Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice Mr. Bennet Quotes
"Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!"
"How so? How can it affect them?"
"My dear Mr. Bennet," replied his wife, "how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them."
"Is that his design in settling here?"
"Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes."
"I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better, for as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley may like you the best of the party." (14-19)
Mr. Bennet's style of communication is a kind of passive aggressive, teasing banter, most of which goes way, way over his wife's head. Why does he talk to her in this way (which presumably isn't the way he talks to, say, Bingley, when he goes to visit him)?
"I have given him my consent. He is the kind of man, indeed, to whom I should never dare refuse anything, which he condescended to ask. I now give it to you, if you are resolved on having him. But let me advise you to think better of it. I know your disposition, Lizzy. I know that you could be neither happy nor respectable, unless you truly esteemed your husband; unless you looked up to him as a superior. Your lively talents would place you in the greatest danger in an unequal marriage. You could scarcely escape discredit and misery. My child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life." (59.36)
This is kind of interesting, as far as we can get a sense of Mr. Bennet's views on partnership as a necessary part of marriage. The idea itself is kind of confused, though—which should Elizabeth want, equality of intelligence, since she would be miserable in an "unequal marriage"? Or does Mr. Bennet still think that in a relationship the man must be smarter than the woman, so that she would think him "a superior"? If it's the latter, then shouldn't his own marriage be totally awesome?
"An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do." (18.20)
To be honest, knowing that we'd never see Mrs. Bennet again is definitely motivation enough not to marry Mr. Collins. (As though we needed any more.) But we should point out that "see" here means more like, "recognize" or "acknowledge." Basically, Lizzy is being threatened with being disowned—a very real possibility. Well, probably not for refusing to marry someone. But, in most families, Lydia could well have been kicked out forever.