Thursday, January 6, 2011

Changing times

Books can be time capsules, of a sort. They show us how people used to live, and what their lives were like. Sometimes they even make us thankful that we live in the twenty-first century.

Yes, I do have a particular book in mind as I write this: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I got to thinking about it the other day, and especially George Whickam running off with Lydia Bennet.

SPOILER ALERT

In the book, Whickam runs off with Lydia. He is a grown man who is at least twenty five years old (older, I'm sure), and Lydia is a sixteen year old girl. Whickam tells Lydia that he will marry her -- this is a lie, incidentally -- and they live together in London for several weeks before being caught.

If this happened in this day and age, something like this would happen:

1) Mr. and Mrs. Bennet would demand the return of their daughter. Or I hope they would, anyways.
2) Whickam would be charged with abduction. I think.
3) Whickam would also be charged with rape because Lydia is not of legal age to give consent.

In Pride and Prejudice, however, the only option they see is to have Lydia married to Whickam as quickly as possible. They choose this course of action without any hesitation despite the fact that anyone who has any common sense knows that Whickam cannot be trusted, is a gambler, is in great debt, and is a scoundrel, to put it mildly. Yet despite knowing this, Mr. Bennet eagerly hands over his sixteen year old daughter to this b****** because he has bedded her, and the world knows it.

I was pretty shocked, when I took a step back from the novel, considered Lydia's age, and compared its plot to what would happen in the same situation today.

1 comment:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I guess there was no greater shame for a family in those days than a daughter who had pre-marital sex. If her lover didn't marry her, her lack of virginity would ruin her on the marriage market and no other man would marry her. Then she would be a financial burden on her family for the rest of her life.

Glad that has changed in our times!

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