Weddings in Literature — With the world awash with news of the recent royal wedding, now seems an apropos time to write about the depiction of weddings in literary works. I decided to focus on works that relate directly to courses that we regularly offer in the English Department.
Weddings figure prominently in several of William Shakespeare’s plays, but my favorite is A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In this carnivalesque play, Shakespeare evokes the surreal nature of many weddings. As is so often the case in Shakespeare’s comedies, this play features couples who get mixed up, resulting in complicated plot twists. These complications are reflected in one of the most famous lines from the play: “The course of true love never did run smooth.” For me, this line is the perfect response to the snafus that sometimes occur during grand wedding celebrations.
In Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Meg March has a small and simple wedding: “There was no bridal procession, but a sudden silence fell upon the room as Mr. March and the young couple took their places under the green arch. Mother and sisters gathered close, as if loath to give Meg up. The fatherly voice broke more than once, which only seemed to make the service more beautiful and solemn. The bridegroom’s hand trembled visibly, and no one heard his replies. But Meg looked straight up in her husband’s eyes, and said, ‘I will!’ with such tender trust in her own face and voice that her mother’s heart rejoiced and Aunt March sniffed audibly.” And yet even though the wedding itself is simple, Jo March’s response to it is complicated. For Jo, seeing her older sister get married stirs up contradictory emotions. She wants her sister to be happy, but she resents the way in which her older sister’s marriage will change their family dynamics. As Alcott captures in Little Women, weddings have a way of bringing all kinds of emotions to the surface, and perhaps this is one of the reasons why weddings are such memorable events.
A much more recent book about a wedding is Dorothy West’s The Wedding, which came out in 1995. One of the writers associated with the Harlem Renaissance, West published her first novel, The Living Is Easy, in 1948. After the publication of this novel, she focused on writing short stories and columns for many years. She started writing The Wedding in the 1960s, but she put it aside. It was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who encouraged her to complete it. In The Wedding, West deals with the complications that arise when a mixed-race couple decides to get married. Set in Martha’s Vineyard during the 1950s, this novel shows how racism and other social problems can affect relationships. However, West also shows how relationships can transcend such differences. As she states in The Wedding, “Because if you don’t know someone all that well, you react to their surface qualities, the superficial stereotypes they throw off like sparks… But once you fight through the sparks and get to the person, you find just that, a person, a big jumble of likes, dislikes, fears, and desires.”
The weddings in the aforementioned literary works, like the recent royal wedding, are celebrations of romantic relationships, but they are also revealing rituals that tell us a lot about family dynamics, societal values, and cultural traditions.Kudos — As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of the English Department. Here is the latest news:Tony Jackson recently published an article titled “Oceania’s Totalitarian Technology: Writing in Nineteen Eighty-Four” in Criticism.Upcoming Events and Deadlines — Here is information about an upcoming event:June 1 — Wiley Cash, the author of The Last Ballad and A Land More Kind Than Home, will give a reading and lecture on June 1, 2018, at 7:30 pm at the Levine Museum of the New South (200 East 7th Street). This event is sponsored by the American Studies Program. Registration is required. To register, please click on the following link: https://goo.gl/forms/aNtdRgfTXf8MnsNp2
Quirky Quiz Question — The marriage of Meg March is a key moment in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Does anybody know the name of Meg’s groom?Last week’s answer: MathUNC Charlotte’s commitment to excellent teaching started with Bonnie Cone, the founder of our university. Does anybody know what subject Bonnie Cone taught?
Monday Missive – May 28, 2018
Categories: Monday Missive