Emma Woodhouse and Miss Taylor. Elizabeth “Lizzy” Bennet and Charlotte Lucas. What do these pairs have in common? They each represent a pair of Jane Austen characters whose friendships were altered when one of them married. It then became Emma Woodhouse and Mrs. Weston. Elizabeth Bennet and Mrs. Collins.
One of the motifs of Austen’s novels is that of marriage. I would argue that a more specific theme would be how marriage alters friendships between female characters. Regardless of whether or not the marriage is to a likable character, such as Mr. Weston, or to a not so well liked character, such as Mr. Collins, the institution of marriage impacts the friendship and usually in a way that weakens it. Look at Lizzy and the former Miss Lucas: sure, Lizzy visits her friend and new hubby at their home, but Charlotte is no longer the friend Lizzy could confide in and gossip to at the beginning of the novel.
Austen’s observations regarding marriage and friendship ring true today. In getting married, the woman takes on the additional identity of someone’s wife, a role society promotes with traditional connotations. In other words, in marrying, the spouse is expected to become the priority while pre-existing relationships take a back seat. It’s no wonder that when Harriet Smith tells Emma about Robert Martin’s initial marriage proposal, Emma’s reaction is to persuade her friend to turn him down; in her eyes, she’s already lost one friend to a marriage, and she’s not about to lose another.
Does putting a ring on it mean putting an end to a friendship? Not necessarily. But it does mean that the friendship will not be the same as before.
Last night, I had another wedding dream. One where I’m engaged and about to be married, but then I notice something is wrong and I realize I can’t get married. Trust me, these wedding dreams are a lot worse than that one sentence might make them seem to be.
I’m not married. I’m not engaged. Heck, I’m not even seeing someone. Yet I still have these wedding dreams. I’ve had enough of them that I’ve done dream analyses on each of them. Today, as I look back on last night’s dream, I realized something: I’m good with being single. Sure, I’d like to meet that special someone, but I’m not in a rush to get married. Those points in the dreams where I determine that I can’t get married, that I’m not ready to get married are there because in the dreams I’m not marrying an actual person; the figure is there, but I never see their face. So until I meet that person who I do want to have in my life long-term, who I can see myself marrying, then I can’t get married because if these dreams are telling me anything, it’s that whatever pressures I feel pushing me to get married, to settle down, are not enough to make me say “I do” in the dreams.
I believe there is no such thing as a bad dream. A dream is there to tell us something about our life we would otherwise not think about.
Today in class, I discussed the ideas of money and social class with the students to provide some background on themes in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Two questions I posed to the class as writing prompts were (1) if they think it makes a difference in a marriage if one person has more money than the other, and (2) if they think it makes a difference in a marriage if one person comes from a different social class than the other.
As we were discussing the ideas of money and social class, I realized how thankful I am that my parents have always encouraged me to go after my dreams so that my “American dream” can become a reality. They never told me to go after a career where I could make a lot of money; they told me to go after what I’m passionate about. They raised me to know that money and social class do not make a difference in regards to relationships, instilling The Golden Principle as part of my personality. Class is not something someone is born into; it is something they are born with, regardless of what social class they might be categorized into.
I am thankful for my parents for many reasons. For today, I am most especially thankful for them raising me a dreamer who has the courage go after their dreams, building them into a reality.