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|There are some costs to marriage too
Written by Tracy W
(10/9/2006 2:09 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, I Can't Help Wondering, penned by BarbaraB
I think we will have to disagree on the direness of risking having to find another house to rent. I didn't know anyone could regard it with such horror as to make it a reason to marry. But may I point out that Mrs Dashwood did marry, and yet still is reduced to all the risks of renting? And if you read _Per_, you will come across some other examples of people who married but are also suffering from whatever loss of ease of mind comes from renting from a stranger.
The statement that the Dashwood girls "do have to marry in order to remain/regain their status in the upper tier of the gentry" may be true, but we cannot deduce from that that the Dashwood girls do have to marry. I would have to go to medicine school to gain the status of a top-rated surgeon, but that doesn't mean I am planning to apply to medical school. Both medical school and marriage for security have costs as well as benefits.
In the case of marriage, while I agree there are some definite social downsides, as you say, to spinisterhood, I also note there are some definite personal downsides to marrying a man you do not care for. Imagine the wedding night - shudder. And then perhaps spending the rest of your life with a man with whom you were deeply incompatible or perhaps even with a man who was personally cruel. I strongly suspect that if I had married Sir John I would have been contemplating slitting my throat or his within three months as a respite from the endless socialising - not because Sir John is a cruel or terrible man, but just because we would be massively personally incompatible.
In JA's time there were also the risks of childbirth, which could mean the death of the Dashwood girls, and the risks of loss of a child and the grief that brings, and then the risks due to the lack of financial control for a married woman due to the laws of the time.
Now some women may be so obsessed with status as to regard regaining the status of upper gentry as to feel they had to marry. But I can see no indication that the Dashwood girls are that obsessed.
It was quite possible to think differently and decide that the costs of marrying a particular man may outweigh the benefits of an improved social status and reduced odds of having to rent a house - JA herself refused an advantageous marriage apparently on the basis that she did not care for the man personally. Given the quarrels I have had with flatmates - a relationship far less intimate than marriage - I can see her point.
Anyway, this is turning into a two-person conversation, so can you please email me at email@example.com if you wish to continue?
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