Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice Wealth Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Mr. Collins, to be sure, was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment to [Charlotte Lucas] must be imaginary. But still he would be her husband. Without thinking highly either of men or matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want. This preservative she had now obtained; and at the age of twenty-seven, without having ever been handsome, she felt all the good luck of it. (22.3)
Charlotte is a "well-educated young woman of small fortune," which, once you add the fact that she's not very attractive, is actually tragic. She has almost no chance of marrying, and doing anything else—like being a governess, which would be an option—would kick her out of her social class. She either has to marry Mr. Collins or spend the rest of her life living in her brothers' houses and begging them for money. Seriously, can you blame her?
"Pray, my dear aunt, what is the difference in matrimonial affairs, between the mercenary and the prudent motive? Where does discretion end, and avarice begin? Last Christmas you were afraid of his marrying me, because it would be imprudent; and now, because he is trying to get a girl with only ten thousand pounds, you want to find out that he is mercenary." (27.8-9)
Lizzy points out to her aunt that tying marriage to money like this just makes the entire population hypocritical: Wickham can't marry her because that would be "imprudent," i.e. really dumb. But when he goes after an heiress, he gets called "mercenary," i.e. a gold-digger. This is literally a lose-lose situation for Wickham, not that he needs any help being a loser.
The dinner was exceedingly handsome, and there were all the servants and all the articles of plate which Mr. Collins had promised; and, as he had likewise foretold, he took his seat at the bottom of the table, by her ladyship's desire, and looked as if he felt that life could furnish nothing greater. He carved, and ate, and praised with delighted alacrity; and every dish was commended, first by him and then by Sir William, who was now enough recovered to echo whatever his son-in-law said, in a manner which Elizabeth wondered Lady Catherine could bear. But Lady Catherine seemed gratified by their excessive admiration, and gave most gracious smiles, especially when any dish on the table proved a novelty to them. (29.14)
Just because it's bad to be poor doesn't mean it's good to be rich: Lady Catherine is just as proud as her nephew Mr. Darcy, and (unlike him) she's also so conceited that she doesn't even notice that Mr. Collins is totally sucking up to her.