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Marrying Absurd

Joan Didion’s “Marrying Absurd” is a searing indictment of the institution of marriage. She argues that marriage is an outdated concept that does not reflect the reality of modern relationships. Didion contends that love, not marriage, should be the basis of any relationship.

Didion’s essay was published in 1968, at a time when many Americans were questioning the traditional concept of marriage. The sexual revolution was in full swing, and young people were increasingly choosing to live together without getting married.

Didion’s argument against marriage is based on the fact that it is an artificial construct. She points out that marriage is not necessary for two people to live together or to have children. In fact, Didion argues that marriage can actually be a hindrance to a successful relationship.

Didion’s essay is still relevant today. The institution of marriage is under attack from many quarters. The divorce rate remains high, and more and more couples are choosing to live together without getting married. Didion’s argument that love, not marriage, should be the basis of any relationship is as valid today as it was when her essay was first published.

In “Marrying Absurd,” Joan Didion observes her husband’s family business from the inside out, including their Las Vegas wedding industry. It examines the things people generally assumed were taking place in Nevada but weren’t concerned enough about to do research on.

Didion’s observations and thoughts on the ease of marriage in Vegas are eye opening and humorous. She begins by describing the chapels that line up along the road waiting to perform weddings as if they were fast food restaurants. The first one she talks about is the Little White Wedding Chapel. This chapel has a “drive-through” window where couples can get hitched without even having to stop their car.

Didion then visits the inside of another chapel called A LittleWhite Wedding Chapel which is full of Elvis impersonators. The staff there is always in character, talking and joking with customers as if they are celebrities themselves.

She also attends a “fake” wedding where two people who are already married renew their vows in front of an Elvis impersonator.

Throughout the essay, Didion makes it clear that she does not understand why people want to get married in such a hurry and in such a “fake” setting.

In the end, she comes to the conclusion that maybe it is because people are looking for something they cannot find in real life. Maybe they are looking for the fairy tale ending that they have always dreamed of. Or maybe they just want to escape reality for a little while and pretend that they are living in a world where anything is possible. Whatever the reason, Joan Didion’s “Marrying Absurd” gives us a comical look at the business of getting married in Las Vegas.

While I already knew most of the content in the essay, Didion delivered it in an amusing and sardonic style that I was never bored. Without explicitly stating what she thought of the industry, Didion explained how she felt about Las Vegas’ “spur of the moment” way of life by selecting her words carefully. “All of these services, like most others in Las Vegas…are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, presumably on the theory that marriage is a game to be played when the table is hot” (Didion 91).

The way Didion uses words such as “services” and “game” when referring to something as personal and important as marriage, really allows the reader to see how she feels about it.

Didion is not alone in her feelings about the way marriages are handled in Las Vegas. In an interview with NPR, Naomi Schaefer Riley says that “one of the things that I think is most interesting about this is that we’ve seen a decline in marriage rates over the last several decades, but we haven’t seen a decline in the desire for weddings. So people still want these big lavish affairs. They just don’t want to go through with the actual legal institution” (Riley).

This desire for a big wedding without the actual marriage is something that Didion also touches on in her essay. She talks about how most of the chapels offer drive-thru services and how you can be married by an Elvis impersonator. While this may seem like fun and games to some, it takes away from the sanctity of marriage.

Marriage is supposed to be between two people who are in love and want to spend the rest of their lives together. It should not be something that is done on a whim because it’s easy and convenient. Las Vegas may make it easy to get married, but it’s not always easy to get divorced. As Didion so eloquently puts it, “We are all of us doomed, but some of us are more doomed than others” (Didion 93).

In this essay, Didion attempts to convey the absurdity of the notion in order to deter people from making hasty judgments. Didion tells tales about her observations of wedding parties to illustrate her point. “I remember once, around eleven o’clock at night in Las Vegas, watching a bride in an orange mini-dress and masses of flame-colored hair stumble out of a chapel on the arm of her groom, who looked like he’d be able to take care of himself in movies like Miami Syndicate.”

” From this Didion is able to show the reader that in some cases, people are getting married without even knowing each other. This is not only dangerous, but it is also very foolish.

Didion also talks about how a lot of times people will marry someone because they are afraid of being alone. “We marry for love. Love blinds us to all that is wrong with the other person until after the marriage ceremony when reality strikes and we suddenly realize that we do not really like this person after all.” This is something that a lot of people can relate to, and it is one of the main reasons why marriages fail. People rush into them without really getting to know the person they are marrying, and then they are stuck with them for the rest of their lives.

Marrying Absurd is a great essay for anyone who is considering getting married, or for anyone who is already married and wants to know more about the institution of marriage. Joan Didion does a great job of showing the reader just how absurd the whole concept of marriage really is.

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