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|"Gainful employment" was not an attractive option.
Written by Helen Halstead
(5/20/2007 6:52 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Didn't eliminate gainful employment, penned by Tracy W
The position of governess was better but not attractive. The governess lived in a no-man's land of above servants but, because an employee, not equal to a gentlewoman. Many governesses did not eat or socialise with the family because they were considered unworthy of this honour, and not with the servants either because being usually the daughter of a gentleman, she could not. There were exceptions, of course, but being treated with respect and as a lady was not something the governess could dictate.
Charlotte would have no reason to consider this desperate step. Most men of independent means (even prosperous tradesmen) preferred supporting a spinster sister, no matter how much they grumbled about the expense, to the worse option of having a sister working for her living. It is clear that Charlotte's brothers are in this category - there is no mention of "Why don't you get a job, sister?" We just read of some grumbling about their future responsibility towards her.
IMO many gentlewomen faced with being a governess or marrying Mr Collins would have chosen the latter. To compare such a marriage with prostitution is not reasonable, I think. Even today, not everyone marries for romantic love. They can be motivated by loneliness, a need for companioship, even a feeling of helping the other person or of needing assistance. Charlotte has much to offer,and so has Mr Collins, including his person. But no-one's perfect!
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