“The Three Sisters” written by Jane Austen is set in upper-middle class England in the 18th century and tells the story of three sisters who are being pressured to marry a man that none of them want to marry but feel that one of them have to or face social embarrassment. The story is written in a very clever way where we see the sisters feelings through a series of letters they have written to their cousins.
The three main characters are the three sisters Sophy, Gorgiana, and the man one them is suppose to marry Mr.Watts. Mary is the first to receive an offer of marriage and in her letter she constantly changes her mind on whether to marry Mr. Watts or not. At first she seems pleased ” I am the happiest creature in the world, for I have received an offer of marriage” although it seems more like it’s the fact she was asked then who actually asked her because it will mean that she will get married before her sisters and a rival family called the Duttons ” I believe I shall have him. It will be such a Triumph to be married before Sophy, Georgiana and the Duttons.” This shows us that, at that period of time, being married was very important. However Mary has her doubts about marring Mr. Watts because she sees him as being old, ugly, disagreeable and extremely jealous. “He is an old man, about two and thirty, so plain that I cannot bear to look at him and he is extremely disagreeable and I hate him more than anybody else in the world. He has a large fortune and will make great settlements in me.” She mentions that he is rich, which is clearly very important to her.
As the other two sisters realise that if Mary does not marry Mr. Watts then one of them will have to because their mother will not let the opportunity of marrying one her daughters go, they hatch a plan to use reverse psychology on Mary “Sophy and I have just been practicing a little deceit on our eldest sister”, and pretend that is Mary did not marry Mr. Watts either Sophy or Georgiana definitely would “Oh do not accept him said I, and then perhaps he may have me!” Mary falls for the trick and when she meets with Mr. Watts to discuss the terms of the marriage she makes some optimistic demands “I shall expect a new saddle horse, a suit of fine lace and an infinite number of the most valuable jewels.” Mary continues to make a number of unrealistic demands and her mother backs her up “This is all very reasonable for my daughter to expect” to which Mr. Watts cleverly replies “and it is very reasonable Mrs. Stanhope that your daughter should be disappointed.”
Mary clearly feels that if she is going to have to marry Mr. Watts she might as well make the most of it by demanding lots of material goods and demanding that Mr. Watts give balls, masquerades and to build a theatre all of which will build her social status which is clearly important to her “Mary is eager to have every one know her approaching wedding and particularly desirous of triumphing as she called it over the Duttons”
“Teresa’s Wedding” is set in a close catholic community in Ireland in the 1960’s. We are at the wedding reception after the marriage of Artie and Teresa, which is being held in a lounge bar. Artie and Teresa are not in love with each other but feel that they have to marry because Teresa is carrying Artie’s baby. It is written in the third person and the writer describes the setting well and builds it as a working class setting “the two small chairs that the lounge bar contained on the tattered green or red linoleum.
The two main characters in the story are Artie and Teresa. Artie is 28 years old, heavily built and people “occasionally found him slow”. Teresa is six years younger than her husband and is described of having a pretty face and pretty black hair. The two fathers of the couple seem not to care about the wedding instead they use it as an excuse to get drunk “they both shared a wish that the bride and groom would soon decide to bring the occasion to an end and had it in mind to stay in Swanton’s lounge bar, celebrating in their particular way the union of the children.” The families were obviously not very well off “the newly weds had to prepare themselves for their journey to Cork on the half one bus” and “all three of the bridesmaids were attired in their wedding finery, dresses they had feverishly worked on to get finished in time for the wedding.”
The twist in the story is that one of Artie’s friends, Screw Doyle, had an affair with his wife before the wedding “I had a great bloody ride of her!” The crude and blunt manner in which Screw Doyle confesses to Artie emphasizes the working class upbringing of him. More shockingly, perhaps, is that Doyle had revealed this to Artie before the wedding and yet he still went ahead with the wedding and he did not seem to care even though there was a chance that the baby might not be his. There clearly is no real love between the married couple this is highlighted at the end of the story when Artie openly asks Teresa, while still in the lounge bar, if what Screw Doyle said was true “Yes” she replied, “It’s your baby Artie. The other thing was ages ago” She says this as of it did not matter but to Artie it did not matter, she had no reason to be faithful to him and he has no reason to get angry about it. In the end the writer sums up the story the best when he says, “she felt that she and Artie might make some kind of marriage together because there was nothing that could be destroyed, no magic or anything else.
The two writers are writing about two very different periods of time but both use the theme of a loveless marriage and societies pressure on men and women to get married. Also they both give an insight into their respective time periods.
Jane Austen uses humor and irony to show the superficiality of the upper-middle class women and effectively shows the pressure on women, from their families and society, to find a wealthy and respectable husband to marry. As upper-middle class women would not have worked they had to seek financial security in their husband and settle for the sensible option and totally disregard their feelings. They did however, as Austen shows, enjoy the social status that came with marrying with Mary clearly excited about beating any of the Duttons down the aisle “How I will triumphs over the Duttons!” Mr. Watts also quite openly admits that he does not care which sister he marries so he obviously does not love any of them.
Austen describes the characters very well and really shows Mary’s materialistic nature, the devious side of Georgiana and Sophy. She uses formal and impersonal language in the dialogue between the characters even when they are clearly arguing. Austen seems to be very unsympathetic of the girls situation and portrays them as shallow, deceitful and demanding on the inside but very civil and polite on the outside.
In the “The Three Sisters” William Trevor, although written in completely different setting, uses the similar themes of societies pressure on Teresa and Artie to wed, as an abortion for a Catholic girl would be out the question. As oppose to Austen’s polite society Trevor uses crude and personal language as the characters know each other well and it is a close working class community and so the embarrassment and shame to mother a baby whilst unmarried would be high on her and her family. Trevor, like Austen describes the characters well but uses an observational perspective to narrate the story. Unlike Austen, Trevor seems more sympathetic in his portrayal of Artie and Teresa and describes them as “victims.” The characters are more open and have no problem being blunt and using coarse language.
Although these are both stories, they do give an insight in to what life may have like at these times and their social comments on marriage and pressure from society are valuable even though their stories may be seen as slightly stereotypical with the over politeness and civility of the upper-middle class English and loud drunkenness of the Irish.
Overall I think that both the stories work very well and show that even though the times move on very rapidly, societies ideals are a lot slower to change and there is great pressure on people to live the “normal” life i.e. get an education, get a job, get married, have children, raise them and then retire and live out the remaining few years of your life.