In the 19th century, a controversy arose over what the true foundation and purpose for marriage should be. The basis of this conflict was whether one should let reason or emotion be the guide of their love life and if a balance between the two could be maintained. The relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy in Jane Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice depicts such a balance, thus becoming the model for Austen’s definition of a perfect couple and for true love. Their relationship is neither solely based on a quest for money on Elizabeth’s part or emotions that blind the couple from all other important aspects of life. The significance of having this balance is portrayed through the inability of the other couples in the story to reach an equal amount of happiness as Elizabeth and Darcy because of their pursuit of either reason or passion.
Austen’s view of true love is clearly evident in the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth. Elizabeth Bennet is an unfailingly attractive character, but what everybody notices about her is her spirited wit and good sense. She has a keen, critical mind when expressing her opinions and is unwilling to believe only the best of everyone. It is this intelligence that brings Mr. Darcy’s admiration of her and her sense that she can rely on both mind and heart. Darcy carries the persona of a snobbish, arrogant, and self-assured man who assumes that he can get everything he wants. He explains his attitude by stating, ” I was spoiled by my parents, who though good themselves … allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing.” However, his arrogance is challenged when he is faced to deal with the fact that his wealth and class cannot catch Elizabeth’s eye. It is in fact his ideal of nobility that makes Darcy truly change in this novel. When Elizabeth flatly turns down his marriage proposal, it startles Darcy into realizing just how arrogant and assuming he has been. Soon, there is reconciliation between Darcy and Elizabeth where each admits how much they have changed as a result of their earlier encounters. An example of this is when Lady Catherine visits to insure the marriage between Darcy and Elizabeth. She came in order to prevent it, but when Darcy hears the manner in which Elizabeth answered Lady Catherine, he realizes that Elizabeth regards him differently. He saw that her attitude of him had changed which prompted him to make his marriage proposal. Thus, we can now see that Darcy and Elizabeth both have balance in their relationship because they are able to reflect against each other and each is capable of undergoing a change. In the end, Darcy is willing to marry into a family with three silly daughters, an embarrassing mother and is willing to make Wickham his brother-in-law .It may be that he is more easygoing about other people’s faults because he is now aware of his own.
Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship is contrasted with the other couples in the novel. It can especially be seen between the relationship Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have. The sensible characters in the novel accept the standard of intelligence and sensitivity and their relationships are determined by it. Mr. Bennet cannot be happy with his wife because he does not respect her. He retreats from the ridiculousness of much of his family into sarcasm and carelessness. A sense of responsibility also goes along with this standard. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are not sensible when they fail to guide their family. Between the Bennets, there was never any understanding as opposed to the case between Elizabeth and Darcy.
The relationship between Lydia and Wickham is different from the definition of a perfect couple and true love. They had first met when Lydia was sent to Brighton with the permission of her father. They had eloped and were then spotted going towards London. They were said to be married, but Elizabeth realizes further that Wickham will probably never marry a woman who has no fortune. Mr. Bennet and Mr. Gardiner have no luck finding them in London but soon they are found unmarried. Wickham has consented to marry her if his debts are paid for and they are given a small yearly pay.
Elizabeth and Jane, in analyzing the situation, realize that Wickham will not marry Lydia for a small sum, and they conclude that Mr. Gardiner must have promised to pay off the large amounts. Lydia is more in love with Wickham than he is with her, and he only took her along in Brighton because she was there and willing. It is evident that Lydia’s marriage was for lust or sexual satisfaction.
Another marriage that was the opposite of perfect was that of Charlotte and Mr. Collins. Charlotte’s marriage was just for convenience to her. In the beginning of the novel she says that a marriage is better when the partners don’t know each other well, and her own marriage with Mr. Collins is an example of this. Mr. Collins turns from Elizabeth to Charlotte, who accepts his marriage offer for material reasons. This shows how Elizabeth has been mistaken about the character of one of her friends. Elizabeth is a romantic; Charlotte, however marries so that she can have a home of her own. All that she is concerned with is a comfortable establishment. She tells Elizabeth: ” I am not romantic you know. I never was. I ask only for a comfortable home….” This sets the contrast between Elizabeth and Charlotte. Elizabeth has a more ideal view of what a marriage should be and will consent to marriage only when that ideal has the possibility of being fulfilled. This is also the reason why Darcy and Elizabeth will lead a much happier life and Charlotte and Collins won’t.
The relationship between Mr. Bingley and Jane seems to be a more perfect marriage than the others. From the first time he had ever seen her, he had started to take a like in her. They saw each other on and off and Jane tries to explain to Elizabeth and convince herself that she and Bingley feel only friendship for each other. She was mistaken when Bingley eventually does propose to Jane. The future marriage of Jane and Bingley will produce the first real marriage in the novel. Between the two, there is understanding and a similarity of feelings. Whereas with the Bennets, there was no understanding and, as noted earlier, Charlotte and Lydia’s marriages were for the wrong reasons. Thus, we now see the difference between Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage and that of Jane and Bingley. Jane and Bingley have always remained the same, and will always do so, but Elizabeth and Darcy can question each other’s motives and can undergo change.
What happens in Pride and Prejudice happens to nearly all of us- we all share the unsteady feelings of falling in love. Yet, just like in the past, people view the idea of true love in many ways. Ways that may not seem perfect to us, but in fact create a lot of happiness in others. Jane always felt that she was happy when in the presence of Bingley. In contrast, Elizabeth ” knew that she was happy.” On Elizabeth’s part, the relationship of hers would more likely be a happier one because her love is deepened by an intellectual awareness of her emotional state. She and Darcy both know exactly what they want from this marriage, otherwise they would never marry.