Jane Austen 's Day, Women Essay

Jane Austen 's Day, Women Essay

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The modern romantic comedy often relies on the Cinderella effect: a member of the highest class just happens to fall in love with a member of a lower class, resulting in the fairytale ending where everyone gets rich (by mere coincidence). Back in Jane Austen’s day, women used marriage as a tool for socioeconomic independence and advancement, or “the usual inducements of women to marry” (84). A person’s class determined marriage opportunities, and one had to choose the logical (not romantic) option. Every woman needed to marry in order to gain independence from her father, which is where the disorder of Austen’s novel, Emma, comes in. At first Austen provides the illusion of romance (love overcoming socioeconomic boundaries) and Emma’s eternal singledom, but in the end the marriages eliminate every defiance against social expectations. Through the guise of romance, Austen depicts the resolution of chaos in an ordered society.
The first couple, the Westons, is one of the more romantic pairings in the novel, but there is still purpose to their matrimony. Mr. Weston exists on a level inbetween Mr. Elton and Mr. Knightley, a hardworking man who has made mistakes in the past but now has earned his property and financial standing. His marriage to a governess relies more on love than advancement, but Miss Taylor had to leave the Hartfield househould somehow. Mr. Weston also lacks a high enough social status to shoot for much better than a well-educated, well-loved governess. While Mrs. Weston rose a little bit, no leaps were made on the social ladder and marriage served its proper purpose (safety and independence).
The marriage with little motivation but companionship is that of Harriet Smith and Robert Martin, which is only right since t...


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...f they were not both rich (Emma is slightly lower due to being young and female, though). They by no means have to reach down, either in character or financial status. Austen uses love as an excuse, but in reality it could be no other way, as the characters themselves say.
Living in a society obsessed with love makes it challenging to view marriage as anything else but a tool of love. When one looks at the relationships in Emma, however, a less romantic use of marriage reveals itself. While love may have been involved at times, marriage was always between relatively financially equal individuals. The point of marriage was to fix a problem, not put two halves of one whole together. It is important to recognize that romantic love is a fairly recent concept, and that past marriages were highly strategic. Every once in a while strategy and love just happened to coincide.

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