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"Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life."

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (Charlotte Lucas)

Mr Collins, Pride & Prejudice, 1995

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Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice Quote Mr Collins marriage literature

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"That quiet mutual gaze of a trusting husband and wife is like the first moment of rest or refuge from a great weariness or a great danger—not to be interfered with by speech or action which would distract the sensations from the fresh enjoyment of repose."

George Eliot, Silas Marner

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"That terrifying product of the social system he belonged to and believed in, the young girl who knew nothing and expected everything, looked back at him like a stranger through May Welland’s familiar features; and once more it was borne in on him that marriage was not the safe anchorage he had been taught to think, but a voyage on uncharted seas."

Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

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marriage literature Age of Innocence Edith Wharton

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"'Do you think it would be fun-' Fiona shouted. 'Do you think it would be fun if we got married?' He took her up on it, he shouted yes. He never wanted to be away from her. She had the spark of life."

Alice Munro, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”

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"Being now in her twenty-first year, Maria Bertram was beginning to think matrimony a duty; and as marriage with Mr. Rushworth would give her the enjoyment of a larger income than her father’s, as well as ensure her the house in town, which was now a prime object, it became, by the same rule of moral obligation, her evident duty to marry Mr. Rushworth if she could."

Jane Austen, Mansfield Park ch.4

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Jane Austen Mansfield Park Marriage literature quote

My Marriage Plot: an introduction

I just finished reading a new novel by Jeffrey Eugenides called The Marriage Plot. In a way, it speaks to the idea that in the 20th century (and, by extension, the 21st), stories about romantic relationships aren’t as predictable as they were in Regency and Victorian novels. 

Last June, I got married. If you’d asked me seven or eight years ago, I never would have expected to be married by now. But here I am, a young woman in my mid-twenties and, in a way, I’m set for life. If I were the heroine of a Jane Austen novel, my plot line would have ended when I got engaged a couple years ago. But in a real-life modern marriage plot, the fun is just beginning.

Being a young married woman in the 21st century will certainly be an interesting experience. I have to balance my ideal career path with my husband’s. I have to come to terms with the word “wife,” what it might mean to other people and what I want it to mean. I have to reconcile my identity as an independent woman with the idea that my life is inextricably tied to someone else’s. And I have to roll it all into some kind of concrete personal brand.

So, as a young married woman on the cusp of stepping out into the working world, I want to figure out what I might be able to expect from my marriage plot. Or, at the very least, maybe I’ll learn something along the way.

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"Some natural tears they dropped but wiped them soon.
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.
They hand in hand with wand’ring steps and slow
Through Eden took their solitary way."

John Milton, Paradise Lost 12.645-9

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