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vinnyra

What does Austin mean by this quote? Young women should always be properly guarded and attended, according to their situation in life

  • 2 years ago
  • 2 years ago

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  1. Redwood_Girl
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    Well, most simply, it means that young women must be protected from young men. In those days, a woman of the middle or upper class could be ruined for life if any suspicion at all fell upon her for having entertained too intimately the company of young men. She was meant to be married a virgin, quite plainly. In this time period, that was a must. A woman who kept too close company with a young man -- before she was properly and publicly engaged -- might find herself completely unmarriageable, and unless she was independently wealthy, that could mean either poverty or servitude, or quite possibly both, for life. Women had very few options then. Marriage was her one big roll of the dice. It determined everything. In this particular case, it is Lady Catherine de Bourgh speaking, and so Austen is being also ironic. Lady Catherine has no idea what fate almost befell Georgiana at the hands of Wickham, a near fate which Elizabeth (and we) have just discovered in the previous chapter. Lady Catherine, busy pontificating on how young ladies should be attended, was very nearly herself the subject of public attention over such a young lady apparently not well tended enough. The most closely attended ladies might yet fall prey to determined young men, and as usual Lady Catherine is running on and on over something which it turns out she is not that well informed. It is also possible that Austen is making a comment on Lady Catherine's qualification "according to their situation (read: station) in life." Apparently, Lady Catherine would regard the honor of a young woman born into a well-to-do family higher than the honor of a young woman with little money. I believe that in the lower classes, the whole question of a woman's "honor" was not quite the same lynchpin that it was for the more highly born. I'm not certain on this point, and even if so, I believe Austen is putting in a plug for all girls being protected equally. Never trust what Lady Catherine says. She is not to be held up as a model of good behavior or right thinking. As for the morality, you must remember that this was a very different time. This was the reality for women then. It's a far different world now, thankfully.

    • 2 years ago
  2. HyperChemist
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    Is it really that different now? , I do not want to get into ethics but the same logic applies for today's world does it not?

    • 2 years ago
  3. Redwood_Girl
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    Okay, I cannot speak for all parts of the world, but in the UK, in Europe, in Scandinavia, in Australia and New Zealand, in Canada, the US, and much (if not all) of the Americas, a woman's only option for getting ahead is *not* that she marry well. Women can now work. They can own property. They can make a life for themselves, if they so choose, without every marrying. They can live openly with a man, or even another woman for that matter, in an adult relationship, with no recriminations. There is nothing about this situation that is remotely like that of 18th-century England. Women were practically property. They had very few choices in life. Austen wrote about navigating this world, about making the right choice in a husband in a world where a husband, once a fact, was a fact that one carried to the grave, his or hers. And in a world where the women had very little say in who might come courting them, in who might feel them worthy enough to be made wife. It was very much a financial and practical arrangement. How to allow the heart to have a say in any of this? That was what Austen tackled. I suppose in a world of arranged marriages, or in parts of the world where women have few rights and little liberty -- places which unfortunately do still exist today -- some of what Austen wrote about still applies in its wider sense. For the rest of it, we may understand the "matters of the heart" part of the equation, but it takes a study of the very different context to understand how that one decision could mean the difference between a life of comfort and a life of poverty, a life within a family or a life as a spinster, and so on. Because of course, if a woman was not married by a certain age, fewer and fewer gentlemen came calling for her. And a woman could pursue a young man only very covertly. The men really called all the shots.

    • 2 years ago
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