Friday, May 4, 2012

Marrying Off a Daughter

I hope that I am not a great deal like Mrs. Bennet, but I do have one thing in common with her - we both find ourselves in the enviable position of marrying off a daughter.  In her case, she took it upon herself to seek husbands for multiple daughters - I have but one daughter, who is to be married this month, and there was no 'seeking' on this mother's part.  She met him at church. 

I find myself contemplating their story and their relationship, and recently I realized that when I consider these events through the lens of Jane Austen, I find just a little bit of insight I believe, into Mrs. Bennet's motives and behavior.  Just a little.

I understand for one thing, why Mr. Bingley's amiability and charm was so appealing to Mrs. Bennet.  None of us have a crystal ball with which we can discern the future, so all we can do to gain some assurance of future happiness and felicity in the marriage of a child is to examine the personality and character of the prospective mate as markers of the probable outcome.  Mr. Bingley seems to be everything she hopes for in a son-in-law.  He is financially secure, he is pleasant, he is handsome, he is generous.  One does not observe him brooding or having fits of temper.  He is incredibly patient with his own sisters, and obviously allows the one sister who is still dependent on him financially a great deal of latitude in her expenditures.  None of this is lost on Mrs. Bennet - or Mr. Bennet for that matter.  Mrs. Bennet sees nothing but fancy clothes, jewels and carriages in her daughter's future - obviously things she values, perhaps because she is deprived of them herself.  Mr. Bennet on the other hand, predicts financial trouble ahead when he jokes that they will always exceed their income.  While it is treated lightly in the book, the truth is that he has observed a character flaw in Mr. Bingley that concerns him.  Indebtedness is never a good thing.

Mr. Darcy on the other hand, has but one positive in the eyes of Mrs. Bennet, and that is his wealth.  I find it interesting that although she values riches very highly, she fairly quickly rules Mr. Darcy out as a contender for any of her daughters.  She harps on his pride, how cold and disagreeable he is, and she snubs and cuts him on every occasion, barely tolerating his presence.  I think perhaps that she feels inadequate around him, and supposes that he is judging her - and in reality, he is doing exactly that, and she gives him plenty of negative behavior to feed his judgement.  Her only recourse is to judge him back.

So, when I look at my own future son-in-law, what do I see?  I see that he makes my daughter happy.  I see that he is kind, he is intelligent, and he is not the least bit shallow.  He is reserved, he is funny, he is sweet.  He is not rich, but he is well-educated and careful and wise with money, so I do not worry on that score - I suspect my daughter will ultimately enjoy a higher standard of living than she was raised with.  He is not perfect, but he is a good and wonderful man.  In the end, I think that is what we all want for our daughters.

1 comment:

  1. I have read all of your blog posts and I thought it appropriate to comment on this one. I love your thoughts and sentiments. I can see where I get my tendency to think deeply about the world around me. I have always known that you care deeply, but most easily and beautifully express it through the written word. You have brought happiness to so many who have read what you have to write. I am so happy you are my mother. I love you Mom!