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Meanwhile, Melmotte introduces Marie into the matrimonial arena at an extravagant ball for which, in hope of favors that will come, he gains the patronage of several duchesses and other regal individuals. Marie, believed to be the heiress of millions, has many highly placed but poor young noblemen asking for her hand in marriage. She falls in love with Sir Felix Carbury, who is the most shady of them all. Felix's interest in Marie has nothing to do with love, but only with her wealth. This behavior is expected, since he is just following through on all that he has been told while growing up. He has learned his lessons well. His mother commends him often for winning Marie's heart, even if it is for the wrong reasons.. As Trollope writes:
It was now his business to marry an heiress. He was well aware that it was so, and was quite prepared to face his destiny. But he lacked something in the art of making love. He was beautiful. had the manners of a gentleman, could talk well, lacked nothing of audacity and had no feeling of repugnance a declaring a passion which he did not feel. You he knew so little of the passion, that he could hardly make even a young girl believe that he felt it. When he talked of love; he not only thought that he was talking nonsense. But showed that he thought so (Chapter 15)
Felix and Marie make plans to elope and steal enough of her father's money to finance the event, but Sir Felix gambles away the money and does not keep his rendevous. Rumors start to fly about Melmotte's lies and forgeries. To save himself, he unsuccessfully forges a note to gain possession of Marie's trust fund. When all else fails, he commits suicide and Marie's whole life turns around. Hamilton Fisker, the one who suggested the railroad scheme to begin with, asks her to get married and move to America.
Marie reviews what has happened to her over the past year with the rise and fall of her father's wealth and the impact this has on her ability to attract a man. She has been "wooed so often," she says that now she does not know what to do. The material view of marriage is now damaged. First she had fallen in love with Sir Felix Carbury and convinced herself erroneously that he returned this love; it was not the money he wanted. Then she had moved on to Lord Nidderdale, one of her earlier suitors. Even though she did not love him, she needed to marry some one and "he might probably be as good as any other, and certainly better than many others." In fact, she had almost learned to like him and to believe that he liked her, before the truth came out about her father. Of course, though, he then deserted her. Marie was not angry at him for leaving, because that was his societal obligation. "From the moment of her father's death she had never dreamed that he would marry her. Why should he?" Of course, all this made her quite skeptical about marriage in general. Further, now she had over a hundred thousand pounds of her own. Now she could actually live on her own, but should she? Marie could not imagine opening up her own business or seeing herself as a single woman with total independence.
Besides, she tells herself, Hamilton is not that bad looking, not beautiful like Felix or easy good-humor of Lord Nidderdale, but not "distasteful to her." Also, he has a big house in San Francisco and apparently thriving financially. She also knew that a married women had more power over her money in the United States than in England. Overall, the pros outweighed the cons to marry Hamilton.
The most important aspect of Trollope's books, the Way We Live in particular, is the way that society revolves around money, power and prestige -- not love -- associated with marriage. One followed these patterns, regardless of the sham and villainy, or did not fit in. Melmotte's desire to marry his daughter, Marie, to nobility in order to become wealthy is one of the most noteworthy examples in the book. As Trollope writes: Melmotte's "daughter was valuable to him because she might make him the father-in-law of a Marquis or an Earl; but the higher he rose without such assistance, the less need had he of his daughter's aid. When Felix asks for permission to Marie, Melmotte's main question is whether Felix is, in fact, a Baronet. Melmotte would not have allowed a union without any gain in class level. In fact, Melmotte is so anxious to gain in class that he designs a complete fraud, which he begins to believe himself.
Lady Carbury strives to publish a couple of novels, despite her lack of talent, so her uncaring and selfish son, Felix, has the opportunity to succeed in marrying for money. Georgiana Longstaffe suffers complete humiliation just because she associates with less-respected people. Her father's monetary troubles force the family to stay away from London for the entire year, which is unacceptable for getting a husband. Georgiana, fearing she will never get married, ends up living with the Melmottes. Her brother points out "everybody doesn't make themselves part of the family. I have heard of nobody doing it except you. I thought you used to think so much of yourself...I can tell you nobody else will think much of you if you remain here." When Melmotte sinks after the fraud is discovered and commits suicide, Georgiana sinks along with them.
Yet, not all the literature written during this time was negative. Some women authors recognized that females, given the right traits and abilities, could overcome social constraints and find a more promising future in life. Jane Austin's books revolve around the topic of marriage, as quoted in the first line of Pride and Prejudice: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife," she believed that women had to make marriage their first priority. In the book, there are five different marriages, with varying degree of modernity to traditional -- success to lack of success
Elizabeth Bennett, is a complete opposite to the stereotypical Victorian woman. She refuses to marry solely to benefit herself socially and economically, because she does not like the suitor. Collins thinks that she is teasing -- how could any woman act contrary to convention? -- and believes that she will accept his offer. She tells him, "I have no pretension whatever to that kind of elegance which consists in tormenting a respectable man. I would rather be paid the compliment of being believed sincere." Instead, she chooses Darcy, who loves her humor and cleverness, qualities for which she is generally criticized. Jane Bennet and Bingley have an apparently successful marriage, as Austen, states:."... because they had for basis the excellent understanding, and super-excellent disposition of Jane, and a general similarity of feeling and taste between her and himself."
Lydia and Wickham have a traditional Victorian marriage based on external appearances and superficial circumstances, which will become weaker over time and eventually fall apart. Lydia becomes a regular visitor at her two elder sisters' home when "her husband was gone to enjoy himself in London or Bath." Likewise, Mr. And Mrs. Bennet have a relationship similar to Lydia and Wickham, where looks not intelligence are key. Finally, Collins and Charlotte's marriage is founded on economics rather than on love or appearance. It is closest to what took place at the time, so the woman could save herself from being a spinster and having to find her own financial support. This form of marriage, according to Austin, only brings suffering: "When Mr. Collins said any thing of which his wife might reasonably be ashamed, which certainly was not unseldom, Elizabeth would involuntarily turned her eye on Charlotte. Once or twice she could discern a faint blush; but in general Charlotte wisely did not hear."
George Elliot, liberated for her times, was another woman author who defied society's rules both in her personal life and through her characters. As Austin, Eliot wrote about heroines who faced situations that were very common in the Victorian era.
Although her protagonists have their weaknesses, these are due more to fact that they are not as well educated as their male counterparts rather than their own innate inabilities. In books such as Middlemarch, Eliot shows how women understand that knowledge is the key to success and do not let society's barriers keep them from learning. Dorothea Brooke, like Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, cares about "philosophy, spirituality, and service" more than clothing and carriages, and marries Edward Casaubon because she thinks he will "educate her."
Dorothea marries Casaubon because he is an influential man, despite the fact that there…[continue]
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