Marriage and Social Class in the Victorian Era as Reflected in Jane Austen’s Emma (part 2)

The part 1, click here

Positive and negative perspective comes along together in the point of marrying those in the same class. Marriage is an institute of life between a man and woman living in the same house arranging the future altogether with love and affection. If one gets married with another one who has the same position in society, then there will not emerge the feeling of discomfort between them. It is because of the same lifestyle they have. For example, Harriet and Robert Martin who come from the same social status will not feel discomfort between them since they come from unwealthy background. It is not a problem for them to adapt after the marriage. Both of them are accustomed to living in a small house and will not feel disgust, for instance. What if Harriet gets married with the one who comes from higher class, to be mentioned Frank Churchill, for instance? It will be hard for her to adapt since she has to enter the new lifestyle she never experienced before.

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The negative perspective from the second rule of Victorian era marriage is in equal it closes the chance or opportunity for those in lower class to better their lives. Instead of having better quality of life by marrying with those who are rich, they have to marry with the same unwealthy class. They have to struggle from zero to earn for living and try to get better quality of life. But those who are wealthy already do not have to worry about money because they have lived in a proper life since they were children. For example, Emma and Mr. Knightley both come from wealthy families. Their lives are surrounded by such fortune that they do not feel any lacks on their things fulfillment.

The second theme in Emma story is the social class or relation. Besides marriage, another thing that is depicted by Austen in Emma is the strong social relation or structure within the society. The main character, Emma, comes from the wealthiest family in Highbury. The highest position she gets in the society due to her family’s wealth brings two responsibilities for her, which are socializing with those who are in the same class and preserving the existence of those in lower class. She has to do something good to them in lower class, for example Miss Bates and Harriet. This aims to balance the good relation of the society.

In fact, Austen also wants to show how important class distinction or differentiation is by setting the marriage of Harriet. If people use the perspective of Victorian era, attempting to match Harriet with higher class man is something inappropriate. Then, it can be considered that Emma’s attempt to match Harriet with Mr. Elton is a mistake because it cannot be accepted in that era. Harriet is not considered as the one who is proper to be the part of high class society. If it is not because of Emma’s attempt, then she will never be accepted. This argument can be supported by looking back at the background of Harriet which comes from an unknown family.

From the rules of marriage in the Victorian era, people can see clearly that the social distinction in that era is strong. Woman will marry with a man in the same level or even higher. Also, this era depicts that man has higher power than woman. When she gets married, she has to be ready to stay at home, prepare things, cook, and take care of the children without having any chance to go for work. Woman who neglects these points is considered as an impolite woman. It shows that the social class case does not only mean about the wealth that every class has but also the distinction between genders in social class.

To conclude, marriage and social class are themes which are depicted in Emma story. When people want to understand the essence of the themes, they should know first the background or the time setting of the story. This can help them understand what really happened to the society in that era so that they can use proper perspective in giving points of view. For example, because the setting of time of this story uses the Victorian era, then the writer has to look the marriage and social class happened in the Victorian society.


Zidnie Ilma

This article used various references


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