- Slides: 8
Love, Courtship, and Marriage in Pride and Prejudice.
The Status of Women • In Jane Austen’s time, there was no real way for young women to become independent. • Many professions, like jobs at the university, were not open to women. • The few jobs that a woman could have were not highly respected, did not pay well, and had poor working conditions • Governess (live-in teacher) • Only a small group of women could be considered professionals – They had to make enough money on their own to be independent
The Status of Women cont. • If a woman left home without her parents’ permission, there would be very serious consequences. • She would most likely be an embarrassment to her family and they could decrease in social status. • She could also be cutoff from her family
The Status of Women cont. • Therefore, most women could only get money if they got married or inherited it – The eldest son generally inherited most of the estate as the “heir” – A woman could only inherit (be a heiress) if she had no brothers. • An unmarried woman also had to live with her family or a family-approved protector – It was unheard of for a woman to live by herself, even if she was an heiress. – A woman would have to be dependant on her family for the rest of her life.
Engagement • One important rule of protocol of the period is that a correspondence between two unmarried and marriageable unrelated young people of the opposite sex is a sign that the two are engaged. • For a continuing correspondence to be carried on in the absence of an engagement is a breach of propriety – This is why Darcy hand-delivers his letter to Lizzy – This is why Lizzy doesn’t answer the letter
The Legalities of Marriage • Marriage was almost always for life. • The only grounds for divorce was: – Sexual infidelity of the wife • Needed to get permission from Parliament • The trial would be between the husband the wife’s “alleged” lover – Cruelty • Husband generally had absolute custody rights over any children and could prevent the wife from seeing them. • Divorce was very expensive- only the rich could afford it. • Neither person was allowed to remarry
Money and Marriage • Any property that a woman possessed before her marriage automatically becomes her husbands – Unless a “settlement” is agreed upon – a legal document that usually ensures that some or all of the property that the wife brings to the marriage ultimately belongs to her, and will revert to her or her children (though she does not necessarily have personal control over it during her marriage); • The woman and her money are legally in the husband’s power
Entail and Inheritance • An entail was a legal device used to prevent a landed property from being broken up, and/or from descending in a female line. • Entailed property is usually inherited by the nearest male-line descendant (son of son etc. ) of the original owner of the estate or title, whose ancestry in each generation goes through the eldest son who has left living male-line descendants • Entailment prevents a father from disinheriting his eldest son • Women generally inherit only if there are no male-line heirs left, and if there is more than one sister, then they are all equal co-heiresses, rather than only the eldest inheriting.