Two-part (and rather involved, sorry) answer
Posted by Jessamyn on October 26, 1997 at 13:39:45:
In response to Washington Square vs. Sense and Sensibility (poss. Spoilers), written by Lynne on October 26, 1997 at 01:41:50
] I just saw the movie Washington Square today (and I would recommend seeing it, too) and I could not help but compare this story with S&S, and other works of Jane Austen's. . In some ways, very similar...which is more important: love or money? One thing with Jane Austen: she does ask her characters to recognize wealth, and to validate its existence: for instance, free talk is given about the incomes of the different characters, and no one seems uncomfortable with considering the wealth of a person as part of the package. Yet, in Washington Square , it is part of the test of Morris Townsend's love that he seems to be asked not to notice or care about Catherine's fortune. I do not believe Jane Austen asks this of her characters. It is understood that in order for one to remain in their class, they must marry not just for love, but for money, too. Of course, Morris Townsend was quite impovershed, and seeking to raise himself out of his class....maybe that is why the difference in attitudes about money.
There are two aspects to this. Even in Austen, a man trying to marry a woman with a great deal more money than himself is suspect. Look at Wickham's attempts on the girl (whose name I forget, the one with freckles) whose relations suddenly spirit her away to visit someone and get her out of his reach. A very similar situation, really.
On the other hand, I'm reading a really interesting book right now called Parallel Lives. It was written by a woman who examined the marriages of various 19th-century couples about whose private lives we know a lot because they were writers--such as the Carlyles, the Ruskins, and the Dickenses. One of the things she points out is that this whole idea of marriage being primarily for love is a Victorian thing. It was coming into being in Austen's time, but it was still totally ok for people then to marry strictly for advantageous reasons and then spend a lot of time ignoring each other.
The Victorians developed all this squishy romantic stuff about love and marriage that we still operate under today. It was the Victorians who developed the honeymoon into a de rigeur event. The Victorians who felt that a young couple should be madly in love when they married and want to spend all their time together. One of the author's points is that this was a lot of pressure for two people who often didn't really know each other well and who certainly knew very little about sex.
Anyway, in Washington Square's late-Victorian atmosphere, the idea of marrying for money had changed from a practical reality to a slightly tacky thing to sweep under the carpet. People were still doing it (and marrying for social position, the other big prize), but they were supposed to dress it up under lots of romantic pretension. Morris Townsend's motives are too obvious for everyone's taste.
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