Love and Marriage in News of the Engagement, The Unexpected, and Twenty-Six Men and a Girl
The three short stories I have chosen to compare are "News of the
Engagement", "The Unexpected" and "Twenty-six Men and a Girl". All the
stories were written around 1900 and at this time women were still
viewed as housewives and mothers. Divorce was still socially
unacceptable. Arnold Bennett the writer of "News of the Engagement"
was a journalist who aimed his work at women. He grew up in
Staffordshire in a not particularly well off family. Kate Chopin lived
in New Orland's when she wrote "The Unexpected". Her short stories
were viewed as being quite controversial when they were first written
and were often been refused publication. Maxim Gorky who had a
terrible childhood wrote "Twenty-six Men and a Girl". He ran away at
twelve and lived with the poorest people in society. He worked in a
bakery in Russia, which is the setting of "Twenty-six Men and a Girl".
In "News of the Engagement" Philip does not see his mother as
something that could be loved in a sexual way. Nor that someone could
possibly fall in love with her and she with him. As she is maternal
and her role is to be his cuddly mother waiting for him to arrive home
with open arms.
"My little plump mother".
He assumes that everything she does is for his benefit. Even when
there is a third place set at the table he presumes it is for his
partner not for his mother:
"In some way or another she must have discovered the state of my
desires towards Agnes."
He does not see that she might want to re-marry and get on with her
life. It is obvious Philip considers himself above his mother and that
he was her sole purpose for living.
"You see, I wrote to my mother regularly every week, telling her most
of my doings. She knew all my friends by name."
As Arnold Bennett did not grow up in a particularly affluent
environment it may explain his portrayal of Philip. A pompous, boring,
narrow-minded man who was spoilt by his mother from birth.
"She had always other things to do; she was 'preparing' for me."
It is possible that Arnold Bennett saw the stereotypical role of the
rich (Philip) and used this to show that people can learn from their
mistakes and grow as a person. As at the end of the novel Philip
recognises his mother as a separate person and matures considerably.
"I said nothing about my own engagement that night. I had never though
of my mother as a women with a future...So I decided that I would not
intrude my joy on hers until the next morning. We live and learn."
In "The Unexpected", the typical male and female stereotypes are
reversed. Normally, we would assume that the male would be the one to
base his love of physical appearance. The beginning of the story is
"â€¦the parting was...