We’re all guilty of it. Finishing a book set at some point in the past, we’re often wistful and find ourselves wishing that we were back in such “simpler” times. But let’s look at some of the issues that we stumble across in the classics, shall we?
Getting to know someone was hard!
Looking back through the ages, it’s clear to see that marriage was rarely seen as a love match – in many families across society, marriage was a contract, something done out of need and to upkeep appearances.
Throughout literature, we have seen many examples of how different the idea of choosing a partner and the concept of family honour actually was. While Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen was highly progressive for its time and involves Elizabeth and Jane Bennett, the two protagonists, being happily married at the end, their family constantly worry that they won’t find anyone to marry, which would bring the family great shame.
Despite the pomp and circumstance of society in the period when this was set, the book teaches us that it’s okay to take your time choosing a love match. Elizabeth couldn’t stand the guy she eventually ends up with when she first met him, and yet by the end, she and Mr. Darcy are as smitten as can be (sorry, spoiler alert!). Money is one thing, but Elizabeth knew she wanted more.
These days we can take our time just as well, but we have the added benefit of being able to really grill someone before we even meet. Just a click of a button on a website like Badoo means that you can find someone suited to you, and you can put all of the information in your profile so that they already know what to expect. Just like Elizabeth, who was super intelligent for her time, you can show that you’re more than just a pretty face!
Now, Elizabeth just so happened to find a man who was rich and who suited her ideals. Lucky girl! But money isn’t everything…
In the past, your family had a lot more say in who you could – or could not – spend your life with.
William Shakespeare is universally acknowledged to be a fantastic romance writer, with Romeo and Juliet often cited as the epitome of young love. However, as we all know, this play didn’t exactly have a happy ending. You think you’ve got a tough family? It’s doubtful that it could be anything like the war that went down between the Montagues and the Capulets!
These days we’re lucky and know that most people accept the whole “opposites attract” thing. While having a difference of opinion on whether pineapple goes on pizza is a lot easier to deal with than what Romeo and Juliet went through, so maybe count yourself lucky.
The next time you think how “romantic” the notion of being a star-crossed lover is, just be thankful that this isn’t actually your reality!
Counting ourselves lucky
It’s important to read books set in the past to understand the context of the time (and because let’s face it, they make for fantastic stories), but we shouldn’t romanticise periods of history that would have seen us restricted.
There are so many amazing romances in the books, but these days, we’re living in much simpler times.