Face it when you hear those words “it is a truth universally acknowledged…” your mind goes immediately to Pride & Prejudice imagining Mrs. Bennet attempting to marry off all her girls.
Jane Austen was such an amazing writer. She creates an opening hook that has you deeply invested in the story within two seconds. This hook is one that has continued to be entertaining for ages. I mean that saying never gets old, but constantly draws you in no matter how many times you have read it.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in posession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Unfortunately in today’s time, that no longer seems to be true. Most guys who are well off are more interested in sampling honey pots than buying the actual beehive (like my metaphor? I thought it was a nice change from the milk and cow analogy).
If Mrs. Bennet lived today this would be her immediate reaction:
She’d be like, “go after that man and use every ounce of your feminine wiles to capture him. He’s rich and a big ticket don’t let him go.”
It’s interesting how marriage is such an important thing for a women in Regency times, especially since her role was to be mother and helpmate, but it is a theme that is a major factor only for our P&P heroines. In Sense & Sensibility, the mother and daughters are not even concerned about marriage, but are focused on their grief for their dead husband and father or occupied on trying to manage their lives in a poorer state of affairs. In Mansfield Park, no one thinks about who Fanny will marry until the rascal Henry Crawford starts paying attention to her. Emma is determined to remain a spinster and her father is thoroughly pleased with that. In Northanger Abbey, Catherine’s family never brings up the question of who and when they should marry their daughter. By the time Persuasion starts, Anne has already turned down two proposals but her extremely vain father is not worried over her lack of a martial state but that she isn’t up to his standards of beauty. Only in P&P do we see a mother so determined to marry off her children. Of course unlike Emma, NA, or Persusaion the Bennets have to worry about an entailed estate and having no male children.
What also is intresting is that even though “a single man in posession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”; there are many male characters in her novels who have money and do not wish to marry. There is Willoughby, Tom Bertram, Henry Crawford, Captain Tilney, and Mr Elliot (the younger). Willoughby and Mr. Elliot enjoy being single and sampling as many flowers as they can, only marrying to protect their fortune. In Willoughby’s case making sure he is not disinherited (or if he is that he is covered) and in Elliot’s case making sure that his uncle does not remarry and have a male heir; therfore taking his inheritence away. For Captain Tilney and Tom they never marry; Tilney continues his wicked ways while after Tom’s close encounter with death causes him to rethink his life. Henry Crawford is a little different being a Sebastian Valmont-esque character who tries to win the good girl’s affections, but ends up creating a huge scandal with her cousin and never marrying.
Of course her books are also filled with men who want to get married, after all if they weren’t would we love them as much as we do?
One of the most intriguing things about this phrase is the statement in “want of a wife”. Want’s two most used definitions are “have a desire to possess” or “a lack or deficiency”. Therfore this statement applys to both Binglely (as one who desires a wife) and Darcy (has a lack of one) along with all the other Austen men.
Just like any other mother, Mrs. Bennet can’t help hoping that her daughters will catch the eye and heart of a single man in posession of a good fortune.
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For a previous Pride & Prejudice post go to Happy Birthday Pride & Prejudice