The Ideal Marriage, According to Novels (The New Yorker)

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This article is long-ish, but also fascinating-ish. Adelle Waldman looks at romance and marriage in classic literature old and new and argues that male and female authors approach them differently—in a way that just might offer some insight into gendered perspectives on love IRL. In her own words:

The ideal mate, for Jane Austen’s heroines, for Charlotte Brontë’s, for George Eliot’s, is someone intelligent enough to appreciate fully and respond deeply to their own intelligence, a partner for whom they feel not only desire but a sense of kinship, of intellectual and moral equality.

Female protagonists, when authored by women, evaluate their suitors based on intellect, taste, and the potential for conversation. Male authors and characters, however, tend to characterize love as a “profound, mysterious attraction” with an emphasis on the physical.

Waldman points out that “men have been, in a sense, the real romantics,” but offers her own theory to explain why:

For centuries, men have had far more opportunities to find intellectual outlets outside the romantic sphere—they’ve been able to travel more, to meet a broader range of people, to have professions, to win the respect of peers. Women, on the other hand, were forced to lean more heavily on love and marriage, for intellectual recognition and companionship as for everything else.

Compelling stuff. Here’s hoping it comes up on your Valentine’s dinner date. And that you follow it up with 10 p.m. tickets to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

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