Pride And Prejudice
The first sentence of the novel, Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austin, foreshadows the end of the book. She writes, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a good wife". At first, readers would understand this in one way. However, in the second half of the novel it takes on a whole new meaning. At first this sentence takes on an ironic meaning, because it is commonly understood that it is the woman who is in pursuit of a wealthy gentleman (and not the man pursuing the woman as stated). Austin also seems to prove this understanding of the quotation in the first half of the novel in her use of Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas. In the novel, Mr. Collins has established himself by working for Lady Catherine de Bourgh, an extremely wealthy woman. Also, once Mr. Bennet dies, Mr. Collins is due to inherit his entire estate. Therefore, a man who is supported by that amount of money would seem to be quite a catch, to someone with less money. However, after listening to him talk, it is quickly revealed that he is utterly ignorant. On the other hand, Charlotte is his complete opposite. Charlotte is an extremely sensible and intelligent girl, but she has little money. Although Mr. Collins could obviously never satisfy Charlotte as a husband, Charlotte agrees to marry him for his money. Hence the original understanding of the quotation at the start of the novel seems to be justified. Mr. Darcy also seems to follow this quotation. He believes that women would marry him for his wealth and status no matter what. Therefore, when he falls in love with Elizabeth he does not treat her with the preferential treatment with which one would normally treat his beloved. Instead he treated her with the same condescending and proud manner as he would any other person. After all, all good wives are in want of a wealthy man. Darcy soon changes his philosophy (and hence one must understand the quotation differently) after Elizabeth refuses his proposal. This incident proves that a woman does not necessarily need to find a rich man to marry. After all, this is now the second time that Elizabeth has rejected the proposal of a man with more wealth than she. It is clear that Darcy changes his whole philosophy on the subject after this rejection. Darcy then realizes that in this case the woman does not want the rich man, but it is the "man in possession of fortune" who "must be in want of a good wife. Now, he realizes that he must treat Elizabeth with the kindness with which he treats his loved ones (i.e. his sister and Mr. Bingley). Only then does Darcy finally win the love of Elizabeth. The quotation now takes on a whole new meaning. It is now no longer a ironic or satiric sentence, but rather a statement, which if read literally can also have much meaning. This is proven by the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy.
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