In Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet, the mother of the protagonist, Elizabeth, is generally portrayed as a buffoon who is an adversary for he daughter that is trying to force her into a marriage she does not want. One may wonder how she can be justified in any way, considering that she is known to embarrass her family members and behave idiotically. However, in the time period they live in, a marriage is necessary for all of the family to avoid a terrible fate. Mrs. Bennet, while often behaving improperly, does try to do the best for her daughters based on the world she lives in.
Elizabeth Bennet’s refusal of Mr. Collins puts her family at risk of being homeless. In England at the time of great landowners, according to professor Naomi Tadmor of Lancaster University, “Primogeniture existed in both law and custom” (Tadmor, Eighteenth-Century England 109). As such, only one person may acquire the estate. Only males may inherit, as Mr. Bennet, after receiving a letter, says to his family, “It is from my cousin, Mr. Collins, who, when I am dead, may turn you all out of this house as soon as he pleases” (Austen 60). Mr. Bennet is alluding to how Mr. Collins’s distance from the family would justify the action he describes, even as Mr. Bennet has never previously met Mr. Collins and therefore cannot factor in his strange personality to this eventuality. If Mr. Collins would turn them out, as he is expected to do, the family would be homeless.
This risk of being kicked out is so great that Mrs. Bennet is sure that Elizabeth would marry Mr. Collins. After hearing the news of Elizabeth’s refusal, Mrs. Bennet, “was beyond the reach of reason and she continued to rail bitterly against the cruelty of settling an estate away from a family of five daughters” (Austen 61). Mrs. Bennet’s greatest problem, therefore, is the loss of Longbourn, not the unmarried state of her second daughter. Mrs. Bennet then relapses into these feelings as Jane loses her relationship with Mr. Bingley and a loss of their current lifestyle is certain. However, if any daughter does, they will regain a home, which makes Mrs. Bennet become focused on making sure a daughter marries.
In addition to providing the family with a home, entering a secure marriage is the best thing Mrs. Bennet knows for her children, given the time that she lives in. Without having a husband to support one of the daughters, there were few other options for women who needed to work. Since the home will be lost, the family’s historical source of income will be completely lost. In addition to not knowing any particularly marketable skills, the daughters would be frowned upon for working. According to the English Heritage, “The Victorians idealized women as creatures of delicacy and tender feelings who must not be exposed to the rough and tumble of everyday life” (English Heritage 361). While the Victorian Era did not begin until 1837, the ideal of women was still present in the period, and,...