Posted by Sarah P on May 19, 1998 at 06:47:14:
In response to JA & sex outside marriage, written by Linden on May 16, 1998 at 19:39:25
] I'm puzzled by JA's views on sex outside marriage. In almost all cases she obviously considers it shocking, and it ends in disaster for the woman (or near disaster, in Lydia's case).
I don't know that I'd use the word 'shocking'. Wrong, maybe, and definitely unfortunate. But I don't think JA was easily shocked. She is a realist, and the society of her day allowed a big double standard on moral matters. Getting found out (as today) is a bigger social sin. Lydia's marriage more-or-less rectifies her situation, and marriage to Mr. Elliot would do the same for Mrs Clay. Only real sticklers would ostracise them once married. Willoughby is condemned more for abandoning Eliza than for seducing her - sowing wild oats for young men was normal.
In the case of Lydia JA seems to think it shocking that an obviously unsuitable and probably unsuccessful marriage was the only way out of the mess. 'And they must marry! Yet he is such a man!' Yes, yes, they must marry. There is nothing else to be done.'
(Italics are JA's).
As a Christian she recognises that the ideal of marriage, and the reality of a society where women more or less had to marry for money (or at least where there was money) were different. Apart from the Crofts and the Gardiners, we see few really well matched and happy marriages in the books.
However, I do think she is shocked by extra-marital, as distinct from pre-marital sex. This would be natural to one of her clerical background. Sex before marriage is one thing, adultery and divorce another. That is why Maria Bertram's affair comes across as a different matter from the other relationships, where both parties were free to marry, even if like Wickham they had no intention of so doing.
- Thanks for putting me straight Sarah P 14:36:23 5/20/98 (0)
- Happy marriages Linden 09:12:14 5/19/98 (6)
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