English coursework- Are the marriages of Mary and Teresa for love or convenience?
Teresa’s wedding is set in a small town in Ireland and The Three sisters is set in England.
The historical differences between them are reflected in the lives of women, the writer’s style and the character’s attitudes to marriage.
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In Jane Austen’s story the main character is marry - English coursework- Are the marriages of Mary and Teresa for love or convenience? introduction. Mary is the oldest of her two sisters and has to decide whether or not she will accept the proposal from her next-door neighbour- Mr. Watts.
In William Trevor’s story the main character is Teresa. She is one and a half months pregnant by Artie Cornish and has to follow the society codes, meaning she would have to marry Artie.
The two stories are similar because in both stories society pressurises women. Women in the pre 20th century are expected to get married and stick to their traditional roles.
In the pre 20th century women needed to marry in order to be secure. Women in those times did not have much freedom. The only way that they could get some freedom was to get married. We know this because Mary says:
‘ I shall be able to chaperone Sophy and Georgiana to all the winter balls’
This shows that women did not have much freedom, as Mary’s sisters (Sophy and Georgiana) are not allowed to go out on their own, they will need to be escorted by a married women unless they are married themselves. This is also the same for Mary until she gets married also. Here we can see that marriage in the pre 20th century is also a way of getting freedom.
The lives of these women are mainly based on decisions made by other people. This is because of their society. Their parents also influence them. Mary’s mother is putting pressure on Mary, Mrs Stanhope tells Mary to make a quick decision and if she does not, Mr.watts will address his proposals to either one of her sisters. She says:
“…if you do not give him your final answer tomorrow when he drinks tea with us, he intends to pay his address to Sophy.”
Mrs Stanhope tells Mary that the decision to marry Mr.Watts ‘does not’ rest with Mary, as he will marry a sister if she does not give a quick reply. She says:
” …for I am determined not to let such opportunity escape of settling one of my daughters so advantageously”
This shows that their parents and social laws dominate the daughters. They do not get a choice or a say in whether they want to marry or not. This also shows that the three sisters are vulnerable, as they are economically dependent on men. This also shows that they live in a society structived by gendered difference. Men would provide the money meaning women would have to depend on men.
The cultural settings of The Three sisters are different to Teresa’s wedding. It is also similar in some ways.
William Trevor’s story is set in a small, not so wealthy town in Ireland. Because the town is small everyone in the town gossips and generally knows what is happening in each persons life. The people that live in the town is catholic and believes in sex after marriage. Which is why Teresa is marrying Artie. This shows that women only do what society expects them to do because the society is putting pressure on them. Teresa is one and a half months pregnant and she doesn’t love Artie. They both do not love each other and neither of them suggested marrying each other.
“…she had been aware of that when father Hogan had arranged the marriage”
This shows that Teresa and Artie do not really want to get married but because father Hogan said that it was the right thing to do, they had to agree.
“Father Hogan had laid down the law”
This shows that he has control over the people in the village. They are not only influenced by the society but also by Father Hogan and his religious beliefs. ‘Love’ is obviously not considered important to the priest.
In both stories it is clearly seen that there is no love in theses marriages, they are all based on the society’s expectations of women. These marriages are therefore of convenience.
There are also different attitudes to marriage in the two stories. A lot of people in those times were marrying for the wrong reasons.
In The Three sisters Mary’s attitude to marriage is not about love. Mary does not love Mr.Watts, yet she’s finding it difficult to decide whether to marry him or not. This shows that she is not marrying decisions based upon her happiness but upon what society accepts.
“How I will triumph over the Duttons!”
Suggesting that she is not deciding to marry Mr.Watts because she loves him. But because she will be able to boost to the Duttons that she has married a rich man first, before her sisters or the Duttons. She enjoys the attention that she gets.
Mary marries Mr.Watts because she fears he will marry one of the Duttons or either one of her sisters. Mary is marrying because she wants everyone to envy her.
” I cannot run such risk”
This shows that Mary is superficial and silly and would rather marry Mr.Watts and sacrifice her happiness than let others marry before her. This also suggests that Mary is a very competitive person. Mary’s attitude to marriage is not about love, but based on society’s laws. Mary is willing to marry a person she doesn’t love only because he is rich, this way she would be secure. However, Georgiana’s attitude to marriage is very different from Mary’s. Georgiana is more independent and knows what she wants from marriage; we know this when she was talking to Mr.Watts:
” I expect my husband to be good tempered and cheerful: to consult my happiness in all his actions, and to love me with constancy and sincerity.”
This shows that Georgiana is mature and shows some faith in marriage. She knows that marrying Mr.Watts will bring her no happiness at all. We know this when she says she wants to trick Mary into marriage:
” I think myself bound to contribute as much as possible to her happiness”
In response to Georgiana’s expectations Mr.Watts replied:
” These are very odd ideas truly young lady. You had better discard then before you marry…”
This shows that Mr.Watts does not see the need of love being involved in marriage as he finds Georgiana’s expectations very weird. Because Georgiana’s expectation are considered to be very high in those times, Mr.Watts thinks that Georgiana will never marry if she continues to go by her high expectations. This also suggests that the majority of the people in their society are marrying for the wrong reasons, as expecting love to be involved in marriage were seen as very odd.
Mr.Watts also tells Mary that he does not care whom he marries:
” I am by no means guided by a particular preference to you above your
sisters it is equally the same to me which I marry of the three”
This shows that Mr.Watts attitude to marriage is not about love, but more about a business arrangement.
In Teresa’s wedding however, we can see that the people in the village have different attitudes towards marriage. Teresa is only marrying Artie because she is pregnant.
But the pregnancy ‘ had naturally not been mentioned on either side’
This is ironic because the two families are keeping up social manners. They are keeping up expected behaviour.
Teresa does not love Artie, she is only marrying to please everybody else and she is also marrying because of social pressure. Teresa’s sister, Agnes has also married for the wrong reasons. Agnes is described as ‘tall and thin’ and dressed in ‘smart powdered blue’. Describing Agnes dressed in ‘smart powdered blue’ suggests that she is more bright and wise as the ‘smart blue’ represents a more sophisticated personality.
Agnes says of Teresa:
” She’s only a kid marrying a goop like that. She’ll be stuck in this town forever”
This shows that Agnes does not like the town at all and finds it disgraceful that her sister is marrying a man who is not wealthy and cannot support her or give her a better lifestyle.
Agnes ‘ hated the town and always had…except that the marriage had made her less nice then she had been’.
This tells us that Agnes had only married to escape from the town. She hated her lifestyle and the town so much that she did not even consider marrying for love.
Teresa’s other sister-Loretta however, has a very different attitude towards marriage. Loretta had a negative experience about marriage. She dislikes sex and has plans in becoming a nun this suggests that Loretta’s life is not very exciting as William Trevor describes her as:
“small and brown”
This suggests that Loretta’s life is dull and boring as the colour of her clothes reflects her mood.
She imagines her brother in laws “coming at her sisters like two farm animals”. Her plans in becoming a nun suggest that the society see life for women nothing more than getting married and reproducing.
Kitty Roche (one of Teresa’s friend) did not believe that she would ever marry because she is asthmatic, have tuberculosis and has a skin disorder on her face and neck. She would therefore have low expectations, unlike Agnes.
” No one would want to be saddled with a diseased wife”
This shows that the society has set laws that women who are ill shan’t be married. It is expected that women should be healthy. Women’s lives were based on traditional roles. They all had to depend on men, meaning that Teresa is living a gendered society.
In contrast Jane Austen uses dialogue to convey a sense of character. Her characters are not described in detail. Jane Austen tells the story through the character’s letters and through the characters speech.
For example: Mary’s letter to fanny
“… I had just sealed my last letter to you when my mother came up and told me she wanted to speak to me…Law mama how can I tell you what I don’t know myself?…”
” I am not going to force you child…”
” You are the strangest girl in the world Mary”
Here, Jane Austen is telling the story using the character’s speech, she tells the reader what Mary is thinking by her speech when she is writing a letter to her friend. Mary is telling fanny the conversation that she had with her mother, and this is the way that Jane Austen tells the story. We learn about the characters through a series of letters.
Unlike Jane Austen, William Trevor uses description to create a sense of character and tone.
Trevor’s story begins with a description of the place. He doesn’t start of the story in a lively scene. Rather describing it calmly and slowly, like a video camera analysing the place. He uses description to build up a picture of the place. The story begins at a wedding reception bar that has ” two small chairs” and “tattered green and red linoleum”
This suggests that the town is not wealthy. We also know people do not have parties regularly.
Trevor then introduces the characters and builds up a sense of character using description. He describes Mrs Tracey, a farmer’s widow:
“…all dressed in black”
Trevor reflects the sense of character by the way they look and dress. William Trevor tells the reader that three years her husband died and it has affected her since. Describing Mrs Tracey dressed in black suggests that she is not a very happy person.
” In spite of the jubilant of the occasion, she was dressed in black”
This suggests that Mrs Tracey it not yet over her husband’s death and is still unable to let go.
Jane Austen’s story was written by first person and is more interested in humour. She does not give the reader a direct sense of character, she rather lets the reader make their own judgements.
In The Three sisters Mary is silly and superficial. Jane Austen shows this because Mary is very indecisive and is contradicting herself throughout.
” indeed Sophy need not trouble herself for I shall certainly marry him myself.”
“… I have not settled whether I shall have him or not”
This shows that Jane Austen is more interested in humour because she wants the reader to laugh at Mary’s foolishness. Jane Austen’s story begins with Mary’s letter. The first sentence says
“I am the happiest creature in the world”
Mary then contradicts herself and says
” I do not attend to accept it…”
Jane Austen shows the reader how immature Mary is and wants the reader to laugh at her imprudence. Mary wants to marry Mr.Watts because she can benefit from it. It will be bring her position up one level. She knows that if she does not accept the proposal then one of her sisters or the Duttons may, and to Mary it is considered as one the greatest misfortunes to let others marry before her.
The reader knows that Mr.Watts will not make a very good husband. He is ill tempered, stingy, inconsiderate, and old fashioned. Because Mary is still considering in marrying Mr.Watts it is clear to the reader that Mary is stupid and silly.
Jane Austen satires the society and satires the main character. She makes Mary look like a fool. She uses a lot of humour, this can be seen very clearly when Mary discusses the conditions in marrying Mr.Watts when he went to Mary’s place for tea.
She would only accept Mr.Watts offer if he satisfies Mary’s high expectations:
“…a new saddle horse, a suit of fine lace, an infinite number of the most valuable jewels…Diamond such as never were seen…”
Here Mary gets carried away and gives Mr.Watts a long list of items that she wants for her wedding. She is going over the top and the reader can’t help but laugh at Mary’s childish behaviour. Because Mary does not realise her foolishness it is even funnier as when Mr.Watts asks what he gets in return she answers:
“…why you may expect to have me pleased”
This makes the reader laugh more as Mary thinks that her happiness is very important to Mr.Watts. Mary also tries to convince herself that Mr.Watts is very much in love with her:
“…when there is so much love on one side there is no reason for it on the other”
Mary in under pressure from her family and from the community because the society says that women needs to be married into a wealthy family.
Teresa is also in a similar situation as Mary. But Teresa is not like Mary, she is more sensible. Teresa is marrying for a number of reasons. Partly because of her baby and her religious beliefs, the suggestion on Father Hogan, and the reaction of her parents:
‘ Her mother said it made her felt sick in the stomach. Her father hit her on the side of her face’
it is easy to see that Teresa is only marrying Artie to please her friends and family as she feels that she is a disappointment.
William Trevor is more interested in plot. Teresa’s wedding is a traditional standard story written by an author in the third person. It is a traditional story that builds to a climax. At the beginning of William’s story he tells us that Teresa is one and a half months pregnant by Artie. But later on in the story Artie’s friend, screw Doyle tells Artie that he has had sex with his wife. This builds to a climax because it makes the reader wonder whether Teresa’s baby is Artie’s or Screw Doyle’s.
Jane Austen’s story is about the lives and expectations of women in the 19th century. She shows how society pressurises women. Marriage to women in the 19th century was not about love, it was more of a social event.
This also shows that Jane builds up a sense of character using dialogue as she doesn’t use description. Instead she shows the characters personality by their speech and the way they act.
Women in the 19th century had no power. They have to get married to be secure, as they are not allowed to inherit any of their family’s fortunes.
Both stories are based on women lives and expectations. William Trevor’s however, is set in 20th century where women were not dominated by their parents but dominated by social laws.
William Trevor then builds up tension when Screw Doyle tells Artie that after a dance he’d spent and hour in a field with Teresa:
” I had a great bloody ride of her”
This makes the reader wonder whether Teresa was carrying Doyle’s baby or Artie’s baby. Then near the end Artie asks Teresa
” did you sleep with Doyle?”
this create a moment for readers to wonder whether Teresa gonna tell the truth and what her reaction will be.
She then says:
” yes, yes I did”
This suggests that there is still hope in their marriage as they are still honest with each other.
William Trevor draws up a conclusion
” she felt test she and Artie might make some kind of marriage together because there was nothing that could be destroyed, no magic or anything else… there was nothing special about the occasion.”
Jane Austen’s story ends abruptly. This is because Jane Austen was not interested in plot. She just wanted to show the lives of women and the society they live in. Her aim was to make the reader laugh at the society and the expectations of women in the 19th century.
Overall, both stories were very good. I preferred William Trevor’s story as it builds up to a climax and come to a ‘moment of truth’ scene. I think that the women decided to marry due to the society they lived in and for convenience. In The Three sisters Mary decided to marry Mr.Wattts because she feared that others would marry before her, she was too keen in trying to make others envy her. But if Mary were living in today’s world she probably wouldn’t care less whether her sisters married before her or not. This is because nowadays there is not as much social pressure as there was then. In the pre 20th century women were not as independent and Mary felt that she had to marry well in order to live well.
Teresa married because she was pregnant with Artie’s baby. She broke the social rule and she felt that she had let her parents down, she felt shameful. So it is very clear that Mary and Teresa only married for convenience and not for love. Nowadays it is very easy to just abort the baby and it would not be seen as a big issue.
Nowadays people do not see marriage as a big thing. Marriage is only away to try and control your partner. Being married results in commitment and it is way to stay faithful to your partner. But despite the fact that it is wrong to cheat people still do it, and divorce is not seen as a sin or a crime so it is really not a big deal. People do generally marry for love though because if a woman were pregnant she would not have to marry the man, she could either have an abortion or bring up the child herself.