William Collins decides to marry one of Mr. Bennet’s daughters as a consolation to the Bennet family as he stands to inherit the property where the family currently lives. He proposes to marry Elizabeth Bennet but she refuses him. He turns his attention to Elizabeth’s friend, Charlotte Lucas, the very next day, and she accepts him. This was how marriages were made in 18th century England. In comparing Elizabeth and Charlotte’s decisions, it is obvious that the author disapproves Charlotte’s reasons for choosing to marry Mr. Collins. The man is described as pompous and snobbish. In contrast, Elizabeth gets to marry the handsome, intelligent and wealthy Mr. Darcy. It would be easy to agree with Austen’s view point in that it is always better to marry for reason of love and romance, but only because we live in a modern society where marrying for love is the norm. We have to place ourselves in Charlotte’s shoes to understand her. She had no choice but to be practical.
Their family was not wealthy, men inherit wealth, and she was at that age when women were considered to be on the brink of becoming an old maid, a label that women avoided during that time. In spite Jane Austen’s negative perception on arranged marriages it should be noted that not all marriages like these were total failures. Many marriages made for practical reasons end up with both parties falling in love with each other.
The passage of time and constant and intimate companionship could develop the romantic feelings that may have not been there in the beginning. Elizabeth is lucky to have both romance and marriage. But hers is the ideal and the chances that reality would mirror the ideal are not so great in real life. Furthermore, many arranged marriages may have failed and left one or both parties miserable, but the same can be said with marriages that began from romantic relationships. The number of divorces today would prove this point.