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'Persuasion' like 'Emma' is a novel concerned with the importance of marriage; however, it also contains important social comment. What do we learn about both the importance of marriage and society at that time from the text?

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Introduction

'Persuasion' like 'Emma' is a novel concerned with the importance of marriage; however, it also contains important social comment. What do we learn about both the importance of marriage and society at that time from the text? Marriage The importance of marriage in Jane Austen's time can be seen in the character of Elizabeth, Sir Walter Elliot's oldest daughter, who, at 29, is still single: "She had the remembrance of all this; she had the consciousness of being nine-and-twenty, to give her some regrets and some apprehensions. She was fully satisfied of being still quite as handsome as ever' but she felt her approach to the years of danger, and would have rejoiced to be certain of being properly solicited by baronet-blood within the next twelvemonth or two."1 In the early 1800s, most women were married in their late teens or early twenties. This was so they had a maximum number of childbearing years before them in marriage. This was very important because it increased the chances of producing a boy to act as an heir. Without a son, a father's wealth would be inherited by the nearest male relative which in some cases was a disagreeable option. ...read more.

Middle

The couple could also have provided for the rest of the family, e.g. Anne, but since Mr Elliot refused Elizabeth, her future is still uncertain. In Chapter 4, the significance of marriage is highlighted when Anne is persuaded, against her will, to refuse an offer of marriage from Captain Fredrick Wentworth. Although Fredrick was "a remarkably fine young man with a great deal of intelligence, spirit and brilliance", he was deemed an unsuitable match for Anne because at that point he did not have any notable wealth or position; "Anne Elliot, with all her claims of birth, beauty, and mind, to throw herself away at nineteen, involve herself at nineteen in an engagement with a young man, who had nothing but himself to recommend him, and no hopes of attaining affluence, but in the chances of a most uncertain profession, and no connexions to secure even his farther rise in that profession would be, indeed, a throwing away, which she grieved to think of!"4 This shows how different the criteria for marriage was in the 1800s - where it was openly admitted that material wealth and social position rather than love were of top priority. ...read more.

Conclusion

Elliot - Sir Walter's heir - is being regarded as unwise because her did not think of his first wife's low social position as a problem. (One can see here how different society was at this time since today Anne's opinions would be very politically incorrect.) Mr. Elliot's first wife was rich but despite this, her lack of social standing causes her to be immediately judged unworthy of Sir Walter's heir by his family. At the other end of the scale are Viscount Dalrymple and his family, cousins of the Elliots, who live at 'Camden Place' in Bath. "There was no superiority of manner, accomplishment, or understanding. Lady Dalrymple had acquired the name of "a charming woman," because she had a smile and a civil answer for everybody. Miss Cartaret, with still less to say, was so plain and so awkward, that she would never have been tolerated in Camden-place but for her birth."6 Despite their weak characters, the Dalrymples are seen as key in the Elliots' social lives in Bath - since Mr. Dalrymple is a Viscount, he moves in the 'best circles'. 1 middle of Chapter 1 2 middle of Chapter 11 3 middle of Chapter 1 4 beginning of Chapter 4 5 middle of chapter 21 6 near the end of chapter 16 ...read more.

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