marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,


I was reading posts in another blog about dystopias.  Someone mentioned the frequent arranged marriages, and someone else mentioned that most past societies did -- which means, of course, that most past societies were dystopias.

Oooooffff.  What a parochial view.

One researcher working in modern-day China noted that the parents of marriageable adults always kept their eyes open for prospective spouses, which worked just fine because the parents and the children agreed just fine on what a good spouse would be like.  It is not freedom but notions of romantic love and passion that cause such consternation -- and as we can all see, romantic love does not necessarily lead to the best of marriages.  Indeed, unless it is solidly buttressed by other character traits, it can lead to a whole succession of miserable marriages.

True, your parents could marry you off for money and status, but then it's not exactly unknown for people to marry for those on their own initiative.  A less giddy head may choose with a more careful eye for the future.  And the very fact they entered the union with less giddiness may have meant more happiness because a reasonably good marriage didn't constitute the dashing of dreams.  I once read a posting by a credit counselor who praised Anglo-Saxon marriage customs -- they would marry at the bride's home, consummate the marriage that night, and the bridegroom would sign over the morning gift the next morning -- because after one too many couple who could not divorce for the hit on their credit rating, he appreciated customs that realized what marriage is really about:  sex and property.

Not to mention that there are many forms of arranged marriages besides the parents striking the deal and the children showing up at the altar or equivalent location.  True, there were marriages like that.  Especially in the upper classes.  Once in ancien regime France, a young nobleman asked his father about a rumor that a certain young woman was to be his bride and was told to mind his own business.  In the Norse myth Rígsþula Jarl married by sending messengers to another lord to ask for his daughter, but Carl's parents found him a wife who was to both of their likings, and Thrall just picked a woman.  But parents can carefully screen whom their children meet in Society and then let them chose, or children can meet on their own and bring home the choice to be approved.  Or a mix thereof.

It worked.  Certainly enough to avoid calling inherently dystopian.
Tags: families: matrimony, families: parent/child, world-building: economics, world-building: social bonds, world-building: social classes

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