Classifications of the marriages in Jane Austen's writings

*Return to Jane Austen's writings
*Return to notes on Education, Marriage, Status of Women, etc.

These are lightly-edited versions of postings to the AUSTEN-L mailing list.

Date: Thu, 8 Aug 1996 17:47:47 -0400
From: Arnessa M. Garrett

If you think about, it Pride and Prejudice has the most weddings of any Jane Austen novel (tied with Emma). In Pride and Prejudice, more so than in Emma, nearly every marriage has a different flavor. It's almost as if Jane Austen was trying on all the types and ranking them.

At the bottom of the scale, the marriage of passion only: Lydia/Wickham and Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. A little above that is the marriage of no passion and little affection: Mr. Collins / Charlotte Lucas and Mr. and Mrs. Hurst. Next comes the marriage of genuine affection and esteem: Bingley/Jane and Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. Then there's the mother of all marriages, with affection, esteem, and passion (or, if you will, the stars and the moon): Darcy and Lizzy.

The problem of making a good marriage can be as weighty as those of money and social issues.

Date: Sat, 26 Oct 1996 13:33:32 -0400

Patterns of Marriage or Living Together in Austen

Somewhat Mismatched but Successful:
Charlotte Lucas and William Collins
Anne Taylor and Captain Weston
Slightly Mismatched but Successful:
Admiral and Mrs. Sophia Crofts (very slightly)
Unsuited but Successful:
Mr. and Mrs. Allen (Northanger Abbey)
Sir Thomas and Maria, Lady Bertram
John and Isabella Knightley
Unsuited and Unsuccessful:
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet
Unsuited and Woman Unhappy, Perhaps Deeply:
General and Mrs. Tilney (deceased when book opens so we can't know for sure)
Sir Walter and Elizabeth, Lady Elliot (deceased, ditto)
Unsuited and Future Uncertain:
Louisa Musgrove and Captain Bennick
Somewhat Mismatched and Future Dubious:
Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax
Not Actually Mismatched but Man made less than he would be, brought down to the level of his wife or mistress:
Charles and Mary Musgrove
Henry Crawford and Maria Bertram
Unsuited but Too Strongly a Caricature to Pronounce Anything but as a Satiric Portrait:
Mr. and Mrs. Palmer
Sir John and Lady Middleton
Suited and Successful, but not made thoroughly admirable in Austen's highest terms (minor characters):
Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove
Mr. and Mrs. Morland (Catherine Morland's parents)
As happy as this world allows (which means there are differences between the two but these are such as can strengthen the partner, not harm):
Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars
Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon
Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy
Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley
Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley
Harriet Smith and Robert Martin
Edmund Bertram and Fanny Price
Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth
Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney
Well Matched in the sense they Deserve one another, not in the sense they necessarily last or fit Austen's ideal of happiness:
John and Fanny Dashwood
Lydia Bennet and Wickham
Maria Bertram and Mr. Rushworth
Mrs. Penelope Clay and Mr. William Elliot
Lucy Steele and Robert Ferrars
Mr. Philip and Mrs. Augusta Elton

Date: Sat, 26 Oct 1996 13:58:42 -0500
From: Ursula Rempel

In the category "Deserve one Another", could we put Mr. and Mrs. Hurst?

For "As happy as this world allows", I'd add Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner and Mr. and Mrs. Dashwood (senior) -- although we don't really know him. But although he left Mrs. Dashwood and his daughters in a precarious financial situation, I don't believe we're to think that the marriage was anything but happy, are we?

Date: Sat, 20 Jun 1998 18:04:06 LCL
From: Cassia Van Arsdale
Subject: Re: Precarious Social Position

Abigail Feder wrote:

In Claire Tomalin's bio of Austen, she mentions several families that Jane knew whose members fell from the edges of the upper middle class back into the lower in the matter of one generation, based on marriages and economics.

Which is why Jane Austen's choice of the marriage plot isn't nearly as limiting as some critics make it out to be. It seems to me that the marriage plot is in many ways like a jazz tune: the basic structure is solid enough to accept as many curlicues and improvisations as any writer might want to thrust upon it. It can be joyous, as it tends to be in Austen, or sorrowful; it can include all of human existence or narrowly focus on a single family. Anything can happen within its confines, as it is so basic to human understanding.

*Return to Jane Austen's writings
*Return to notes on Education, Marriage, Status of Women, etc.
*Go to Ellen Moody on Jane Austen's heroes
*Go to a comparison between Henry Crawford of Mansfield Park and Darcy of Pride and Prejudice

Group Read Board Pride & Prejudice Board Emma Board Sense & Sensibility Board Persuasion Board Mansfield Park Board Northanber Abbey Board Austenuations Board Jane Austen's Life & Times Board Lady Catherine & Co. Board Library Board Virtual Views Board Ramble Board Meetings Board Newcomers' Board Milestones Board Help Board Pemberleans Board

- Jane Austen | Republic of Pemberley -

Quick Index Home Site Map JAInfo

© 2004 - 2011 The Republic of Pemberley

Get copyright permissions