Pride and Prejudice

Money as Social Currency in the Society Described in Pride and Prejudice

In the society described in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, money was as much a social currency as it was a means of exchange for goods and services. Money was often commensurate with social rank, yet there was a feeling against parvenus who worked for their fortunes. As the mark of an eligible bachelor or an avenue to gentility or a genteel career, money had a great part to play in the society in which Pride and Prejudice, a novel of manners, is set.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." This sentence, one of the most famous first lines in English literature, begins Pride and Prejudice, stating quite clearly the central position of marriage in the book and the central position of money in marriage. Mrs. Bennet is obsessed with the concern of seeing her five daughters, who will not receive their father's estate, "well married," that is, married to a man of good means. Mrs. Bennet and her neighbors are entranced by Mr. Bingley's "four or five thousand a year," and even more bowled over by Mr. Darcy's income of ten thousand pounds a year. Pride and Prejudice provides examples of purely mercenary...

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