Marriage. This word carries a large amount of weight behind it. For better or worse, for sick or poor, and until death do we part. That’s a lot pressure for one word. Mankind was created imperfect. Humans aim to be flawless, but in reality we are flawed beyond compare. As humans we lie, have impulses, act on those impulses, and we are entitled to a few mistakes. The meaning of marriage has changed over the centuries, but the vows people make to each other have managed to stay the same. Throughout the different novels we have read in class, dysfunctional and destructive relationships have been played a large role in the novels themselves.
Most of the relationships in the novels have failed to flourish due to the meaning of marriage in the different time periods. Marriages were based upon social status, a families’ reputation, security, and compensation. For example, The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald. Tom and Daisy Buchanan are the wealthy couple everyone aims to be on the outside. On the inside, they struggle within their marriage, only to discover they both are having affairs with other people. Another example, The Awakening by Kate Chopin also reflects on the reasons some marriages fall apart.
Edna Pontellier and her husband Leonce Pontellier, are in a failing marriage. Why are the Bunchanan’s and the Pontellier’s marriage failing? After time goes by, their marriages begin to crumble under the pressure of fitting into society. Daisy finds new hope in an old flame, Jay Gatsby and acts upon her impulses to rekindle their once passionate love for one another; yet she is terrified of the repercussions she will face from both Tom and society. On the other hand, Edna’s unhappiness occurs because she falls out of love with Leonce. She desires happiness.
She falls in love with Robert, and she is unhappy with her decisions she’s made throughout her life. The outcome of the Bunchanan’s and the Pontellier’s marriages means that both marriage are weak, unfaithful, crippled, and their marriage are becoming physically and mentally dangerous. Daisy Bunchanan played the role of the darling wife of Tom Bunchanan impeccably well. She had the beauty, grace, talent, and class every well brought up woman desired. After falling in love with Jay Gatsby, she realized she wanted more than love in life. Daisy threw her love for Gatsby away in order to fit in with society.
Love in marriage did not coexist for people like Daisy. Marriage was power, who people married and their social class mattered more. Take Daisy for instance, even if she loved Gatsby (or even if she ever did love him, and that is still debatable), divorcing Tom and marrying Gatsby would be a step down for her socially. She did not want to be a scandal in her high standing society. While Daisy toyed with Gatsby’s emotions, Tom was avidly with his mistress Myrtle Wilson. To Tom, Daisy was his prized possession, his jewel in which he owned. He believed he had the right to mistreat her because her last name was now Buchanan.
Where is there love in marriage? Marriage’s definition in the 1800s and 1900s was strict. In most instances, men were the providers, while women catered to their husbands, nursed their children, and cleaned house. Some men looked to their wives as prizes or some trophy they owned. Like Edna, women in marriages felt like symbols or even reflections of their husband’s accomplishments in life. For example, in The Awakening, Kate Chopin wrote, “… looking at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which had suffered some damage” (Chopin 4). Edna felt as if she was not her own person anymore.
She felt washed up and broken. The young girl she used to be, wild and free, was now no more than a caged bird. Religion made up most of a couple’s marriage during the 1800s. It was considered an abomination in the eyes of God if adultery was committed by either man or wife. Divorce was also uncommon until the late 1900s because divorce was also viewed wrong and as adultery in the eyes of God. People who committed these crimes were shunned or their reputation was ruined. People felt obligated to stay in unhealthy marriages no matter how unbearable their relationships got due to the harsh repercussions.
Leonce was a Creole, a Catholic man, which caused him to feel obligated to his and Edna’s marriage. He himself did not believe in turning away from God’s word, Hebrew’s 13:4 clarifies, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge (King Games Version 13:4). One of the main reasons Leonce stood by his wife was because of his religion. He strongly believed he would pay for divorcing his wife in the after life. During the early 1900s, when the Great Gatsby was wrote, marriage and the church did not coexist as much as it did in the past.
As the roaring 20s came around, people were more focused on seeking wealth along with prosperity rather than focusing on religion. Christianity as well as other religious practices were still practiced, those who did partake in the old way of believing still shammed those who committed adultery and divorce. As the 1900s continued to change, so did women and marriage. Women began wearing shorter, more revealing clothing to seek men’s attention as well as the idea of feminism becoming more common. Divorces also began to become more socially accepted as the world continued to grow.
Still stuck in her increasingly toxic marriage, readers begin to learn that Edna Pontellier is a passionate, rebellious woman. We learn how unsettled she is in her life as the novel continues. Kate Chopin depicts Edna’s thoughts, desires, and actions, well throughout the novel. Edna’s actions are highly inappropriate for a woman of their current rime period. In the novel, Edna has an “awakening” and finds the courage to make the changes she sees necessary to make herself happy. She puts her reputation, marriage, family, and life on the line while she makes these changes for herself.
Not only does she shame her family, she hurts others in the process, such as Robert Lebrun and Alcee Arobin. No one knew of Daisy to be spontaneous before she met with Gatsby again. Before she was the well-mannered, loving wife. Her community was flabbergasted because they had never had a woman act out in such a manor Daisy did. Due to Daisy’s rash actions with Gatsby, she causes death and an uproar in her community. Daisy hit and murdered Myrtle Wilson due to driving too fast. Her reckless actions not only caused Myrtle’s demise, but caused Gatsby’s as well.
After years of being married to Leonce and having two boys, Edna realizes how dissatisfied she is with her life. Her awakening begins when she talks more with Mademoiselle Reisz. She sees how happy her life is without a husband and Edna’s mind begins to wonder back to her days as a young, free woman. Mademoiselle also begins to encourage Edna to go after what she ends up wanting most, Robert. Life as Edna knows it, is suffocating her as she tries so desperately to be the woman she is supposed to be, while trying to grasp what she wants.
Many people did not see the true side of Edna, she was a hopeless romantic, and she yearned for lust along with passion. No one knew Edna because she kept her feelings locked away from the outside world. Like many marriages in the late 1800s, the bachelor and the bachelorette’s money situation was of most importance. Men were disinterested in women who did not come from wealthy or a high class level. Women often married to have finical security. Women without wealthy families were seen as little to no use as a proper wife or future mother. One of many reasons why Edna married Leonce Pontellier was for financial security.
He was well off in the social world as well as the working world. She knew her reputation would have a high standing if he accepted his marriage proposal. After several years of marriage and the showering with gifts, Edna sees how increasingly unsettled she is becoming. In The Awakening, Edna states, “… all declared that Mr. Pontellier was the best husband in the world. Mrs. Pontellier was forced to admit that she knew of none better (Chopin 13). This was the first instance that Edna’s true feelings were raised up. Tom Bunchanan was a young, wealthy bacholer who would suffice as a good provider and a good standing in society.
Any young bachelorette would be considered lucky to marry someone such as Tom. Daisy was attracted to his wealth, she decided to accept his marriage proposal, knowing she would forever have security with money in her marriage. After having to choose between Tom and Gatsby, Daisy chose Tom. It is arguable that Daisy rejected Gatsby due to his arrogance as a newly wealthy individual and the fact that he spend his money rigorously as people with new wealth do. A growing fear of Daisy’s was that Gatsby would waste his entire fortune on useless gifts and the elaborate, even somewhat ridiculous parties he hosted and never attended.
Love was not as important as security in Daisy’s future. Also, another reason why marriages have often failed is because of their families’ reputations. They were not solely based on only the parents, but as well as their offspring’s reputation. Women who did not marry brought shame on their families. Edna decided to rebel from her parents by marrying Leonce. From the beginning, since she was young, she has always rebelled to those closest to her. When Edna was young, she was more worried about her reputation in society rather than finding someone she truly loved.