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    The Conventions and Awareness of Courtship in Pre-Twentieth Literature

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    The definition of courtship is, to courtship with a view to marriage. Verb to court, attention paid to a person whose favourite love or interest is sought. Convention means how things are normally done. In my essay I am going to discuss and analyse three pieces of pre-twentieth literature and look at the way in which they portray the conventions and awareness of courtship. I will be discussing ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austin 1775-1817 which was published in 1813, two sonnets, one written by ‘Drayton’ and the other ‘Shakespeare’.

    The third is from the novel ‘Trainspotting ‘written by Irvine Welsh The first example of courtship I am going to look at is the novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’, which is about a family ‘The Bennets’ who have 5 daughters and wish for them to get married to rich wealthy men. In the 18th Century marriage was an institution for the rich. Poor people did not really marry as there was no social advantage, before common law relationships were usual amongst the lower classes. It was not until the 19th Century that marriage became a more widespread practice.

    However marriage had always been important for the wealthy because marriage was a contract between powerful families, and could ensure the future of their economic survival. Austens novels are a critique of the unequal role of women in society and also of the institution of marriage as a monetary contract. Love was not an important factor in wealthy marriages. If you courted someone it meant that you had serious intentions of marriage and there was a whole etiquette involved for example asking the father for permission to court his daughter.

    In ‘Pride and Prejudice’ there are two proposals which take place, one between Elizabeth and Mr Collins, and another between Elizabeth once again and Mr Darcy. These both show ways in which they follow and break convention. First to take place is the courtship between Elizabeth and Mr Collins Mr Bennets cousin a clergyman who is expected from both his boss and social status, to have a dutiful wife.

    Mr Collins shows his awareness of courtship by trying to show that he knows all about the female response, and her reactions to the offer of marriage, That it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept’ When Collins asked Elizabeth for her hand in marriage, she declines and Mr Collins was eager to court her, so he goes on about his reason for marriage hoping that she then would then accept his generous offer. He shows his acute awareness of convention when stating these reasons for marriage, ‘I am to inherit this estate after death of your honoured father, who however, many live many years longer, I could not satisfy myself without resolving to chuse a wife among his daughters’

    Mr Collins Follows convention when he seeks Mrs Bennets for her daughters hand whom Collins knew was eager to let one of her daughters marry him. He did this maybe because he knew Mr Bennet might have declined his request, but by doing this he does break convention. The second offer of marriage from Mr Darcy breaks convention in several ways. Darcy first breaks convention by not asking for permission from any of the parents, not even the mother.

    This is probably because he is very big headed and thinks he is too important to request permission from the ‘lowly’ Mr Bennet. He also puts her down and makes her feel less important, His sense of her inferiority- of its being a degradation- of the family obstacles which judgement had always opposed to inclination were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit’ While they are very different, both proposals have something in common. Both Mr Darcy and Mr Collins expect Elizabeth to jump at the opportunity of marriage and accept although in both cases she declined. This is due to the fact that Elizabeth is one of the daughters that did not wish to marry for wealth and a certain future but for love.

    HE is conventional in that he tells her his true feelings, ‘My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you’ The two Sonnets I will be comparing both are Shakespearean sonnets, and both follow the convention of the sonnet form; 14 lines, rhyming scheme ABABABCC, rhyming couplet, 10 syllables, grouped in sets of four, which are called quatrains. The traditional theme of the sonnet is love and romance. The convention of a sonnet form of poetry is traditionally used for courtship written by the man to the woman, usually only written by the upper class.

    The petrarchan sonnet uses elaborate similes and comparisons, usually to describe a lady as being more beautiful than nature, and uses a lot of hyperbole. The first sonnet I will look at is one written by Drayton, This sonnet is about his mistress and how she will spend no longer than the day with him, and sends him away at night. Drayton because of this blames night for his problems and expresses three arguments to his mistress. The first argument he addresses is that night is the time for love. He thinks this because when love is made it is usually done at night, Me thinks this time becommeth lovers best; Night was ordained together friends to keepe’.

    Drayton then presents his second argument that it is conventional for everyone to spend time together at night, and that it is so natural even animals do so. ‘The quiet evening yet together brings, and each returns unto his love at night’ Drayton uses dramatic hyperbole here, as this statement is not necessarily true. He only does so to try to convince his mistress that it is conventional, and that it is strange not to get together than actually being together.

    Drayton then presents his third argument, which is that he blames night for his troubles, for not being able to get together with his lady. ‘O thou that art so curteous unto all, why shouldst thou, Night, abuse me only thus, that every creature to his kind doost call, and yet tis thou doost onely sever us? ‘ In this extract the night is being personified. Even though throughout the sonnet the man is complaining to both the nigh and his mistress, he still writes to show her how much he loves her and would like to be with her, day or night. Well could I wish it would be ever day, If when night comes, you bid me go away’.

    He shows his love by saying in the extract above that ‘even though you bid send me away at night, if I could then I might as well make it day all day, so I could still spend more time with my love’. The second sonnet I will look at is one written by Shakespeare, it is conventional in the form of a sonnet although it mocks, parodies or inverts the traditional Petrerchan sonnet form. Shakespeare still chooses to compare his mistress to nature although he does not use hyperbole; in fact he chooses to insult the mistress using the comparison of nature.

    My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun, coral is far more red than her lips’ red. If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head’. Shakespeare fulfils the convention of the sonnet to the end of his sonnet in that he expresses his genuine love for his lady, mistress, and object of desire. He is more honest in the declaration of his love. ‘I think my love is rare as any she belied with false compare’ He critiques those poets who use sickly sweet comparisons of love to all sorts of impossible things.

    He loves his mistress just the way she is, and doesn’t compare her falsely to things in nature. The Third and final piece I will be looking at is Trainspotting. This scene takes place in an Edinburgh nightclub, where a guy called Renton comes off heroin and re- discovers his sex drive. In the nightclub he sees a young lady and it is love at first sight. This young lady is called Diane although Renton does not know how young Diane actually is. Renton follows several courtship conventions in this piece.

    He starts off by using an original/unique chat up line to engage Dianes interest by complimenting her on the way she handled the unwelcome advances of a man in the club, ‘I was very impressed by the capable and stylish manner in which you dealt with that situation. I thought to myself: she’s special’ Both Renton and Diane knowingly play with courtship convention, particularly the delivery and response to the chat up line. ‘Do you find this approach normally works and don’t us girls just love that’. They both use this to their advantage to reach their goal, in this case getting together for sexual intercourse.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    The Conventions and Awareness of Courtship in Pre-Twentieth Literature. (2018, Apr 25). Retrieved from

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