There’s a new period piece film about a poor clergyman’s daughter loves a boy who needs to “marry well”…sounds like a Jane Austen novel…or maybe the life of Jane herself…

These Victorian period piece movies are popular all over, and I frequently catch them on a South African movie channel on our cable.

The idea of marrying well, and the concept that marriage and establishing a family was the most important duty for women is nothing new. After all, for 50000 years, the central institution that cared for children, aunts, parents and the elderly was the family, and this idea is still alive and well in Redstate America, if not Hollywood.

You see, in the past, and in most of the world, the family is important. Without family, children can not be raised well, the sick have no one to care for them. Families are seen as one. In much of the world, when introducing yourself, you name your family or a family member to “identify” yourself, whereas in the US, you name your education or your company.

Too often when one views the USA via the news or films, marriage is invisible. Indeed, for many young people marriage has deteriorated into a legal form of living together, and not much of a legal contract either, since “no fault” divorce allows spouses to walk away without hassle.

One result of this weakening of the legal contract is practical:since no paper will keep the man home, living together is more and more popular.

A second result of “marriage lite” being the norm is that the elites no longer see what marriage is all about. (Hence the talk of “gay marriage” and television glamourizing polygamy).

In modern societies, we can stay single, have any career, and be happy…or at least adjust to it. Ah, freedom. It’s wonderful. Because too often it means not being able to rely on a man, who can walk away from a marriage, so we need to be financially independent. And having a child no longer means that we can rely on a man to support us financially. If for many women men are useless, also for too many women, children are the enemy, a burden that disturbs their careers or interrupts the education needed to support oneself. Maybe later…except for that little biological time clock…

The good old days, of two people hating each other living together, may not have been better, but there is an argument that for children it was better. For women, it meant sacrifice, but in a harder world, sorrow and sacrifice was part of life.
Should we go back? one doubts it is an option.In Austen’s day, the independent woman was not independent: like Jane, she lives as an aunt in an extended household.
But before one shrugs and decides to furthur weaken the concept of marriage by including all sorts of couplings, we need to re read Jane Austen and think.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the Philippines. Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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