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Marriage in Jane Austen

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message 1: by Rachel (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:01PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rachel Wagner I have always puzzled over why the purpose of Jane Austen's books are to marry off the heroine, but almost every married couple in her books are complete idiots? Why do you suppose she writes that way? I hope it is not a foreshadowing of the future behavior of our beloved leading ladies and their men!


message 2: by Allison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:07PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Allison I see what you are saying, and it could be troublesome to see Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in such a situation. But I am willing to accept that situation because of this: I believe Jane Austen may have actually been showing that within marriage, one can be whoever one chooses, for it matters not what others think; it matters only what the spouse thinks. One's happiness may depend entirely upon the happiness of another special soul.

A funny thing to think on. : )


message 3: by Rachel (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:08PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rachel Wagner Thanks for your comment. I think you are on the right track. Maybe part of the reason Austen made the married couples so dumb is that the reasons many of them married was not out of love but for position in society. Perhaps this will be the main difference between the marriages of her leading ladies and the others in her books. They actually married for love and refused to do otherwise.
I must disagree with one part of your comment. I don't know if it is healthy for happiness to be completely dependent upon other people. Happiness requires an inner strength from within that nobody can give another person. Others can add immensly to it, but they can't create it.


message 4: by Michelle (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:10PM) (new)

Michelle Glad that someone in those times was honest enough to write about women marrying for money, OR marrying for love, OR (rarely) marrying for both, with love coming before money :)


message 5: by Zahreen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zahreen It's true that most married couples in her books are rather stupid, but there are examples of good marriages. Like in Pride and Prejudice, her aunt and uncle have a very good marriage and they are very sensible people.

I think the reason why the purpose of her books are always to marry off the heroine is because that was the most important decision a woman in her time made - whether to marry and to whom and for what? Austen wanted to write about real life issues, and that was the biggest real life issue for women at the time.


message 6: by Rachel (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:17PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rachel Wagner Yes that is one of the good examples. The Crofts are pretty good in Persuasion. The Westings in Emma are stable.
I think because marriage was such an expectation it makes Lizzie refusing Darcy, Anne refusing the Captain at first, Emma refusing Mr. Elton and Fanny refusing Mr. Crawford seem all the more bold. People must have thought they were crazy to refuse such stable offers. I don't know if it has quite the shock factor for a modern audience.


message 7: by Megan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:52PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Megan Garrison Happiness does require an inner strength, but maybe for some, having another person in their lives would aid in gaining that inner strength. I think Elizabeth is very strong in who she is and who she wants to be and that is why her marriage to Mr. Darcy will stand the test of time.


message 8: by Chicklet (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:00PM) (new)

Chicklet When you are deep in-love the joy of that person is multiplied in your own heart. Their sorrows cause a pain within yourself that is healed best by easing theirs.


Rachel Wagner Everyone good comments. Perhaps part of Elizabeth becoming strong (or stronger) was having to learn of her own frailties and pride. Darcy taught her that she was not perfect- as she did to him. Hopefully as they continue to build each other in marriage they will become even stronger.


Emily Rule I think that Allison was on the right track with this. In my opinion, Jane Austin is condemning the practice of arranged marriages or marrying for status, as was common for the time. She was saying that marriages should be based on love and companionship, not on money or family alliances. To me, the character of Mr. Collins totally shows this. Elizabeth rejects Mr. Collins, although her family strongly approved of him because he would someday inherit their house. Not only would their marriage create a good family alliance, it was seen as a match above what Elizabeth should gain with her social status. However, later in the book we see Catherine with Collins and observe the mediocraty of her life - especially in comparison to Elizabeth's romance with Darcy. Austin is showing that marriage is not an alliance, it is a fairytale.


message 11: by Meg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meg I think its also important to put it all into context. Let's not forget that Jane herself never married, and probably was somewhat troubled by that fact. I do agree that she was trying to point out that so many women of her time were silly little twits unable to think in terms other than who was the best match based on money and status. She shows a disdain in her books for that idea, but never actually condemns the necessity of thinking about marriage as a practical matter- Charlotte is not entirely unhappy with her situation, and she knew it had to turn out that way in order for her to live a fairly comfortable life- its like someone today taking a job they don't particularly like to pay the bills. And of course, she always hoped she would find her true love in the end and so she wrote with an optimistic slant- Emma with Mr. Knightly, Elizabeth with Darcy, Jane and Bingley, because she was hopeful that one day it would happen for her.


message 12: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 04, 2014 10:52AM) (new)

The society at that time had a different, what would say, much constricted kind of mindset. People were concerned about being acceptable in society, pride and respect. The women, since they were so constrained by men, were always after security, acceptability and a happy, cozy bubble life.
Marriage was somehow associated to happiness, love and goodness. Everyone was made to believe in this norm.
So, ofcourse, Jane Austen had this view about marriage she wanted (but didn't get) which is reflected in her works. Her hopes of getting married can be read of in her novels.


message 13: by Kressel (last edited Apr 04, 2014 01:52PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kressel Housman All you ladies MUST read Middlemarch, which starts off with two marriageable Austenesque sisters, but takes you on a very different journey about the mistakes people make in marriage.


Fijke I think it's dangerous to assume that Jane Austen's protagonists reflected her own hopes for marriage. Jane Austen was born in 1775, so by the time her first novel was published, she was already over 35. It was unlikely that by that time she was still going to find a husband in those days. For her early work it's possible that since she'd written them a while before they were published they might reflect some of her hopes, but upon the whole I think her work deserves more credit than saying that they are just about her own hopes for the future. There's definitely some subtle social criticism in the novels. They're not just wishful escapism. Also, Austen's main characters do end up getting the husbands they want, but they are rewarded more for staying true to themselves and their conscience than for seeking social status in marriage.


Elisa Santos Jane portrayed marriage at is was, in her time: mostly arranged marriages because of money, position, a step up the latter of society that joined together such opposite men and women, who were forced to live and have children and take thei place in society. She wanted to bring out the contrast of them and her leading ladies, who refused to be pawns of their family´s fortunes, and married for love, mainly, although her suitors did have a lot of cash (Darcy and Bingley were very wealthy.

So, to answer the question, i think that she merely wanted her ladies to shine above the mediocraty and have healthy, loving marriages and be healthy, worthy couples as opposed to those who lived for the appearances and were very unhapppy.


Rachel Wagner Kressel wrote: "All you ladies MUST read Middlemarch, which starts off with two marriageable Austenesque sisters, but takes you on a very different journey about the mistakes people make in marriage."

That is very true about Middlemarch. It is one of the best books on marriage I've read.


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