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Monday, October 4, 2010

Married vs. Unmarried

"An unmarried woman—a girl of your age—isn't independent. There are all sorts of things she can't do. She's hampered at every step" (Ch. 16)--Caspar Goodwood.

Caspar Goodwood is Isabel's American suitor who has traveled to England in order to receive a commitment from her.  Henrietta Stackpole describes him as "the only man I have sever seen whom I think worthy of Isabel" (Ch. 13).  Nevertheless, Isabel doesn't feel as Henrietta does, though both Goodwood and Miss Stackpole both feel she once encouraged him, a point Isabel concedes.  However, according to Isabel, "Caspar Goodwood had never corresponded to her idea of a delightful person" (Ch. 13).  He is repeatedly called "stiff," a description that may correspond to his surname.  As Isabel is one who values her liberty, Goodwood is someone she thinks would greatly hamper her ability to live freely, though he contradicts this belief:

"Who would wish less to curtail your liberty than I? What can give me greater pleasure than to see you perfectly independent—doing whatever you like? It's to make you independent that I want to marry you" (Ch.16).

Here is where the two see marriage differently.  For Isabel, marriage represents a relinquishing of her freedom and her ability to decide what she wants to do.  Particularly in a marriage to Warburton, she would be forced to conform to society's demands.  However, according to the Goodwood quote above, there would be restrictions on Isabel as an unmarried woman, and she admits as much when she asks, "Isn't anything proper here?"  (Ch. 13) when she and Henrietta are not allowed to travel to London without a male chaperone.  Goodwood is also likely considering the fact that Isabel is poor and dependent on others for her pecuniary needs.  Nevertheless, Isabel is not convinced, declaring, "I wish to choose my fate" (Ch. 16).  Isabel isn't sure what she wants to do other than travel, but she feels comfortable that the decision rests with her.

The above painting is Miranda (1878) by Frank Dicksee.

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