Saturday, January 12, 2019

Assumption about Singles Plus Romances, Part 1

One of the interesting attributes of romances is that they do address the single life (each member of the couple has to start somewhere). Many of them challenge social assumptions about singles.

Assumption 1: All singles want to get married, are desperate to get married, hate being single and will agree to marriage to rid themselves of the stigma of singleness. They consequently are open to social and romantic pressure to "like" someone. If they aren't open, it's because they don't know their own minds.

Classic Approach: In Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, Elizabeth is wooed (if one can call it that) by Mr. Collins. He assumes that she is available (and interested) because of (1) her mother's encouragement; (2) her normal civility; (3) her lack of suitors. Ergo, she must be interested! Elizabeth--who is still entirely unattached at this point--is less than impressed.

M/M Approach: In Eli Easton's Second Harvest, David is encouraged by his conservative religious community and children to consider marriage to a widowed neighbor woman after his wife's death. He is struggling to come out of the closet, which of course gives the issue an added tension. However, Easton also does a good job of showing that David has nothing really in common with his neighbor. Their commonalities are superficial, not complementary. His feeling of being trapped is well-conveyed and makes one wonder what he would have done--in the face of all that social pressure--if he hadn't had a differing sexual orientation to fall back on.
Cats and Singles Go Together

Scariest Approach: In Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Jane is rescued from marriage to her cousin St. John Rivers by a (possibly self-induced) "vision" of Rochester calling to her. I find Rivers one of the most terrifying characters in literature. He is ever so kindly. And noble. And righteous. And well-meaning. And unrelenting even after Jane has declined. Rivers is filled with a belief in his and Jane's common purpose and interests. Oh, we're so alike. Bronte was somewhat critical of Jane Austen, but her character Jane Eyre shows an equal degree of stubbornness when it comes to NOT accepting the relationship that seems good on paper. Considering the time period, this stubbornness--and subsequent choice re: marriage--is remarkable.