Changing attitudes to marriage

For my assessment I am writing to compare three short stories, each in different centuries; one in the 18th, one in the 19th and on in the 20th. Each are by different authors but all illustrate the attitudes to marriage at the time of each era. This is what I am going to be comparing the three on. The first story is ‘The Three Sisters’ which was written in the 18th century by Jane Austen. It is written in a series of letters informing the reader of the events taking place between a family of three sisters who are all looking towards marriage.

It explores their attitudes and what different things they hope married life can help them achieve. Jane Austen was born on 16th December 1775 and was an English writer, well-known for her reality, harsh social commentary and her talent of using free, indirect speech, burlesque and irony. It is these factors that have earned her a place as one of the most widely read and beloved writers in the history of English literature. Her plots were comic and they often highlighted the dependence of women on marriage to secure their social status and economic security, much showed in her story of ‘The Three Sisters’.One of her strongest influences, clear in her writing, was the realism of the 18th Century and the moral issues that were so very often associated with it. In the story of ‘The Three Sisters’ the characters we meet all display different attitudes toward married life.

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The main character, Mary Stanhope is a shallow, contradictive and insensitive individual whos main reason for marrying is social gain. On the contrary, her two younger sisters, Sophie and Georgiana are both hoping to marry out of love and respect. Mr.Watts is a wealthy young man who is hoping to be joined with the Stanhope family, although he doesn’t display any concerns over which sister he takes down the aisle. The fact that such a wealthy young man wants to be joined with one of her daughters is enough to comfort Mrs. Stanhope to believe that she will be looked after, since her husband passed away.

As Mary is the oldest, she is the first of the sisters to receive the proposal, if she declines Sophie will then be asked and, if Sophie too declines, Georgiana will have no choice but to accept, due to the pressure put on the three girls put on by their mother.This shows how Austen was a realistic writer as this arrangement was extremely common in the times she lived in. The first attitude we see is a characteristic of Mary; fickleness. It shines through when she is faced with the decision of whether she should marry Mr. Watts. The first conversation concerning the matter between Mary and her mother showed the reader of Mary’s indecisiveness, as her initial opinion on the topic was, ‘That old fool Mr. Watts has told you all about it..

. however you shant force me to have him if I don’t like it.However, upon her mother’s reply informing her of the fact that if Mary doesn’t accept, his hand in marriage will be passed down to Sophy, the middle daughter, Mary’s reply changed the reaction first shown; ‘Indeed Sophy need not trouble herself for I shall certainly marry him myself. ‘ Already, Mary is showing her inability to come to a decision and her complete disregard to the seriousness that the circumstances hold.

This leads me onto my next point, that the story displays some cases of immaturity on the level of relationships.In the story Mary and Mr. Watts are often seen arguing and provoking each other will name-calling etc; ‘I saw a man much more handsome than you today’. By doing this Mary is proving that she doesn’t understand how to behave in a relationship. However, Mr. Watts also proves this aswell. ‘You’re a vixen’, they both show they are new to the relationship but also, on a much bigger scale they are proving what was most apparent in the Austen era.

You hardly ever marry for love.On the contrary are both of Mary’s younger sisters, who both have their sights set on marrying for love, respect and happiness. However, when Mr.

Watts says: ‘you might want to forget about those things when trying to find a husband, or else you most certainly will be made to after the marriage has taken place,’ he reinforces what many girls had to realise back then and what we have come to realise now: The main reason for marriage in the 18th Century was for money, status and all things accociated with being a well reputed member of society.In Jane Austen’s short story, she proves this to be the case when the main character, Mary Stanhope reels off a list of demands in order for her to be joined with Mr. Watts. Her demands where so high that Mr. Watts considered marrying one of her sisters, but Mary’s competetive side became known as she said she desired nothing more than to be married before her friend and definitely before her sister. Also we get to view Mr. Watts in some depth and get to view him as a character. He is quite a commanding figure who likes to get his own way.

He doesn’t like to be dictated and really doesn’t like to be undermined. This is apparent when Mary’s mother is trying to negotiate how much her daughter is entitled to. These attitutdes were not uncommon. The second story I read was called ‘Teresa’s Wedding’ a story about a girl from Ireland who is forced into a decision when she falls into difficult circumstances, forbidden in the age that she lived in. The story was written by William Trevor, a successful writer in the 20th Century.

Full name William Trevor Cox, he was born in Mitchelstown, County cork, Ireland into a middle-class protestant family, unusual for a country so well-known for its wide Catholic Community. Trevor’s books were usually set in both England and Ireland, ranging from black comedies to tales based on Irish history and politics. In Trevor’s early books it has been written that they are peopled by eccentrics that engage in hilariously comic activities that are recounted by a detached narrative voice.Instead of one central figure, the novels feature several protagonists drawn together by an institutional setting, which acts as a convergence point for their individual stories.

His later stories are considered to be more technical and logical than his others but are still very widely recognised for him drawing on factors of his Irish background and upbringing to compare and discuss the difference with the modern day. In this story, there are also a wide variety of attitudes by various people and how they consider marriage.One of the first attitudes that is apparent from the beginning of the story is that Teresa and Artie are marrying through force and not out of their own choice.

Throughout the whole wedding they both seem miserable and unhappy but because of Teresa’s pregnancy they have no choice but to sucombe to the events. In this story, the man who seems to be the main ‘organisor’ of the wedding is Father Hogan. He spends his time visiting every attender trying his best to convince them that the wedding is a success and that the ‘kids’ are perfect for each other.

This couldn’t be further from the truth however. Arties best friend, Screw Doyle tells Artie that a few days before the wedding he took Teresa into a field and ‘had a bloody good ride of her’. As a result, this makes Artie very insecure about whether the baby could be his. Therefore, he goes to Teresa and asks her. By doing this, he is proving that they aren’t in love, due to the lack of trust, and that nothing that he finds out could make the situation awkward between them because there are no feelings there to damage; they are able to be 100% truthful.But, when Teresa admits its true he begins to highly doubt hes done the right thing by standing by her. Teresa’s sister Loretta, sees marriage as a scary journey and is deeply upset that her sister is now married because of what she expierienced with her own.

Her husband ran away before they were able to consumate the marriage after he ‘came at her like a wild animal’ thus resulting in Loretta moving back home and preventing her from striking up another relationship in fear of the same thing occuring, she also feared it was happening to her sisters.Because of her failed marriage, she was considered a burden to her family. Another of Teresa’s sisters, Agnes, appeared to happy in the ‘perfect’ marriage however the only reason behind her marriage was so that she could escape her home town in search of better things. Behind the scences we can see that shes extremely miserable and not content with her relationship. This has had an effect on her, changing her personality and looking on things with a negative impact. This story, in some ways is similar to the attitudes we see in Austen’s story as neither relationship is out of choice.

They are both basically forced into the arrangments for the benefits of them in a small way but on a larger scale for the benefits of their family. The final story I read was ‘Tony Kytes the Arch-Deceiver’. This was the story of a young man torn between three women and how he overcomes the problem of deciding which woman is for him.

This short story was written by Thomas Hardy, a writer from the 19th Century. Hardy was born in Dorset on 2nd June 1840. Hardy was educated by his ambitious mother up until he went to his first school at Bockhampton aged 8.In 1870, Hardy met and fell in love with his soon to be wife Emma Lavinia Gifford, whom he married in 1874.

Although he soon became separated from his wife, when she passed away in 1912 it affected Hardy negatively and it was her death that inspired him to pen his Poems 1912-13 which explore his grief. However, two years after his wife’s death, he married his secretary, who was 40 years his junior. In December 1927 Hardy fell seriously ill and dictated a final poem to his wife whilst on his death bed. He died in January 1928.Tony Kytes is the main character in the story, which is set on the events occurring throughout the duration of a single day. This story is the only one out of the three I have read that explores marrying for love and not for marrying for their own circumstances. Tony has said that he doesn’t like confrontation which is why he hides each woman, supposedly from each other, under the tarpaulin of his cart. Although Tony is known as a womaniser, in those days it was not deemed lady like for a woman to ask for a ride in a man’s carriage.

Tony felt he couldn’t turn them down and we see as he rides with each woman he loves each of them in their own, unique way. However, he is engaged to be married and in one scene we see that his father wants the best for him but that Tony belives he should follow his heart and he feels his heart belongs to Unity. During the story, a series of events unfold that make Tony need to make a decision. The 3 women discover that Tony has been sweet-talking each of them after over-hearing and discovering each other. After he leaves one of them in charge of the reins on the cart, it crashes and it soon becomes apparent that what they’ve heard is true.Initially, when they all tumble out of the cart, and Tony asks for Unity’s hand in marriage but when her father declines he turns to Hannah.

When Hannah also refuses unless he asks in a more romantic way he is forced to return to his original fianci?? e, Millie. Millie shows that she is truly in love with Tony because she accepts even after everything he had put her through. We can still see from the story that Tony loves all three women but aslong as he has someone to make happy he doesn’t mind who it is.This shows his attitude to marriage is for love, not social security or money etc. But not his love; he seems to think of marriage as simply another kind gesture and not a sacrament, or lifelong promise.

He uses it as a way of making somebody happy. On the other hand, we are given the impression that unity and Hannah are devastated to have lost out on Tonys love. Unity only agrees with her father because shes scared of disagreeing and when Hannah is walking away she looks back as if pleading with Tony to ask her again.When this doesn’t happen the mood of the story becomes more dejected. This shows that Hannah, one of the three lovers, could possibly genuinely love Tony for love and only love. However, the circumstances of this story make it impossible for the reader ever to know for sure what spark there was between Tony and Hannah, and what it was based on. There is a mixture of attitudes visible in the story but what we can see is that the characters were marrying for love and to to gain anything for themselves.

This reflects nowadays the circumstances of modern day people and how they view marriage as a declaration of love and not a declaration of status or wealth gain. My assessment of these stories illustrates the difference by how much the attitudes have changed over time, and leads us to question; which tone is marriage meant for? Nowadays, the majority of peoples’ thoughts on marriage would initially be Love. But, in some cases, the shallow thoughts of Money, Security, Status and even simple Kindness can still be found in traces, not completely disappeared from all those years ago.