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The Role of Marriage in Jane Austen's Fiction

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Often, marriage is about nothing more than money. Marriage is often arranged so that one partner can elevate social status. “ Mr. Elliot wears mourning for the early demise of his wife (though for him this was a fortunate accident, as it leaves him to the enjoyment of the wife's fortune without the encumbrance of the wife). ” (McMaster, 735). However, Austen tends to have a female character who transcends societal restraints on women. In Persuasion, this character is Anne. She is distinct from many of the other female characters who marry for the typical Victorian ideals.

“ All the previous heroines have had to learn how and whom to love. But Anne knew this all along. ” (McMaster, 735). Austen’ s key line defining the differences in approaches to marriage is apparent in Anne. “ She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older" (Austen, 30). However, this is not to imply that either society or Austen see these roles and rules of Victorian society as indestructible. Austen’ s role as a novelist is focusing on those who rebel against the norm.

“ Of course, the hierarchy in Austen's social world is much too complex to be reduced to a simple, binary opposition between masters and servants. Most individuals find themselves independent in relation to some (that is, above them) and dependent upon (or beneath) some others. ” (Handler & Segal, 693). Also, women should not necessarily be confined to motherhood and the role of a wife does not always need to be for the role of childbearing as was traditionally the case. “ This novel has not only its good and bad mothers to act as models for the outcomes of women's lives; it has what is very rare in Austen, a childless woman-the Admiral's wife-who has seemingly sublimated her childlessness in becoming her husband's active partner and companion. ” (Myers, 231).

Tim Fulford acknowledges Austen’ s tendency to discuss social issues of her time as he states “ critical inquiry into Jane Austen’ s novels has come to focus upon their relationship to the social and political issues of a nation” (Fulford 152).  

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