Monday, September 19, 2011

They go Together Like...Fire and Gunpowder

"There can be no disparity in marriage like unsuitability of mind and purpose." 
~David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Oh, oh, oh! Do words ever strike you as you read them, steal your breath away, and only return--demanding compound interest--once they've rattled through your mind again and again? Or perhaps a simpler description, more to the point, would be, do you ever read something and find it resounds with your very soul? So much so that you cannot forget it? 
These words from David Copperfield did just that to me. I can't tell why, exactly. Perhaps it was because I knew David shouldn't have married Dora, and it pains me to see him pained. Perhaps it is because that is a truth I have long suspected but had never heard put down quite so perfectly.
This is, perhaps, not quite a writing post, as much as it is a post about a thought literature provoked. But one can accept a change of subject, right? 
Unequal marriages have always bothered me. Think the painful marriages in literature that make you want to punch the husband or wife clear out of the pages. Mr. Gibson and Hyacinth Clare. Richard Carstone and Ada Clare. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet...I am even tempted to add poor David and Dora to the group. But what is it that makes a marriage unequal? What is it that adds such disparity to an otherwise average couple?

1. I profess an opinion that station has nothing to do with it. As Emma Woodhouse says, "There have been many happy and unequal marriages!" Station and social status have little to do with having a happy marriage. Think of any of the successful couples in literature, and one will find that many of them were of different classes...Mr. Darcy and Lizzy Bennet. Captain Ralph Percy and Lady Jocelyn Leigh. Even Sir Percy Blakeney and Marguerite St. Just came from different backgrounds.

2. Age has little to do with it. Think of Emma and Mr. Knightley. There were 17 years between them! In fact, many  if not most of the classic couples had a span of at least 10 or 20 years age difference.

3. Similarity of personality isn't a necessity. We've all heard that opposites attract, and I can think of many cases where this is evident. Think of Mr. and Mrs. Morgan in How Green Was my Valley.

If none of these things, what is it that makes an unequal, unhappy marriage?

"My child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner life." So Mr. Bennet warns Lizzy when she admits her love for Mr. Darcy. The inability to respect your partner is a large component in an unhappy marriage. But Dickens hit the nail on the head when he spoke of the subject: unsuitability of mind and purpose. A couple who cannot share the same sympathies, who cannot relate one to another, are like oxen who are supposed to be a team but are pulling in opposite direction. It just doesn't work. 
My heart is sore for poor David Copperfield. He should have married Agnes Wickfield. He totally should have married Agnes, I almost wanted to throw the book across the room when his wedding with Dora actually happened. What did my sweet David ever do to deserve this?

"It was impossible to say to that sweet little surprised face, otherwise than lightly and playfully, that we must work, to live.

"'Oh! How ridiculous!" cried Dora. 'Why should you?"

"'How shall we live without, Dora?' said I.

"'How? Any how!' said Dora."
And I shall keep a tidier house, thank you.

Anyone want to help me throw the book? ;) It just set me thinking on my own marriage, someday. I shall strive to be a good wife, suited to my husbands mind and purpose. I will strive to share his hopes and dreams and support him during the rough times so that he won't, unlike David, have to hide his burden within himself when he finds I am not strong enough to bear it alongside him. ~Rachel


Carilyn said...

I have not actually read David Copperfield, but I watched a very enjoyable adaptation of it, and I found that, though Dora was very frail and everything, David's industry was starting to rub off on her before she died, and she was the better for it. I was sorry to see her die. She was lovely and loving, however frail and without understanding. She was not necessarily suited to David, I agree, but his influence on her was a positive in her character development.

Horse Lover said...

Ugh, I will help you throw it! I thought he should have married Agnes all along! But I was angry at David, I thought he was dopey enough to fall in love with Dora.

Miss Dashwood said...

What a beautifully written post! I have to say, I really don't like Agnes either... but I do feel sorry for Dora, even if she is a bit of an airhead. You could say that her dog has more personality than she does.
The quote fits Mr. and Mrs. Bennet pretty well--yet would you really call theirs an unhappy marriage? I wouldn't.
Now I see that I've disagreed with just about everything that you said--I do apologize! And I really did like this post very much. I just tend to be a little too opinionated sometimes.
Love your blog!

Anonymous said...

I love Dora! And I really really don't like Agnes. But i agree that Davie and Dora aren't suited for each other.