First Impressions “Pride and Prejudice”: Exploring Entailment
How it works
Entail (en-tail) – A restriction, especially of lands, by limiting the inheritance to the owner’s lineal descendants or to a particular class thereof (Merriam-Webster). In Pride and Prejudice, the entailment was owning a piece of land that is kept in one family and made them more wealthy and of a higher class. The oldest, closest male in the family must be next in line to inherit the entailment, and in the case of the book Mr. Collins was the next in line, and the land was the village of Longbourn.
The Significance of Entailment
Mrs. Bennet was the cousin of Mr. Collins through marriage, and she had five daughters that she strived to get married to him in order to be a part of the entailment. Issues arose in the midst of trying to gain this entailment. Jane Austen sought to address those issues. One of the biggest issues, in my belief, was the desperation of Mrs. Bennet to get one of her daughters married after learning about the death of her husband, Mr. Bennett. When the dominant male of a family dies, it causes a struggle for the women of the family, especially ones that were in their class, so it was either the struggle or marrying someone of wealth that would pull them out of it.
Jane Austen’s take on the 19th-century woman was much like the real 19th-century woman of that time. If you were married, you automatically must submit to your husband, and you were not independent. The only way that you were able to be wealthy and have class was through your wealthy husband. A woman’s goal and overall purpose in life was marriage. Pride and Prejudice’s entailment was an advantage that came with marriage. Mrs. Bennett’s obsession with getting her daughters married to inherit the entailment was one issue that arose. Mr. Benett’s death was the reason that they would not be able to live in Longbourn. The whole point of the entail was for the family inhabiting the area to stay in it instead of another family gaining it. Mr. Collins would be fixing the problem by marrying one of the Bennet sisters. Leading up to that, Mrs. Bennet starts to grow a dislike for Mr. Collins and which causes her to miss the point by letting her greed for the wealth and class of her daughters overshine everything else. This was a weird thing because she was also forcing Elizabeth to marry Collins. Nothing says or nothing goes in the eyes of Mrs. Bennett until one of her daughters is married.
Although Mrs. Bennett was missing the point of entailment because of greed and dislike for Mr. Collins for a while, the entailment was indeed an unfair settlement. Having no sons next in line of entailment, Mrs. Bennett’s daughters would inherit little to none of the property and income. However, Mrs. Bennett would inherit the majority of it. Still, then, this drive for marriage for wealth was still there, although the sole purpose of marriage was love and not wealth.
- “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen