immediately beginning] to fret over her own
presence of mind” in doing so (90). The
accidental nature of this acceptance belies what we know to be Darcy’s
misreading of Elizabeth’s feelings towards him.12
(Likewise, Elizabeth’s indifference contradicts Auerbach’s image
the heroine “waiting” eagerly for male deliverance from a female
purgatory.) Charlotte consoles Elizabeth that despite her reluctance to
Darcy, “ ‘I dare say you will find him very agreeable’” (90). Elizabeth’s joking response, “ ‘Heaven forbid! – That
would be the greatest misfortune of all! – To find a man agreeable whom
determined to hate! – Do not wish me such an evil,’”is of a piece with
the satirical mode she and Charlotte seem to have adopted on such
despite her participation in this independent female banter, Charlotte
calculating her future quite differently from her friend. Her whispered warning to Elizabeth before the
dance “not to
be a simpleton” in expressing to Darcy her preference for the
Wickham is evidence of this distinction between the friends, and
her early pronouncement about happiness in marriage (23) may have been
despite Elizabeth’s rejoinder, “‘You make me laugh, Charlotte; but it
not sound. You know it is not
sound, and that you would never act in this way yourself.’” Elizabeth has assumed Charlotte’s remarks to
be in keeping
with their mutual tone in discussing men and marriage, but under the
friendship – or sisterhood – of detached observation, Charlotte has
cloaking the vulgar expedience that leads her to accept Collins.
And, at Hunsford, like Mr. Darcy Charlotte commits the
indelicacy of assuming that Elizabeth’s wishes and expectations mirror
had once or twice suggested to Elizabeth the possibility of [Darcy’s]
partial to her, but Elizabeth always laughed at the idea; and Mrs.
not think it right to press the subject, from the danger of raising
which might only end in disappointment; for in her opinion it admitted
not of a
doubt, that all her friend’s dislike would vanish, if she could suppose
be in her power. (181)
The chapter concludes, alluding to
Charlotte’s “kind schemes for Elizabeth”; these “schemes” consist of
Mrs. Collins determining which future husband for her friend would have
“considerable patronage in the church.”
Charlotte comes to Longbourn to give Elizabeth advance notice of her
whatever mistaken assumptions she may have about Elizabeth’s views of
marriage, she knows full well that her friend will be shocked. “‘Engaged to
Mr. Collins! my dear Charlotte, – impossible!’”
The violence of these words causes a reaction:
steady countenance which Miss Lucas had commanded in telling her story,
to a momentary confusion here on receiving so direct a reproach;
it was no more than she expected, she soon regained her composure.
(124-25; emphasis added)
Elizabeth’s response, we are told,
with all the force of “her astonishment,” since “that Charlotte could
encourage [Mr. Collins] seemed almost as far from possibility as that
encourage him herself” (124). Elizabeth
had always felt that Charlotte’s opinion of matrimony was not exactly
own, but she would not have supposed it possible that when called into
she would have sacrificed every better feeling to wordly advantage.
Charlotte the wife of Mr. Collins was a most humiliating
picture! – And
to the pang of a friend disgracing herself and sunk in her esteem, was
distressing conviction that it was impossible for that friend to be
happy in the lot she had chosen. (125)
The loss of Charlotte Lucas’s friendship
is a serious blow to Elizabeth. Where
before they had shared confidence – or at any rate a verbal show of
agreement – now “there was a restraint which kept them mutually silent
the subject [of the engagement]; and Elizabeth felt persuaded that no
confidence could ever subsist between them again” (127-28).
of regret for the loss of this friendship resound throughout the novel,13
but when the time comes for her visit to Hunsford, “[a]bsence had
[Elizabeth’s] desire of seeing Charlotte again” (151), and on leaving
seems to have found it a real “pleasure [to be] with Charlotte,” even
ridiculous footing of Mr. Collins’s houseguest (215).14
The saving outcome of this sentimental (yet comical) contretemps
Elizabeth’s “disappointment in Charlotte made her turn with fonder
her sister, of whose rectitude and delicacy she was sure her opinion
be shaken, and for whose happiness she grew daily more anxious …” (128).
Elizabeth’s anxiety here is for Jane’s “happiness” with Bingley. But when we examine the feelings these sisters
have for each
other, I argue that we can come closer to understanding how Jane Austen
the importance of a more universal idea of feminine happiness than mere
security. One touchstone for true
happiness in Jane Austen’s world – one Charlotte fails to remain in
with – is close friendship with other women.
Elizabeth substitutes for Charlotte her Aunt Gardiner and her
Charlotte can look forward only to the daily intrusions of the sterile
Bourgh and her companion in their phaeton and evenings at Rosings
Lady Catherine “when she could get nobody else” (67, 158, 172).
As for the companionship of Mr. Collins, the only substitute for
former daily intercourse with her family and friend, the humorous
Charlotte’s successful strategies for avoiding her husband makes them
memorable to need recording here. Suffice
it to say that Charlotte has most peculiarly designated her own
in a way that reverberates both comically and sentimentally throughout
eldest Bennet sisters, on the other hand, enjoy as heroines not only
advantageous marriages in the novel, but also the most valuable
with female relations and friends.
confidences shared by Jane and Elizabeth in the novel begin with
Mr. Bingley the day after they meet him at the assembly: “When Jane and Elizabeth were alone, the former, who had been
in her praise of Mr. Bingley before, expressed to her sister how very
admired him” (14).16 We find many of these private conferences between the sisters:
shrubbery (86) or in their own room (116). They seek privacy to correspond with each other (177, 188).
Similarly, Elizabeth’s confidential encounters with Mrs.
“on the first favourable opportunity of speaking to her alone” (144) or
“Elizabeth … contrived to sit by her aunt” (152).
intimacy between the sisters (or the aunt and niece) has as much to do
silence as with communication. When
Jane fails to hear from Miss Bingley after the Netherfield party has
for London, “whatever she felt[,] she was desirous of concealing, and
herself and Elizabeth, therefore, the subject was never alluded to”
(129). When a letter does come, bringing bad news, “A day or two passed
Jane had courage to speak of her feelings to Elizabeth” (134). On the return from
Hunsford, the vacuous Maria Lucas exclaims, “
much I shall have to tell!’ [but] Elizabeth privately add[s], ‘And how
I shall have to conceal’” (217). As
with Jane’s disappointment over the defection of Bingley, Elizabeth is
first reluctant to communicate her rejection of Mr. Darcy’s proposals
of the “state of indecision in which she remained, as to the extent
she should communicate ”(218; emphasis added).
Here begins the protracted suspense of undisclosed plot between the sisters that is not relieved until the very end of the novel, a suspense secondary only to the conclusion of the Romantic plots, as Elizabeth bears the burden of her knowledge almost in isolation, except for what Mrs. Gardiner manages to guess (264, 281). Though Elizabeth does find an opportunity to acquaint Jane with a censored version of Mr. Darcy’s proposal and with the truth about George Wickham, much suspense remains:
The tumult of Elizabeth’s mind was allayed by this conversation. She had got rid of two of the secrets which had weighed on her for a fortnight, and was certain of a willing listener in Jane, whenever she might wish to talk again of either. But there was still something lurking behind, of which prudence forbad the disclosure. She dared not … explain to her sister how sincerely she had been valued by [Darcy’s] friend. Here was knowledge in which no one could partake. (227)
The phrase “got rid of two of the
secrets” echoes the other deliberately vulgar uses of the verb “to get”
the novel: the “business of [Mrs. Bennet’s] life was to get her
married” (5); Elizabeth
criticizes Charlotte’s advice about marriage, “‘if I were determined
get a rich husband, I dare say I should adopt it’” (22); Elizabeth
similarly rejects Lydia’s formula for marital success: “‘I do not
particularly like your way of getting husbands’” (317); “Happy for all
her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her
deserving daughters” (385). The
weight of unshared confidence on the mind of the heroine is thus
to that greatest millstone of all in this novel, the burden represented
An anonymous little scene illustrates this tension between courtship and friendship that enhances the novel’s dénouement: Bingley and Darcy, who have just returned from Netherfield, are visiting amid a large party at Longbourn. Elizabeth has been watching Darcy with great anxiety through two days of visits “in no cheerful humour.” Certain now that Bingley and Jane’s engagement will soon be formed, she is still doubtful of Darcy’s intentions, and his shy silence gives her little encouragement. For once, the female interlude between dinner and coffee hangs heavy:
and uneasy, the period which passed in the drawing-room, before the
came, was wearisome and dull to a degree that almost made her uncivil.
She looked forward to their entrance, as the point on which all
chance of pleasure for the evening must depend.
he does not come to me, then,” said she, “I shall give him up
gentlemen came; and she thought he looked as if he would have answered
hopes; but, alas! the ladies had crowded round the table, where Miss
making tea, and Elizabeth pouring out the coffee, in so close a
that there was not a single vacancy near her, which would admit a chair.
And on the gentlemen’s approaching, one of the girls moved
her than ever, and said, in a whisper,
men shan’t come and part us, I am determined.
We want none of them; do we?”
had walked away to another part of the room.
She followed him with her eyes, envied every one to whom he
scarcely patience enough to help anybody to coffee; and then was
herself for being so silly! (341)
For once, Elizabeth is in the same position
as Miss Bingley, for whom a woman companion can never be a “first
(54), once the gentlemen, and Darcy in particular, enter a room. Having been accustomed to female solidarity with Charlotte on
sidelines of the courtship competition, Elizabeth has now painfully
more typical response. These last
eight chapters of the novel celebrate the process whereby the
sisterhood/friendship subplot and the courtship plots can be resolved
dovetailed into a satisfying union, avoiding the competition between
implied in the defiant language of this “one of the girls” who tries to
assert confederacy with Elizabeth.17
relief from the suspense of Elizabeth’s and Jane’s unshared secrets
after Lydia’s marriage has taken place. But
until Jane is assured of Bingley’s affection, her reticence about her
feelings postpones communication (343). Once
she and Bingley reach an understanding, however, “Jane could have no
from Elizabeth, where confidence would give pleasure” (346).
Meanwhile, Elizabeth finds no occasion to reveal to Jane the
change that has taken place in her own feelings for Darcy; thus, mutual
confidence is exquisitely postponed, and finally released when Jane
Elizabeth’s news incredulously, “‘You are joking, Lizzy.
This cannot be! – engaged to Mr. Darcy!
No, no, you shall not deceive me. I
know it to be impossible .… Oh,
Lizzy! it cannot be. I know how
much you dislike him,’” in a neat return of Elizabeth’s own reaction
Charlotte’s similar announcement (372; compare 124).
After this comic interlude, however, the sentimental plot of the
relationship between the sisters is fulfilled, as Elizabeth “opened her
to Jane …. All was acknowledged,
and half the night spent in conversation” (373-74).
significance of Elizabeth’s relationships with Jane and with her Aunt
can perhaps best be appreciated when we remember how other women in
interact. Jane’s early trust in
the affection of Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst increases the pain when
apparently abandons her on their advice. One
subplot of the novel concerns the eventual vindication of Elizabeth’s
of these two women’s false professions of friendship for Jane, and
admission of her own error in what Elizabeth calls “the most
speech” Jane ever uttered (350; see also 15).
From the first, these sisters have seemed ill qualified to
Bennets. The utmost of their
“considerable” powers of conversation is to “describe an entertainment
with accuracy, relate an anecdote with humour, and laugh at their
with spirit” (54). Miss
Bingley’s warm professions of regard for Miss Darcy are no more genuine
her professed friendship for Jane; both have self-serving motives
At the end of the novel, realizing that it is “advisable to
right of visiting at Pemberley,” Miss Bingley becomes “fonder than ever
Georgiana, … and pa[ys] off every arrear of civility to Elizabeth,”
wonderfully economic consciousness of the laws of etiquette (387).
and Elizabeth’s relationship is also set in relief by the other Bennet
sisters. Despite Elizabeth’s
spirited defense of her family’s approach to educating their daughters
challenged by Lady Catherine (165), the potentially destructive effect
Lydia’s influence on Kitty is posed as a serious problem, a perfect
to the mutual nurturance between the eldest girls (165, 283, 213, 231).18 Among the subplots concluded in the novel’s dénouement is the
to Kitty of Lydia’s pernicious influence. We find that Kitty will divide her time between the Darcys and
Bingleys: “In society so superior
to what she had generally known, her improvement was great” (385). The other sister to benefit from the Darcys’ marriage is
(whose past susceptibility to Wickham’s blandishments somewhat
Lydia’s error) who will receive from Elizabeth “knowledge which had
before fallen in her way” (388). Like her
brother, we can assume, she will learn to temper
shyness and gravity with a measure of irreverent wit.
triumphant marital success, then, in distinction to Charlotte’s fate,
her amid a circle of (largely) female friends and relations,19
in a careful disposition that unites friendship with appropriate
joint prerequisites for happiness. Within
a year of their marriages, “Jane and Elizabeth, in addition to every
source of happiness, were [settled] within thirty miles of each other,”
distance, for families of their means, early in the novel established
“easy” (385, 178). Of course, this union
of friendship with marriage gives Jane
Austen opportunity to use her knowledge of the relationship she knows
the one she shared with Cassandra – greatly to enhance the treatment of
courtship in Pride and Prejudice.20
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, ed.
W. Chapman (Vol. Ill, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press,
ed., 1932, rev., 1966, rpt., 1982), p. 91. All
quotations from the novel will be from this edition.
2 Ivor Morris, Mr. Collins Considered: Approaches to Jane Austen (London and New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 7. Morris is more concerned to use Collins as a touchstone for certain issues and values in Austen’s fiction than to analyze his function as a character, but he continues to use Elizabeth’s reaction to Collins as an occasion for judging the heroine. See pp. 8, 50, 87, 106-07, 122, and passim.
See, for example, W. A. Craik, Jane Austen: The Six Novels
Methuen, 1965), p. 78; p. 65 and Craik’s Jane Austen in her Time
(London: Thomas Nelson, 1969), p. 62. The
more measured Jan Fergus nonetheless favours Jane’s response to the
Charlotte’s engagement as more “adequate to the actual consequences of
marriage” than Elizabeth’s “righteous indignation” (Jane Austen and
the Didactic Novel [Totowa, New Jersey: Barnes and Noble, 1983],
Kenneth L. Moler associates Elizabeth’s “misjudgment” of
with “a sort of moral blindness on the part of the book’s protagonists”
and Prejudice: A Study in Artistic Economy [Boston: Twayne, 1989],
4 The most thorough statement of this approach is found in Samuel Kliger, “Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in the Eighteenth-Century Mode,” University of Toronto Quarterly, 16 (1947), pp. 357-70.
5 Lillian Robinson, for example, concedes that Charlotte’s choice may well have been “the only way she could have a life – whether or not provision existed for her to subsist in tolerable material comfort as a spinster” (“Why Marry Mr. Collins?”, in Sex, Class, and Culture [Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1978], pp. 179-99; p. 197).
6 Robinson’s analysis clarifies the fact that, if anything, Elizabeth’s situation is more desperate than Charlotte’s, since Sir William Lucas’s “estate,” however small and recently accumulated, is not entailed away from any of his offspring, male or female (Robinson, pp. 188-89).
Joseph Wiesenfarth, The Errand of Form (New York: Fordham
Press, 1967), p. 45; Gene Koppel, The Religious Dimension of Jane
Novels (Ann Arbor and London: UMI Research Press, 1988), p. 11.
On the “constant alternation between the fairy tale structure
materialist language” of Pride and Prejudice, see Karen Newman,
this Marriage Be Saved: Jane Austen Makes Sense of an Ending,” (ELH
50:4 [Winter 1983], pp. 693-710). Judith
Lowder Newton agrees that “We are not allowed to dwell on the economic
realities of Charlotte’s situation, because the shifting ironies almost
continually direct us elsewhere” (Women, Power, and Subversion:
Strategies in British Fiction, 1778-1860 [1981; rpt.. New York and
Methuen, 1985], p. 70). See also
Mary Evans, Jane Austen and the State (London: Tavistock,
8 Susan Morgan, In the Meantime: Character and Perception in Jane Austen’s Fiction (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1980), p. 95.
9 Alison G. Sulloway, Jane Austen and the Province of Womanhood (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989), p. 173. See also Cynthia Caywood, “Pride and Prejudice and the Belief in Choice: Jane Austen’s Fantastical Vision,” in Portraits of Marriage in Literature, ed. Anne C. Hargrove and Maurine Magliocco (Macomb: Western Illinois University Press, 1984), pp. 31-37. Brian C. Southarn, Jane Austen (Reading and London: Longman Writers and their Works Series, 1975), p. 43; emphasis Southam’s.
Bernard J. Paris, Character and Conflict
in Jane Austen’s Novels: A
Psychological Approach (Detroit: Wayne State University Press,
104; James Thompson, Between Self and World: The Novels of Jane
(University Park and London: Pennsylvania State University Press,
1988), p. 53.
11 Nina Auerbach, Communities of Women: An Idea in Fiction (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978), p. 45.
He fears that he may “elevate her with a hope of influencing his
when she is staying at Netherfield (p. 60); later on at Hunsford he
is “ ‘wishing, expecting [his] addresses’ ” (p. 369).
13 See, for example, p. 146.
14 Bernard Paris points out that Elizabeth’s “reaction to Charlotte’s behavior is especially intense [because] [a]part from her father, Charlotte is the person in her world who is closest to her in temperament and intelligence.” He discusses the friendship on pp. 119-20.
15 Cynthia Caywood points out that Charlotte Lucas “quietly imitates Mr. Bennet’s response to a miserable marriage … she retires like Mr. Bennet into a private sanctuary, his a library, hers a workroom, when the marriage becomes impossible to manage” (p. 34).
16 Elizabeth gives Jane “leave to like him. You have liked many a stupider person,” demonstrating that in her relationship with her sister she adopts some of the same tone that characterizes her friendship with Charlotte (p. 14).
17 Claudia L. Johnson has discussed this passage to make a somewhat contradictory point: “Austen does not extensively consider female friendship as an important alternative or even a supplement to the marital relationship …. Indeed we do want [the men] to part [the women], and the success of this passage depends on our agreeing that it is folly to suppose that female bonding can or should displace men in the minds of sensible women” (Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Novel [Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1988], p. 91).
The author points out that the danger of Lydia’s proposed Brighton trip
only enhanced by her new-found friendship with Mrs. Forster: “ ‘(by the
Mrs. Forster and me are such friends!)’ ”
(p. 221, emphasis Austen’s; see also p. 230).
Elizabeth and Darcy will remain close friends with the Gardiners, the
last-mentioned characters in the book, of course, and gradually achieve
rapprochement with Lady Catherine and friendship with Mr. Bennet as
See pp. 388, 385.
On the relationship of Jane and Cassandra as compensation for marriage,
Janet Todd, Women’s Friendship in Literature (New York:
University Press, 1980), pp. 399-402. Even
Nina Auerbach concedes that the claustrophobic concentration of
women” at Chawton from 1809 to 1817 “must be given credit for some of
… generative power” that produced Austen’s fiction" (Communities
of Women, p. 49).