Unmasking the Bourgeoise

Marriage in Bourgeoise Family Life

A Love Story




Real Life

Jeune fille qui fait sa priere a l' Amore, Grueze, 18th C.: Brookner.
During the nineteenth century, young Bourgeoise were facing the growing competition of marriage. The intensified public discussion of the special role of women within marriage and the ubiquitous romantic and marital themes portrayed in literature had the natural effect of preoccupying young women's thoughts with marriage and, for many, increasing their anxieties about it (Hartman, 51).

The prospects of marriage marked much of their adolescent years with conformity to the elaborate bourgeoise rituals, a system of social match-making. The importance of social advancement was among the criteria for a "good" marriage. Moreover, was the dowry the groom's parents could obtain from such an exchange; the higher the dowry, the better the prospects for a bourgeois son. Among other terms of the marriage exchange were name, reputation, class, and beauty (Zeldin, 287). A woman's beauty was sometimes weighed more heavily than even money. (Women distinguished themselves by the preservation of their appearance in order to attract men.)

Taught from early childhood that marital status was their unique objective, young Bourgeoise came to believe that being a wife was the sole purpose of their existence. In preparation for this central event, adolescent girls participated in the "education" of marriage.

This informal practice taught Bourgeoise girls to be future housewives. They learned how to maintain the house, supervise the servants, converse with their husbands, and to raise their children. For these young girls, whose only goal was marriage, formal education was not required in the sense of subjects like science and mathematics, but rather a simple tasting of the general culture: skill in the arts as in music and drawing, and practical training in cooking, hygiene, and child-rearing (Perrot, 309).

Life's progression for bourgeoise women who shared the goal of marriage was relatively the same: the commencement of adult life, the search for a spouse. "Ultimately came marriage followed by the birth of children" (Perrot, 308).

While we would now view the education of marriage as a tool to persuade young women of the necessity to conform to the conventional standards of femininity, marriage, for many women during this time had its positive attractions. For many, marriage brought with it freedom, a husband to love, an increased social position, and money to buy the luxuries in life.