In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, life for the upper-middle class and the aristocracy was simple and comfortable, at least on the surface. Strict manners and ‘morals,’; that often prevented them from asserting or protecting themselves, bound these two classes of people. Such lifestyles are illustrated quite honestly in Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice. The characters in this novel have comfortable lives on the surface; however, internally they are victims of their social status.
The husband and wife duo of Collins and Charlotte Lucas-Collins are two prime examples of this mentality. Collins, who is a minister, and bound by the social class of his benefactor, Lady Catherine, always puts on a facade that makes him seem much classier than normal when he is around others. He constantly showed off his possessions. Charlotte, Collins’ wife, was not so much his wife by choice, but rather, out of necessity. Charlotte, a twenty-seven year old single woman nearly doomed to remain a spinster for the rest of her life, had to marry soon, and the only man that made a proposal was Collins, therefore she had to say yes.
Mrs. Bennet, the mother of Eliza, always hurriedly rushes about to get her daughters married. Her haste is understandable, partly, because, the Bennet family has no male heir, therefore any daughters left unmarried will be thrust into poverty upon their father’s death. However, most of her rushing seems nothing more than the nagging, useless bickering of a gossiping old biddy.
Mr. Bingley seems not to be a victim per se, but the people around him and their superficial motives tend to cause him harm. His sister, Caroline, causes many people to avoid Bingley because of her snobbishness. Mr. Darcy, though good intentioned, almost ruins Bingley’s most promising marriage conquest by breaking Bingley and Jane Bennet up.
These characters, though wealthy, and well entertained, became obvious victims of their social class, and its ‘code of ethics.’; The more wealth one had, the tougher their rules of etiquette became, often forcing these people to forfeit their roles as thinking human beings. This fact rings true not only in Pride and Prejudice, but also in life during that time period.