‘Pride and Prejudice’ as a domestic novel
A Writer of Domestic Life : Jane Austen has rightly been described as a writer of domestic novels. She is notorious for never going out of the parlour. She makes a very candid confession that for her two or three families in a country village’ are enough to work with.
Domestic Life of a Few Families: Thus Pride and Prejudice deals with the domestic life and aspirations of the Bennets, the Lucases, the Bingleys, and the Darcys with scattered reference to a few other families. These are all middle class people. The Bennets and the Lucases belong to the lower middle class, while the Bingleys and Darcys are comparatively affluent. Since they are all land-owners, they have nothing to do to earn their living. The usual tensions of working life are absent from their life. Their major activities are giving dinners, paying visits or arranging balls. Ladies knit, play on the pianoforte or the harpischord, ladies and gentlemen play cards or indulge in idle gossip. At the most, they go on small family trips to places of scenic beauty or health resorts. Pride and Prejudice consists of a ball at Meryton, another at Netherfield, Jane’s visit to Netherfield, and Elizabeth’s visits to the Hunsford Parsonage and the Rosings. Apparently, nothing sensational happens during these visits, except that Jane catches a cold on her way to Netherfield, Elizabeth unexpectedly runs into Darcy during her visit to Pemberley, or Lydia and Wickham elope towards the end of the novel. But even this elopement does not lead to any untoward results. Darcy, who was expected to withdraw after this slur on the Bennets, does nothing of the kind and in fact plays a key role in setting the matters right.
Love and Marriage : But Jane Austen is also interested in discussing the importance of marrying where there is intellectual understanding ană emotional compatibility, and not just for beauty or for the allurement of money. Mr. Bennet married for beauty and for good looks and soon got disillusioned. His wife has a weak understanding and an illiberal mind. Mr. Bennet sought comfort in his library or in his walks. Charlotte Lucas knows that Mr. Collins is a prompous ass. But she agrees to marry him because he is in a position to offer her financial security. She too never finds real happiness in her life. Lydia is captivated by Wickham’s handsomeness. That he is utterly unprincipled is obvious to everybody, for he shifts from Elizabeth to Miss King to Lydia with great felicity. But Lydia prefers to ignore this fact. And she too ruins her life.
Effect of ill Matched Marriages : The novel also shows the adverse effect of ill-matched marriages on the emotional development of the children. Thus if Mary, Kitty and Lydia are unequal to the demands of life, the responsibility lies primarily with their parents, one of whom is indifferent and irresponsible, the other indulgent and concerned but stupid. Jane too lacks emotional maturity. Even Elizabeth, the best of the lot, barely escapes the ill-effects.