Marriage has undergone a gradual transition from a custom to a legal state since 1800s. In 1800s, women were completely subordinated to their husbands. Their gender role was limited in their house, and they had to satisfy husband’s needs. Their days were very tiring. Their life was very rough; they basically had no rights at this time in history. Jane Austen was a good novelist in that era. Austen lived in a time when marriage was the only way out for some women, or they would be forced to become a governess and lose their independence. Jane Austen was a major English novelist, whose brilliantly witty, elegantly structured satirical fiction marks the transition in English literature from 18th century neo-classicism to 20th century romanticism. Her novels, which were like complains about women’s right, changed the idea and value of marriage forever. In 18th century, the value of marriage was limited to husband desires. Women were the property of men, and marriage was their only way of having a recognized position in society, but now, value of marriage is commitment between marriage partners in equal condition, and we have to protect it.
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In 1800s, women did not have independent life and Jane Austen revealed the bad condition of women and changed the vision of society. During this time in history, married women could not own property in their own right, and were, indeed, themselves the property of their husbands. Many of the women’s job included raising children, prepare food, make clothing, and take care of things around the house. Their main duty was to satisfy their husband’s needs. At that time, Jane Austen was one of the most famous authors who reflected the horrible condition of women’s marriage in her novels. As Hannah Eberle mentioned in her article” How Jane Austen Uses Marriage to Get What She Wants” that “Austen voices her concerns about 18th century gender roles throughout her novels” (Eberle) Her novels center on the lives of young women in middle class Regency England. She looked at women’s life, and revealed the slavery life of women in her novels. For example, when Barbara W. Swords confirms in her article “Woman’s Place in Jane Austen’s England” that “In Jane Austen’s novels, as well, we may find that marriage is the only real choice to insure a woman’s place, her happiness, and her successful future,”(W. Sword) it becomes clear that Jane Austen saw women’s slavery life, and understood the hopes and fears of women who had to rely on marriage and family connections to provide them with a home and means to live. Moreover, Jane Austen was particularly interested in the changing attitudes towards marriage among these young people. As a result, she created different characters and different kind of romances and marriages in her novels to introduce the real value of marriage to young people; Austen’s model of marriage was reflected in her stories and characters; as Barbara W. Swords confirms that “The happy marriages with which Jane Austen’s novels conclude correspond, indeed, to these new models of proper marriage: Catherine and Henry; Marianne and Colonel Brandon, Elinor and Edward; Elizabeth and Darcy; Fanny and Edmund; Emma and Mr. Knightley; and Anne and Captain Wentworth. In each marriage, love, esteem, compatibility and mutuality, capability and respect – and equality – are essentials to be discovered during courtship and strengthened throughout life.” (W. Sword) In my opinion, the literature and novels of Jane Austen built a foundation from which modern text and modern value of marriage were made. People studied Austen’s novels, and became familiar with the new values of a successful marriage. This is a very important event because at that time the value of marriage was only men’s desire, but Austen’s novels changed the situation and became the main foundation of a transition toward a better life in 21th century.
Now that were in 21th century, the gender role of women and the value of marriage have been changed. Married women can own property in their own right, and are not themselves the property of their husbands. Women may have independent life, and they have the right to choose their own husband. They have equal rights with men. Moreover, they are not limited in their house works and taking care of children at home. They can work outside of the house, and marriage in not their only way of having a recognized position in society any more. As a result, the value of marriage has been changed. If we look at Ted Olson’s interview with CNN reporter, we may understand how much the value of marriage has been changed since 18th century, and what the value of marriage means in The United States of America. Ted Olson, Who is the former US solicitor general, confirms that “Marriage is a conservative value. Equality is a conservative valueâ€¦.equality and independenceâ€¦and people that love one another that wish to form a stable bon a part of our economy, part of our community. That should be a conservative value.” (Olson) As a result, equality and independence are two key factors of the value of marriage today. Women and men have equal rights. There is no obligation and stress at all, and husband and wife have kind relationship. Along with this new idea, there is one more issue. If we take a closer look at the value of marriage today, we may find that because of bad economy, the value of marriage has been changed by financial problems and economy has had profound impact on the value of marriage. As, Frey Bruno S. explains in his book “Happinessa revolution in economics” that “In marriage, people engage in a long-term relationship with a strong commitment to a mutually rewarding exchange. The spouse expects some benefits from the partner’s expressed love, gratitude and recognition, as well as from security and material rewards. This is summarized in the protection perspective of marriage.”(Bruno S. 1) In other word, along with equality and independence, the value of marriage is affected by financial and economic success in our life. Good job and good financial situation are essentials of a good marriage. In 21th century, equality, independence and financial success are three major elements which define the value of marriage.
After this long effort, we have to protect our achievements. There is a dangerous concept called “Arranged marriage” which may destroys all our efforts today. Arranged marriages are marriages in which family members take a significant role in bringing a couple together. Relatives, particularly parents, often take the initiative to find, evaluate, and approve potential spouses for their children. In some cases, the couple may marry while still relative strangers under the expectation that they will develop a loving relationship over time. These marriages are in contrast to so-called “love marriages,” in which a couple is drawn together by mutual attraction and makes the decision to marry on their own. While often associated with cultures in the Middle East, Africa, and India, these arrangements are not unknown in Western countries, particularly among immigrant populations. I studied and found out that religious and cultural believes are two major reasons for an “Arranged marriage” For example, if we take a look at Jocelyn Voo’s article “Arranged marriage gets high-tech twist,” he confirms that “When it was time for Sabiha Ansari to get married, her parents flew her to India. She met her husband-to-be for less than 20 minutes, with family, then was asked whether she liked him.” (Voo) There are many countries like India that do not believe in modern value of marriage accepted in democratic countries, and an “Arranged marriage,” which is a traditional believe, is more important for them than modern value of marriage. In this report, Sabiha Ansari’s father and mother ignored their daughter’s opinion and followed their own tradition. As we can see that Saviha explains that was really hard for her, and she kind of wanted to have some time alone with him to talk to him, or even on the phone. There is an important point. India is not the only country which does not believe in modern value of marriage. There are many more painful events happened in Islamic countries which ignores the value of marriage because of religion believe. For example, Samuel Burke explains in his article “11-year-old Girl Married to 40-year-old Man.” that “Before their wedding ceremony begins in rural Afghanistan, a 40-year-old man sits to be photographed with his 11-year-old bride. The girl tells the photographer that she is sad to be engaged because she had hoped to become a teacher.”(Burke) forcing a 11 years old girls to marry with a 40 years old man when she wanted to become a teacher, is a very painful condition. I was born in Iran, which is an Islamic country, and I can feel her pain because the age of girl’s marriage in Iran was nigh years old. Jane Austen helped us to understand the women’s condition in 18th century, but “Arranged marriage” is another form of women’s slavery which is against the modern value of marriage at all. We have to be careful not to allow these counties and traditions to pain teenage girls to marry with old people and destroy the real value of marriage which has been made after a long effort.
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In conclusion, in 18th century, the value of marriage was limited to husband desires. Women were as the property of men, they did not have any right to complain. Marriage was their only way of having a recognized position in society, the man was absolute power, but Jane Austen reflected that women’s bad situation in her novels, and changed the rules. After that, people started to study Austen’s novels, and the value of marriage was changed. Today, men and women have equal rights, and the value of marriage is based on equality and independence of men and women, and we have to protect this achievement from those countries which does not believe in these concepts. In my opinion the value of marriage is commitment between marriage partners in equal condition, and the equal commitment is the only way which will protect our families in future life.
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