Charlotte Temple Ideas Of Love

1311 words - 5 pages

Charlotte Temple - Ideas of Love

In the 18th century, when Charlotte Temple was written, society’s ideas
about women, love, and obligations were extremely different from views
held in the 20th century. Women did not have many rights, and society
made them think that their place in life was to marry well. They were
not supposed to have desires or hopes for an amazing kind of love. They
were merely supposed to marry the man who their families intended them
to marry, and live their lives being a dutiful wife and mother. Love
had a similar essence in the 1700’s. It was not looked at as being
essential to a relationship; convenience and social status was more
important than love in an 18th century marriage. Finally, social
obligations were almost completely opposite then to what they are now.
As opposed to 20th century obligations to the self, education, and
wealth, the 18th century focused more on social status and family, and
not so many personal or independent obligations. (“Eighteenth”) In
Charlotte Temple, a radical idea concerning a breakdown of social norms,
and a restructuring of important obligations was presented. Familial
and social responsibilities seemed to take a backseat to Charlotte’s
(and other characters) independent and personal lives. For this reason,
Charlotte Temple was a revolutionary novel that gave people in the 18th
century a new way of looking at life. It emphasized love and emotions,
while disregarding normal cultural ideas.

In the beginning of the novel, familial or social obligations were
told through the stories of Mr. Temple, Charlotte, and La Rue. The
narrator remarked that Mr. Temple’s brother was “made completely
wretched by marrying a disagreeable woman, whose fortune helped to prop
the sinking dignity of the house,” and his sisters both married old men
for their social status. The narrator commented on how their marriages
were productive in the sense that the family name was held in high
regard, yet the actual participants in the marriages were miserable
(854). Temple recognized that he will be under the same obligations as
his brother and sisters, and would probably have had to marry someone
who would be good for the family. He also realized that he would risk
disownment by his father if he chose a mate not suited to his father’s
taste.

Another person bound with familial obligations was Charlotte
Temple. Even when she was away at boarding school, she still felt she
should have obeyed her mothers’ wishes. She did not think she should
open the letter given to her by Montraville, because her mother told her
not to open any letters from men without letting Mother read it first.
She shied away from seeing Montraville again, for she knew her mother
and schoolmaster would not have approved. At one point, Montraville
asked Charlotte if she loved her parents more than she loved him. She
responded, “I hope I do. I hope my affection for them will...

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