The Marrage Law could save countless “whores”

Amy said that she would rather be a whore than seeing her mistress starve, and suggests her mistress should think alike. She mentioned “honesty is out of the question when starving is the case”, it is a very practical survivor logic, for bread, we can not blame. As described in the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, when physiological needs were hardly fulfilled for them, we certainly should not judge Roxana or Amy for being a “whore” for bread. However, at this very first time of considering to be a “whore”, Roxana has stubborn resistance, she’d rather starve.
What d’ye mean by that, Hussy, said I? No, I’d starve first. (p. 25).
O Madam, says Amy, I’d do any thing to get you out of this sad Condition; as to Honesty, I think Honesty is out of the Question, when Starving is the Case; are not we almost starv’d to Death? I am indeed, said I, and thou art for my sake; but to be a Whore, Amy! and there I stopt. (p. 25).
However, when the landlord died, she doesn’t seem morose, perhaps that is because she never saw herself as his wife.
I was a Whore, not a Wife; nor cou’d I ever frame my Mouth to call him Husband, or to say my Husband, when I was speaking of him.(p. 40).
When she accepted the prince, I thought that’s when she changed; yet this seems not to be the sudden change I mentioned last week, it is a process that begins with giving up her children and deciding to sleep with the landlord. She started to lost grasp of the moral standard that she was trying to maintain, repeatedly blame herself, and within self-denial, she began to think herself a whore.
And thus in Gratitude for the Favours I receiv’d from a Man, was all Sence of Religion, and Duty to God, all Regard to Virtue and Honour, given up at once, and we were to call one another Man and Wife, who, in the Sence of the Laws, both of God and our Country, were no more than two Adulterers, in short, a Whore and a Rogue; nor, as I have said above, was my Conscience silent in it, tho’, it seems, his was; for I sinn’d with open Eyes, and thereby had a double Guilt upon me; (p. 39).
After accepting this self-positioning, the struggling process inside her mind has already made her a little neurotic, and pathologically emphasize the position of “whore”, she even started her moral self-destruction by forcing Amy to become a whore.
Had I look’d upon myself as a Wife, you cannot suppose I would have been willing to have let my Husband lye with my Maid, much less, before my Face, for I stood-by all the while; but as I thought myself a Whore, I cannot say but that it was something design’d in my Thoughts, that my Maid should be a Whore too, and should not reproach me with it. (p. 42).
I did all I could to pacify her: A Whore! says I, well, and am not I a Whore as well as you? No, no, says Amy, no, you are not, for you are Marry’d; not I, Amy, says I, I do not pretend to it; (p. 42).
When the landlord died, she had psychologically finished the process from strong resistance to accepting to even wearing “whore” as a protection suit. After giving up, or throwing away all moral standards, with insight ahead of its time, she discovered a fact: At the time she lives, marriage has nothing good for a woman. It strips away all the rights and fortune and dignity of a woman and form up a relation which is nearly slavery.
‘That the very Nature of the Marriage-Contract was, in short, nothing but giving up Liberty, Estate, Authority, and every-thing, to the Man, and the Woman was indeed, a meer Woman ever after, that is to say, a Slave’ (p. 187).
After digging out the truth of marriage, I think she is facing a situation with difficult choices: rights, fortune, freedom, dignity, marriage, love, when these things are not compatible, she has to decide what to give up. To give up wealth and liberty and dignity in exchange for a possibly stable marriage and love? Or to keep her cards in hands, to keep the initiative in the society? Regardless of her other decisions, giving up marriage when she can only choose one group out of two, is possibly a safer way for her. And I luckily live in a society which is not alike, which makes any judgment I make upon this decision of hers, not appropriate nor fair.
I think I may say now, that I liv’d indeed like a Queen; or if you will have me confess, that my Condition had still the Reproach of a Whore, I may say, I was sure, the Queen of Whores; for no Woman was ever more valued, or more caress’d by a Person of such Quality, only in the Station of a Mistress; (pp. 73-74).
To summarize, I think she is a poor woman who has been driven “mad” by a pathetic society, the absence of marriage law forced her to deprivation. She was forced to choose between the most important things as a human being, all of that, her choices and consequences would all be different only if the marriage law was there to protect her rights and fortune. Her “Whorening” starts when she gives up her children and finishes around(but not affected by) the death of the landlord. In a forgiving vision of modern society, she didn’t do anything unforgivable, the only one outrageous thing- giving up her children, lead to her punishment when she refused to make it right, and caused her everything at the end of the story.

4 thoughts on “The Marrage Law could save countless “whores”

  1. The marriage law at the time of the novel really did not protect females from exploits. These individuals were still at the mercy of their mates. Look at the fact that Roxana’s own husband left her at the time of need in dire poverty with children. In fact no where is it seen that she could claim an inheritance from her family or husband’s family. She was forced to survive the best way she knew how, unfortunately she did so at the expense of others.

  2. I’m actually confused about the title of your response, how is the law (which you argue against) supposed to save women? Regardless, I do like the direction your post takes. While I don’t agree that Roxana accepting her “whore” title is a sign of mental illness, I do agree that she accepts that title because it provides her with a sense of comfort and protection (as you mention). I do not think we can say with any certainty that marriage does nothing good for women, period. There are many women then, and now, who simply marry for money, in which case marriage does them a great deal of good.
    You say that she chooses between stability and marriage, and wealth and liberty. I do agree with that, Roxana tells us herself that she wants to keep her money close, hence why she rejects marriage.
    Lastly, I don’t think giving up her children is what brought about her downfall. She does try to help them when she has the means to provide for them financially, but I think Roxana’s downfall comes in refusing to openly accept her children as her own.

    • Thanks, Mo, I reviewed it and made some changes regarding your advice. And you’re right about the title, first half of it doesn’t have much to do with marriage law, let’s just say it’s an over advertisement title to draw your attention 🙂

  3. I think that the Marriage Contract doesn’t protect women because it lacks the true obligations of the man. In Islam, when a man wants to get married, he would have to pay dowry. When the husband dies or divorce, he would pay the end dowry, usually much more.
    I kept wondering about the role of the society. I would expect that the role of the church would be more active. There are many rich men, why don’t they have any charity. Moreover, the law of inheritance seems to be different at that time. It seems like when one dies, he must leave the property with a man.
    It is obvious that Roxana didn’t want to become a whore at first. However, she did see that many wives weren’t treated well either. Those husbands were either fool or cheaters, why keep them forever?

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