According to Jane Austen, what does virtue have to do with a good marriage?
The book opens with one of literatures' most famous lines. The truth universally acknowledged was the conventional wisdom that Jane Austen wanted to share. This conventional wisdom on marriage takes us to the heart of the whole book, illustrating what are seen as "truth" and what are seen as "right." Though it may be true that men in possession of good fortune be in want of a wife, a second and maybe even radical truth was more prevalent in the book. It is that a single woman, who maybe in want of good fortune, be also in want of a man. In the book's depiction of the quest of finding the perfect woman (or the man) for marriage, we see how some motivations and prerequisites fall short on being "right."
At one level, we can interpret the importance of marriage simply as a matter of fortune and status. With that, it can be inferred that the factors of a good marriage relies on good fortune and status alone. The book shows that a heavy importance was placed upon the married for the mere fact that the vocation of marriage was elevated to a certain height attached to a certain appeal. The social context within which the whole story works out has been explicitly over-welcoming of those married and discriminating those who are not. This might be contrary to how the early fathers like St. Augustine saw marriage, as a lowly vocation proper to those who are weak. However, the nineteenth century's view on marriage does not signify a status exemplifying good virtue, rather it is heavily tied on social and economic determinants. As we can see in the book, Charlotte married Mr. Collins in order to obtain financial security and in order to escape from being branded as an "old maid". It never mattered to her that Mr. Collins seems neither agreeable nor the fact that she doesn't even know if they are compatible. All it mattered to her is that she is finally getting settled to a stable household.
The book also demonstrates another misguided perception on the motivations and prerequisites of a good marriage. The marriage of Lydia to Wickham parallels Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's—all married for superficial reasons, for wrong reasons. Lydia, deceived by her naivety and promiscuousness, married Wickham. Wickham, on the other hand, married to pay off his debts. Lydia did not even bother to get to know who Wickham is and she is already satisfied by the physical attraction that she feels for him. The same way goes with Mr. Bennet who later paid the price for his hasty and "sexually-motivated" decision to marry his wife.
In spite of all these, Jane Austen manages to show the foundations of good marriage through the stories of Jane, Bingley, Elizabeth and Darcy. However in my opinion, the foundations of Jane and Bingley's relationship was inadequate to be able to establish them as excellent. From the start, they display mutual attraction that was only strengthened by instances of conversations that I think is not enough. The only test that their relationship ever took was Darcy's prejudice towards Jane's intentions. But taking their dispositions, demeanor and outlook, it seems as though they are really played out to be together. Jane's pleasing nature was enough for Bingley to consider her a good wife. Though she may come from a family of almost no wealth and prestige, it doesn't make her unsuitable for marriage.
If the book followed a traditional scheme, then the reader would be already satisfied with the love story between Jane and Bingley. However, the anti-hero and anti-heroine characters of both Darcy and Elizabeth made them the unlikely pair. This unconventional relationship exemplifies Jane Austen's view of the perfect foundation for a good marriage. The two started out with contempt and disdain, contrary to Jane and Bingley's. However because of the opportunities that were given to them to exemplify their real nature, virtues and talents, their relationship grew into one of literatures' best. They took the time to completely know each other, forget the prejudices of their first impressions, let go of their pride and allow real love to set in.