In my undergraduate Victorian Era Literature class, we “wallowed in poetry” (the professor’s words, not mine) and skipped the usual “marriage plot” novels of the era (Austen, Eliot, and the Bronte sisters), which was fine with me as I’ve never been much into Austen or Bronte–at least not in the way that some women are.
Everybody loves a good marriage plot–that’s why romantic comedies are so popular. But now that I have a young daughter, I have to admit I sometimes feel impatient with the ubiquity of the romantic element in most novels aimed at girls–especially teen fiction. Not to mention all the princess movies that end with a wedding and the words “happily ever after.” On one hand, I like those stories, but I also dislike them.
More importantly, I wonder about their relevance in a world where women are increasingly better educated than men. Has “happily ever after” shifted from wedding to career (or something else) for women? I’m not sure, but it’s an interesting idea.
I read Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot primarily on the basis of Middlesex, which I highly recommend, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started reading. In it, I found the coming of age story that explores a new marriage plot that perhaps makes more sense in our modern world. I recommend it for former English majors who may have wallowed in too many novels that ended with wedding bells or anyone who wants to explore “happily ever after” from a new angle.
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