Tag Archives: Marriage

Doubling Back for Dalloway

Screeeech!  That was the sound of me slamming on the breaks and turning this CCOM car around.
I am doubling back for Mrs. DallowayMrs

It’s Sunday, so let me start off with a little confession of my latest WEM sins.  I am just now starting the wrap up questions for Mrs. Dalloway.  I know!  Shocker!  and after our New Year’s resolution too.  Last night as I looked through my copy of the text and tried to read my illegible journal notes, I realized that we did not spend very much time discussing our twentieth tale.

For that reason, I’m taking a detour and backtracking to give a few days to Clarissa, Peter, and the Smiths.

After that lengthy explanation, I’d like to share the subtitle of this blog post:

Clarissa and Lizzy

Perhaps to be more accurate the title should be:

Peter and Lizzy

In both Mrs. Dalloway and Pride & Prejudice some serious statements regarding wedded bliss are made.  There’s this one from Jane Austen:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

And this one from Virginia Woolf:

…for there’s nothing in the world so bad for some women as marriage, he thought;

According to Peter Walsh, those wealthy, single men are ruining good women.  I already noted the many unhappy relationships in this title.  Is this an example of Woolf showing the strain between tradition and modernism?  In Mrs. Dalloway Hugh Whitbread is traditional, married to a convalescent wife.  Peter Walsh is modern, returning to England to obtain a divorce so that he can be with his new love, a married woman.

I wonder what our next novels will think about marriage.

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Posted by on July 28, 2013 in Mrs. Dalloway


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Sad Fun

Here is your daily dose of oxymoronicism.  That’s probably a word, right?

In Chapter 5 of Book One Seldon has appeared at Bellomont, and Lily has begun to view all her friends in a new light, and it’s not all that flattering.  But apparently the shadows are still playing tricks on Gus.

“I say, do look at her,”  he exclaimed, turning to Miss Bart with lugubrious merriment – “I beg your pardon, but do just look at my wife making a foot of that poor devil over there!”


And either way you slice his emotion, I just don’t think it’s a nice way to react to your wive’s behavior.

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Posted by on May 17, 2013 in The House of Mirth


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What Happened to Isabel?

Marriage Happened.

Guess that “Thumbs Down” from Ralph and others was very wise.   Ralph has not seen much of Isabel since her marriage, so in Chapter 39, he is shocked to see such changes in his cousin.   Let me sum up his great descriptions:

Isabel Before Marriage:  cared for pure truth, delighted in good-humored argument and intellectual play, curious, beautiful, free and keen.

Isabel After Marriage:   showed a violence and crudity in her experiments, spoke faster, moved faster, breathed faster, fell into exaggerations, thought nothing of people’s opinions, indifferent, beautiful in an insolent way, quite another person.

Ralph tells us she seemed to represent something.  What could it be?  Oh yes, she represents Gilbert Osmond.   “Good heavens, what a function!” he woefully exclaims.

I suppose that in marriage, one does come to represent the other partner, but hopefully not in such a one-sided way as this.   I would hope that a good marriage would change both partners.  For the better!   And despite Isabel’s representation of her husband, she is still convinced that he hates her.    That was a shocking revelation in Chapter 42!

Anyone else a bit shocked at the sudden awful unhappiness and the way James springs it on us?

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Posted by on February 12, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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“Roger and Ebert” on The Marriage

Isabel Archer is getting married.

Finally!!!   After all, she has had a plethora of proposals.   Thumbs Up, I say!

Oh.   Wait a minute.

It seems we have to listen to a bunch of characters weigh in on this matter.   First there is the Countess Gemini, the sister of our groom-to-be.   She gives a “thumbs down.”   As a matter of fact, she speaks of Isabel as a sacrifice on the altar of Gilbert’s satisfaction in Chapter 25.  Lord Warburton chimes in with two big “thumbs down” in Chapter 27.    And what about Ralph, the character who arguably knows Isabel the best?   Well, it’s two “thumbs down” from him as well, as we find out in Chapter 34.   His mother agrees with him.

So who is in favor of this marriage?   Anyone else give it even one thumbs up?   Well, Pansy is all for it.  But of course she is.  The girl doesn’t have a contrary bone in her body.   That leaves only one big supporter:  Madame Serena Merle.   She’s back in the corner orchestrating everything and casually giving “thumbs up” all over the place.

Perhaps I should change my vote.   Something’s just a little too perfect about Serena.



Posted by on February 8, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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What kind of advice?

Anna Karenina Part III, chapter 21

Vronsky’s catching up with his friend Serpuhovskoy, a man who’s had great success in the military.  The two have an interesting conversation about women, love, and marriage.  Really Serpuhovskoy does most of the talking, and he has some interesting things to say.

Serpuhovskoy admits that Vronsky’s “known a greater number of women”,

“But I’m married, and believe me, in getting to know thorougly one’s wife, if one loves her, as someone has said, one gets to know all women better than if one knew thousands of them.”

My notes: “Interesting.  Yes, I can agree with that.  Sounds good–loving one’s wife.  Knowing her as a person.  Getting insight into the other sex through understanding one’s wife.”

Vronsky is listening attentively to the words of his experienced, married comrade.

“And here’s my opinion for you.  Women are the chief stumbling block in a man’s career.  It’s hard to love a woman and do anything.  There’s only one way of having love conveniently without its being a hindrance–that’s marriage.

My notes: “convenient love?  as in readily available?  as in ‘this way I won’t get into trouble with another man’s wife’?  How about… Marriage is good.  Affairs are bad.”

The Serpuhovskoy goes on to compare love with carrying a fardeau in his hands.  He says marriage is when the fardeau is tied on one’s back and his hands are free.

My notes: “What’s a fardeau?  (I look it up) Oh, a burden.  Loving a woman is a burden?  So being married is still a burden, but a conveninet one?”

Help me, readers.  Did Serpuhovskoy give Vronsky good advice or not?


Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Anna Karenina


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Anna Karenina, Part III, chapter 13

This is the chapter where Alexey “knows” about Anna and Vronsky.  He feels relief.  At least that’s what he says.

He experienced the sensations of a man who has had a tooth out after suffering long from toothache.  After a fearful agony and a sense of something huge, bigger than the head itself, being torn out of his jaw, the sufferer, hardly able to believe in his own good luck, feels all at once that what has so long poisoned his existence and enchained his attention, exists no longer, and that he can live and think again, and take interest in other things besides his tooth.

I can understand (a little bit) about the relief of knowing; sometimes what’s imagined can be worse than what’s real, but I hardly think the revelation of his wife’s infidelity will bring lasting relief.  Maybe Alexey’s in denial?

When Christina, Jeannette, friends, and I discussed Crime and Punishment, I brought up the idea of stages of guilt.  Really, I just took the stages of grief and changed them to guilt… grief/guilt over the murder.  I wondered if Raskolnikov may have experienced them throughout the story.  Maybe in our latest Russian novel Alexey is grieving the loss of his marriage?  Will he go through the stages of grief?

As the AK chapter continues, Alexey considers his options: a duel, a divorce…

Then he shows anger; he wants Anna to suffer for what she has done; he wants her to “get due punishment for her crime.”  He doesn’t admit this feeling to himself, but it’s there.

Alexey develops a plan.  He will use religion to change Anna, forcing her “reformation and salvation“.

At the end of the chapter Alexey distances himself emotionally from the situation. As he considers his plan he thinks,  “She is bound to be unhappy, but I am not to blame, and so I cannot be unhappy.”

I wondered if years ago the priest read this verse at the wedding of Alexey and Anna:

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

One flesh.  Alexey and Anna were joined together in marriage and became one flesh.
He may feel momentary relief now that he’s aware of the affair, but how exactly does Alexey plan to be married to his unhappy wife and not be unhappy himself?

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Posted by on October 28, 2012 in Anna Karenina


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The Love Boat

antediluvian –  adj.  belonging to the time before the biblical Flood, antiquated

Classical Usage:  We’re still at Princess Betsy’s after-opera party where the ambassador’s wife is in control of half of the conversation.  She throws in some interesting observations, like her reaction to the thought that two people might be marrying for love, “A love match?  What antediluvian ideas you have!  Who talks of love nowadays?”

Classically Mad Usage:  I’ll tell you what I took away from this portion of the text – Mr. and Mrs. Noah were in love.  That makes my day.

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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Anna Karenina


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If you can you should get yourself to a Grand Traverse Pie Company for a slice of Michigan goodness, and who knows, maybe you’ll eavesdrop about someone’s doomed marriage.

I love summer.  Love, love, love it.  Partially, because my husband is a teacher, so during the summer months when our nanny comes two afternoons a week, he and I go out to lunch with all the gift cards and coupons we’ve stored up throughout the year.  It’s delightful.

Last week, as we nibbled at our free-with-purchase-of-any-entree Michigan ABC Crumb Pie, we discussed signs we spotted in a marriage that seems in danger.  The wife is looking for happiness in new things, fancy clothes, elite habits, and dramatic events.  And when she isn’t doing that, she’s wallowing in complete self-pity and despair, not bothering to get dressed in the morning, and hardly leaving the house.

Meanwhile, her slightly workaholic husband seems oblivious to the marital troubles.  Granted, his work is important, he’s a doctor, and surely she should have known going into the marriage that his profession would carry him away for extended hours, and cause him to care a great deal about other people, but she seems to miss the fact that he does adore, maybe even idolize her.  It might even be this perfect view of her that has blinded him from seeing the disparity between their emotions that is causing a deep chasm to erode between them.  The question is simply who will fall first into the chasm, and is there any hope for this troubled couple?

Without a word my husband graciously left the last two bites, the best ones because of their crumby goodness, for me and we sadly agreed that the future looked dim for Emma and Charles.

I wonder if any of the other restaurant patrons within earshot know the Bovaries?


Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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To Quote The Princess Bride . . .

Mawwage.  Mawwage is what bwings us together today.

That’s because it’s what Susan Wise Bauer thinks dear Lizzy wants.  Here’s what she has to say about it:

What does Elizabeth Bennet want?  This most central of questions often appears to have a straightforward answer.  Elizabeth Bennet wants to get married.

It just doesn’t seem that straightforward to me.  I think it’s obvious that Kitty wants marriage.  Obviously, Mr. Collins wants marriage.  It’s also obvious that Mrs. Bennet wants marriage for her daughters.  I even think it’s obvious that Jane wants marriage.  But Elizabeth?  She seems a little indifferent toward the estate to me.  Now, she does give us reason to believe that she seeks love.

Wove.  Twue love. . .

I’m, sorry, I meant to quote Elizabeth.  Try this one instead.

. . .

Well, I can’t seem to find a quote that supports that idea, either.  So let’s see, maybe what Elizabeth really wants is to be a modern, independent woman.  After all, we see her marching through miles of mud to reach her sister, boldly turning down not one, but two marriage proposals, and talking back to Lady Catherine.  Pretty strong-willed gal, I’d say.  And she doesn’t do any of those things in order that they would bring her closer to marriage or love.  Yet oddly, they do.

Many of you mentioned Lizzy’s dynamic family in your assessment of what our heroine wants.  To be sure, they are a thorn in her side, and as the story progresses her embarrassment at their actions only increases.  Out of this humiliation is borne the remainder of SWB’s explanation.  And here, I agree with Mrs. Bauer:

But generally a deeper, more essential need or want lies beneath this surface desire.  You can often get at this deeper motivation by asking the second question:  What’s standing in the way?  What destroys Elizabeth Bennet’s marriageability, complicates her life, threatens to destroy her happiness?  Her family:  her wild younger sister, her ridiculous mother, her passive and cynical father.  Elizabeth wants to marry, but her deepest want goes beyond matrimony.  She wants to abandon the world she was born into and move into another world.  She wants to escape.

And now, just one more little question remains:

Will Elizabeth Darcy be happy in her new Pemberly Life?

I pass the baton off to one of my fellow readers for this answer though, because this is all starting to feel like a bad dweam wiffin a dweam.


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Unwed Author Pens Sad Examples of Marriage

Jane Austen never married.  Did you know that?  I thought it was the case, but I did check for sure to confirm that the author of the romantic novel Pride and Prejudice was never wed.  What does a single author have to say about marriage?

There’s Charlotte Lucas.

Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.  If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least.  They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation, and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.”  Charlotte Lucas Chapter 6

True, at the time of this quote, she did not have a suitor, but that quickly changed sixteen chapters and one rejected proposal later.  No, it wasn’t Charlotte’s rejection; it was Elizabeth’s rejection of Mr. Collins.  It seems Charlotte does not mind being second choice a short three days later.

“Mr. Collins to be sure was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment to her must be imaginary.  But still he would be her husband.  Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.”  Charlotte Lucas  chapter 22.

Oh, yea!  She’s marrying someone who only imagines to love her!  That’s every girl’s dream.  What a great way to start a life-long commitment!  (read with much sarcasm)  I understand that times were different then.  Mrs. Bennet reminds me over and over that unless married, her daughters will have no place to live when Mr. Bennet dies.  Charlotte’s situation was slightly better.  Marry or live with a sibling.  If I were Charlotte, I think I would have chosen the sibling over Collins.

Mr. Bennet does not agree with Charlotte’s suggestion of knowing as little as possible about the other person.  Elizabeth reveals to the reader her father’s lack of wedded bliss.

“Her father, captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her.  Respect, esteem, and confidence had vanished forever; and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown.” Chapter 42

How sad!  He married his bride only because she was young and pretty.  Remember this post?  Here I questioned Mr. Bennet’s motives for calling on Bingley?  So much for doing it to please his wife.

And now Lydia has run off with Wickam.  Peer pressure and debt reduction bring about a hasty wedding for this couple.  What kind of marriage will they have?  It does not look promising. 

I have not finished the book yet, but I am hoping for a “Happily, Ever After” for Darcy and Elizabeth.  Neither one is the type to “settle”.  They certainly know each other’s faults.  There is more than youth and beauty to these characters.  Maybe Austen will give them a chance.  Based on the examples of marriages in the book, is that possible?

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Posted by on November 1, 2011 in Pride and Prejudice


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