by Jane Austen
Elizabeth is often paired with her father, and they do have a lot in common: both are self-centered snobs who wouldn’t know kindness if it hit them on the head. The social position that allows that snobbery, however, is a lot less stable for Elizabeth than it is for Sir Walter. While the only thing that could knock Sir Walter off his perch is bankruptcy, Elizabeth doesn’t have her status cemented until she marries someone at least as high-ranked as herself. In fact, if Sir Walter died, Mr. Elliot would get to move into Kellynch Hall and Elizabeth would be left homeless.
With all that at stake, it’s not surprising that Elizabeth keeps trying to catch Mr. Elliot. Her choice of that particular bachelor, however, is worth looking at further: why him? One answer to that question is suggested by Elizabeth’s fawning behavior when faced by the Dalrymples, who are a few rungs up the social ladder; faced by someone she acknowledges as a superior, she has to act like, well, an inferior. But those inferior to her are definitely not marriage material. The only way to be certain that she’ll have neither the pain of marrying someone below her, nor the pain of herself being the someone below, is to marry someone exactly her equal – and who is more equal than someone actually related to her, who will take over her father’s position?