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Yay, a thread about MP -- my favorite! (really long post)

Alicia M
April 06, 2018 01:54AM
I love MP so I can't help jumping into the conversation.

BTW: I loved your story! Happy Belated Birthday!

So MP is a brilliant novel; and as difficult as it is for me to rank the Austen novels, because I love them all, MP is at least tied for first place -- though it may be a six way tie! ;-) Whenever Austen fans say they don't like MP or it's their least favorite, I suggest that they read it again. There is so much there; it is such a rich and textured literary work. And there have been people who have reported back to me after their second read that they liked it so much better the second time! So, I'm curious as to the "ick factor" you described. What does that mean? What is the source of that feeling?

I'm intrigued by your comments on Maria Bertram, especially your observation that "there is no real consent without power." I find that comment very characteristic of the culture in which these books take place. It actually makes me think of Charlotte Lucas, though, more than Maria Bertram. Jane Austen sets out the realities of the culture within which she lived very clearly by the examples in her novels. Women had very little power: respectable women couldn't earn a living, so the only option was marriage unless she was independently wealthy. Emma explains this when she says, "A single woman with a very narrow income must be a ridiculous, disagreeable, old maid ... but a single woman of good fortune is always respectable and may be as sensible and pleasant as anybody else." Emma had thirty thousand pounds which is enough to live very comfortably on at about 1,500 per year.

For this reason, I disagree with your analysis of Maria's prospects. We are not specifically told Maria's fortune in MP but she undoubtedly has one. And it's probably enough to live on independently if she doesn't marry. So she does (presumably) have another option. However, Maria wants more than comfortable independence. She wants all the perks of marrying a very wealthy husband: "Being in her twenty-first year, Maria Bertram was beginning to think matrimony a duty; and as a marriage with Mr. Rushworth would give her the enjoyment of a larger income than her father's, as well as ensure her the house in town, which was now a prime object, it became, by the same rule of moral obligation, her evident duty to marry Mr. Rushworth if she could." It is interesting that JA describes marriage as a duty which, I think, explains how it was viewed in the culture of the time, and perhaps helps to frame the later confrontation between Fanny and her uncle on the subject. This also addresses Pearl's question of who would be made happy by Fanny's marrying HC? The answer was no one -- probably not even HC. But Sir Thomas' disappointment in Fanny's decision is not motivated by her failure to make someone happy. Rather it's because he believes it's her duty to marry any respectable man who offers for her, a duty owed to him and her own family -- who could benefit from the match -- as well as to society. (plus Sir Thomas at that point has no idea his daughters would have any animosity related to a match between FP&HC.)

In Maria's case I don't think her only choices are "sexual submission" against her preferences vs. "social/professional torment or death," she does have the option of not marrying; but I do think some of Austen's other characters are in situations similar to what you describe.

I believe Sir Thomas is sincere in offering Maria an out and I don't believe he would have wanted to punish her if she had backed out of the engagement. (his motivation for punishing FP is her disobedience and his feeilng that she doesn't fully appreciate what she's turning down because he rated her prospects of getting anything close to it so low --he things very differently of his daughter's prospects, as is demonstrated throughout the book by constant descriptions of the distinction he always makes between FP and his own daughters.) in fact, if Maria did back out of the engagement, he might have recognized that she needed to find another man and taken her to London (Elizabeth Elliot went to London with her father). He doesn't much like Rushworth himself and he sees that she doesn't want to marry him (but doesn't see that it's because she's in love with HC). He knows she will regret it, but at that point she goes through with it because she doesn't want to "give Crawford the triumph of governing her actions, and destroying her prospects." we're also told, "HC had destroyed her happiness, but he should not know that he had done it; he should not destroy her credit, her appearance, her prosperity too. he should not have to think of her as pining in the retirement of Mansfield for him, rejecting sotherton and london, independence and splendour, for his sake." (of course she then acts in contradiction to all this by showing HC how much he's injured her when she meets him in London after her marriage!)

Maria's reflection that she won't let crawford "destroy her prospects" may support the idea you raised that she might not find another suitor. But I think she would be likely to find someone else if she didn't marry rushworth. maybe not someone with twelve thousand a year, but she's very beautiful, she's from a prominent, wealthy family, and she knows how to make herself agreeable. i don't think she'd have any trouble finding another suitor. She is more limited by the fact that she doesn't go to london, but there's a fanfiction story somewhere in the idea of Sir Thomas having to take her to london to find a husband after she breaks up with Rushworth!

Both Elizabeth Eliot and Emma act as mistress of their fathers' homes after their mothers die. i think it would be the norm, notwithstanding Mrs. Norris' presence. but what about when her father dies? then her brother would inherit and she'd have to make way for his wife at some point. which brings me back to the point about her (probably) having an independent fortune. but she wants a house in Town. So, no in Maria's case the alternative to marrying rushworth is neither stagnation nor social suicide. she could choose not to marry or choose to marry someone else -- who perhaps she likes better but maybe has less than twelve thousand pounds. but i guess it would depend on your definition of "stagnation" or "social suicide." just because her mother doesn't visit anyone doens't mean their aren't people around to socialize with if she lives in the country, within her means. but she wants a house in town.

Your description of MB running off with HC to "burn the whole thing down" is an interesting take, but we're told otherwise by the narrator. MB is in love with HC and after running away with him, hopes he will marry her. running off was described as "the result of her imprudence" but that description is given from HC's point of view. Maria probably justified the imprudence by her expectation that HC would marry her.

All of that being said, I agree with your observations that most women in the regency did not have much power or many real choices. How different women deal with those circumstances is what JA so brilliantly portrays in her novels.

Thanks for your insights.

The Just Application (complete)

NN SApril 02, 2018 09:56PM

Re: The Just Application (complete)

Alicia MApril 06, 2018 01:50AM

Re: The Just Application (complete)

NickiApril 04, 2018 09:58PM

Re: The Just Application (complete)

ShannaGApril 03, 2018 05:26PM

Re: The Just Application (complete)

Maria VApril 03, 2018 08:29AM


NN SApril 02, 2018 11:01PM

Yay, a thread about MP -- my favorite! (really long post)

Alicia MApril 06, 2018 01:54AM

Re: notes

AlidaApril 03, 2018 12:56AM

Re: notes

PearlApril 05, 2018 08:52AM

Re: notes

AlidaApril 05, 2018 12:06PM

Re: notes

PearlApril 05, 2018 12:43PM

Re: notes

AlidaApril 06, 2018 12:09AM

Re: notes

Alicia MApril 06, 2018 02:02AM


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