Wharton and Chesnutt

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In Wharton's story, 'Souls Belated', we see Lydia's point of view on marriage-she didn't believe in it. She had been married once, and was on her way towards a divorce. Gannett, her old flame, asks her time and time again for her hand in marriage, yet she declines. One time when Gannet asks her, she comes back with "that hateful paper come to spoil everything between us!", and the moments later, flat out said, "But I don't WANT to marry you!" Neither of the two believe in the 'abstract sacredness' of marriage, and both Lydia and Gannet know that no ceremony is needed to show their love for the other. Lydia sees marriage as a way to know the other person can't escape; as a sacrifice a person must make to another person and their family. In her mind, marriage is a way to get ahead with social advantages, and be on a top person's "A-list." She doesn't want to be married, although Gannet does--she wishes to remain free. I think Gannet will keep trying on her. In Chesnutt's "The Wife of His Youth," it stars out in the story that Mr. Ryder wanted to marry Mrs. Dixon to "further the upward process of absorption he had been wishing and waiting for." At first, it appeared he had only been attracted to her for her looks; then it moved on to her 'refined manners and the vivacity of her wit.' He also felt a marriage to Mrs. Dixon would help the 'further upward process of absorption' he had been waiting for. In other words, give his self-esteem a boost and make him more popular. Throughout the story he thinks of her, and wants her as his bride. A turn of events come about when an elderly woman, Liza Jane, come to visit Mr. Ryder one day. She spoke of her long-time marriage, and her husband Sam Taylor. She went on about her marriage and how she knew her husband was still alive and still out there looking for her, because "He wouldn' marry no yuther 'oman 'tel he foud' out 'bout me." and that he wouldn't forget about her because "Sam ain' dat kin' her man. He wuz good ter me, but he wuzn' much good ter nobody e'se..." She believed in the sacred bond of marriage, even though she hadn't seen her husband in about 25 years, and it was a slave marriage.

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