Date of Award
Master of Arts
The connection between social change and marriage is of critical concern for nineteenth century English novelists, and the progression of both class shifts and alterations in marriage are discernable through these novelists' respective works. Due to the Industrial Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, England's social hierarchy began to shift allowing for the rise of a middle class; with the professional class's ascension came the decline of the landed gentry. These social changes blurred class boundaries and created an increasing socially mobile society. Additionally, they coincided with changes to marriage framework, as matrimony was moving towards being based on love rather than the traditional socioeconomic foundation. As both class lines and the love-revolution took place around the same time historically, there was a key change in marriage suitability, making cross-class and love-based marriages more of a reality. Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy are two of the most notable authors from the nineteenth century who chronicle this tension between marriage and class in their respective novels. This thesis focuses specifically on Austen's Persuasion and Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd, arguing that they both visualize a successful marriage that is predicated on both love and socioeconomic status. Their similar image of the sustainable marriage gives value to both the socioeconomic-based and love-based marriages, depicting a realistic conceptualization of marriage.
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