This essay shows that marriage and the refusal of marriage proposals are essential in Jane Austen’s four novels,
Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion (1983). The society which Austen portrays in her works, defines that marriage is considered a duty and something every young woman should undergo. Therefore, it is interesting that despite this fact, the main female characters in all four novels reject the proposals from one or two other men.
The reasons for the rejections and the marriage issue will be studied manly through close reading of the novels. The essay will also be a brief observation of whether there is a feminist approach in the novels. In other words, this essay reflects on the female characters’ reasons for rejecting marriage proposals and demonstrates that there are similar but also different reasons.
The main reason seems to be the importance of a marriage out of love and to be able to choose whom to marry. The freedom of choosing a husband is one of the first issues that feminists advocate and thus it is an important aspect of feminist approach in the novels. However, the character’s own upbringing and character, her place in society and the financial situation plays a significant role. In almost all four novels, the heroines gain self-awareness and control over their own influence. Additional important reason might be the way in which the proposal is made and appreciated.
Jane Austen; marriage; proposal; Pride and Prejudice; Mansfield Park; Emma; Persuasion; feminist