Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen provides a powerful and sometimes humorous insight on the institution of marriage in the 18th and 19th century. One of the major themes of the book is how very critical it was for a woman to find a husband. A woman's entire future depended on whether or not this search would be successful. One marriage that displays these very principles is that of Mr. William Collins and Charlotte Lucas. Collins and Lucas epitomize the vast majority of marriages that took place during this era. Austen uses this particular combination to display the future of a couple that chooses security and tolerance over passion and love.
A Father's Legacy to his Daughters by Dr. John Gregory provides an explanation for the actions of Charlotte Lucas. Dr. Gregory writes that the probability of marrying on the basis of love is very slim (Gregory, 407). This one small passage speaks volumes in explaining the actions of Charlotte. Lucas never believes she will marry based on passion and therefore never seeks it. Women raised during this time were taught to expect nothing more. Charlotte does not love Mr. Collins, but she does not anticipate ever marrying someone she loves, this would not be practical. This is not to say that Charlotte is not interested in marrying someone she loves, but securing an offer of marriage is much more important for economic security. With Charlotte's expectations being low, she enters this union fully aware of her future with Mr. Collins.
Thus it comes as no surprise that early in the novel Charlotte makes her opinion well known to Elizabeth. " ¦it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life (Austen, 91). The attitude that Charlotte displays here is very familiar to England middle and upper class. Marriage is entered into because it is a social duty expected of daughters from respectable familie