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Written by BarbaraB
(10/3/2009 1:55 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Villainy in the Brandon family, penned by Glenn
The troubling thing about this period is that women's rights were about nil. Women had little, if any, power and as they could not vote, let alone run for election, they could get none, a Catch 22, if you will. They had to rely on the written and oral communication of those sympathetic to the situation, the slow pace of time to change attitudes, or historical events such as, say, how the war needed woman to work in factories during WW II to nudge advances concerning their cause. Over throwing long traditions depended on a great deal of time in most cases. Novels such as Austen's, whether consciously or not, showcased women's abominable plight and, I think, began to work on the societal psyche in a subtle way.
Joan Klingel Ray says in her book:
ďBecause a female had no legal rights in Austenís day, she had to be careful when choosing a husband. For in surrendering her money and her rights to her husband, she wanted to be as sure as she could that he would treat her with respect, fairness, and love. No law required him to do so. In fact, the law gave him the right not to do so. Ladies lived with a set of customs that denied them a great deal. Consequently, women were dependent on men.Ē
Women had to count on the men in their life who were responsible for them to be sensitive to their emotional future as well as their financial one. In the case of the Dashwood sisters, their mother would have been responsible. Despite his failure to some degree as a father, I donít believe Mr. Bennet, for example, would have pressured or forced any of his daughters to marry against their better judgement just for financial gain. Unfortunately, for Eliza (who didn't even have to worry about money), she didnít have an uncle/guardian with such an attitude, one who cared about her ultimate happiness. Besides that, he was also the father of the supposed groom and his interests were biased in favor of his son and Delaford. It was, in fact his only reason for desiring the match; he needed funds for an encumbered estate. It didnít matter that the eldest son didnít love Eliza because he could marry just to get his hands on the money knowing he was free to choose to have affairs with whomever he pleased without repercussions.
Elizaís only power was in holding out which, for whatever reason, she relinquished as soon as she said, ĎI doí. I imagine the pressures just got to be too much although I think she probably discovered in hindsight that the actual marriage was worse than the pressure to submit since her husband treated her unkindly from the startó--maybe because she loved his brother and felt spiteful because, on top of that, she held out as long as she did against marrying him. It appears she traded one misery for a worse misery. On the other hand, if she had continued to hold out, who knows what the uncle might have resorted to over time. As far as I know there was no legal recourse. It was a society with a huge double standard and women were subject to the nature of that beast.
These are just my personal thoughts/ramblings and I certainly do not profess to be anywhere near knowledgeable on the rights of women at the time. :)
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