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Lucky Like Lizzie or Lucky Like Jane?
Like just about anything else, finding love is just as much as matter of choice as luck. Let’s take Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. She was fortunate to be born into a genteel family, but since she had no brothers, and her father’s estate was entailed to the nearest male heir, her prospects of making a good marriage were minuscule. There were other problems too, such as her mother’s lack of breeding and connections to the merchant class, but Lizzie, out of all her sisters, was determined to marry someone she could love and respect or else become a maiden aunt to all of her sisters’ children.
Considering her prospects, most would have agreed with her mother that she was fortunate indeed to have won the admiration of Mr. Collins. After all, he would one day own Longbourn and if she were his wife, her mother and sisters would still have a home after her father’s death. It was no more than the truth when Mr. Collins told her that she might never get another proposal of marriage.
But as much as she loved her family, Lizzie was intelligent enough to know that it would be a mistake to marry a man she despised just to secure a home for her family. Had things not worked out with Mr. Darcy, no doubt there were relatives who would have provided for them to prevent them from being cast into the street. But they would have been reduced to living in straitened circumstances, making it even less likely that they would find suitable matches, and they would be beholden to their relatives for the rest of their lives.
So Mr. Darcy’s appearance was a lucky stroke for Lizzie. And yet…if she’d been the sort of woman who was on the lookout for a meal ticket, he wouldn’t have looked twice at her. Because it was her character that attracted him as much as her appearance.
Now Jane Bennet is another story. I get the feeling that Jane would have married Mr. Collins if she’d been given the chance (and it’s not just Lost in Austen that makes me think so). Because of her astonishing good looks, she’d been brought up to believe that she owed it to her family to marry well, no matter what. For her, yes, it was an amazing stroke of luck that she managed to win the affection of the man she loved, and that he was wealthy as well.
I don’t know about you, but I have to respect Lizzie for her strength of character more than Jane for her willingness to sacrifice herself for her family. It might have something to do with the fact that the heroine of my current project, Cherishing Charlotte, faces a similar dilemma. But I can’t help thinking that in general, luck is a fickle friend. What if you marry a Mr. Collins for security and then meet the love of your life? What you considered good luck has now turned into a dreadful mistake. And in the Regency era, marriage was pretty much forever. And in spite of what is implied in so many historical romances (and in Lost in Austen), it wasn’t at all simple to get an annulment or a divorce. For most people it was impossible.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that the romantic side of me likes leprechauns and pots of gold and love at first sight, but the practical side reminds me that what many consider “luck” is at least partly the result of a sense of self-worth and determination to be true to oneself, no matter what the consequences.
If you were a Bennet daughter, would you be more like Lizzie or Jane in your attitude toward marriage? Why do you think so?