Marriage in P+P and Bedouin polygyny

The question I’m interested in is why were Pride and Prejudice and an account of Bedouin polygyny grouped together? I’ll try to explore this question by examining marriage and the role of kinship in shaping marriages for both stories.

In the section where Sagr talks about the benefits of marrying relatives (91), he explains the story of his marriage to his first cousin and possibly favorite wife Gafeeta. At the end of the section, he has a moment of seeming helplessness. On the accusation that Sagr brought trouble to their lives after marrying Azza, he says “What am I supposed to do? it’s not just me — everyone has two or three wives” (interesting that everyone implies every man) (95). However, from Gafeeta’s perspective, she seems to believe that Sagr was blinded by Azza’s townsperson aura and attractiveness, that “[Sagr] had seemed to judge his wives not by their virtues and their actions but by their looks and the life-style they represented” (108). Sagr had the agency for choosing his wife and he choose wrong, but Sagr was also under pressure to choose another wife. Because of this, Sagr believes that because his marriage with Gafeeta has turned out well on his side of things and that his marriage to outsiders has not, that it is beneficial to marry a relative.

In the case of Pride and Prejudice, Lady Catherine seems to believe similarly. In the scene where Lady Catherine attempts to extract a promise from Elizabeth that she will never accept a proposal from Mr. Darcy, her argument is that Mr. Darcy and Miss de Bourgh have been created for each other (272), “They are destined for each other by the voice of every member of their respective houses….”. She accuses Elizabeth of disrupting a sort of ‘fated marriage’. In this instance, Elizabeth seems to occupy the role of Azza, Miss de Bourgh as Gafeeta, and Darcy as Sagr.

What would happen if in the world of Pride and Prejudice, Darcy could marry multiple wives? So much of Pride and Prejudice stresses the importance of choosing the right wife, a decision that can only happen once and cannot be retracted. Bedouin polygyny, on the other hand, appears much more flexible – maybe because of the ability to choose multiple wives? Sagr threatens many times, “I’ll divorce you.”

What exactly are the elements that cause Sagr to approve of marrying relatives and Mr. Darcy to be impartial to it? It can’t only be that Miss de Bourgh is sickly. There seems to be this importance of identity and personality that plays into Mr. Darcy’s marriage choices, whereas Sagr doesn’t seem to know Gafeeta that well (122).

I suppose I end with the same question – what exactly is it that make the conceptions of marriage so wildly different between Pride and Prejudice and Bedouin polygyny?


4 thoughts on “Marriage in P+P and Bedouin polygyny

  1. I don’t really have an answer to your original question but I found one of your points very interesting. I hadn’t realized how much Pride and Prejudice stresses the importance of finding the perfect single person while the Bedouin culture doesn’t as much. I find this so interesting since in both cultures, you are choosing a life partner. Though Sagr often uses the threat of divorce, the children seem to serve as a check on that threat. Even though Sagr is troubled by Azza and Safiyya, he never forces them to leave. It’s also interesting that in both cases, it seems they “right matches” end up together. The difference seems to be that while Mr. Darcy only has his match, Sagr has his match as well as two others. These others seem to cause him more trouble than happiness within the narrative, possible reinforcing the concept of a “right match”.

    • To add to that train of thought: the polygyny article favors Gafeeta, and in the end the narrator does actually say that Sagr and Safiyya are separated (though they are eternally bound through their children I suppose). So in that sense, the marriage with Gafeeta is the only one that could be considered successful. That would perhaps support the western idea that there is one match, and the theory that Sagr had his match and then ruined it by choosing to bring others into the marriage.

      At the same time, as Alice brings up, Sagr doesn’t even seem to know Gafeeta that well. He has the intimacy to know when she’s secretly craving a cigarette, but he doesn’t know anything of her poetry or singing. I think in the world of Pride and Prejudice, even that pairing would be considered inadequate. Life would definitely be easier if Sagr hadn’t married Safiyya or Azza, but would he and Gafeeta really have been happier? Otherwise, I think the parallel between Miss de Bourgh and Gafeeta is really interesting!!

      • I want to add just one thing, that even if Sagr doesn’t seem to know Gateefa that well, the world of P&P does not insist that the married couple know each other. Let’s not forget that it the commercial proposal that Elizabeth received and denied was very common. She didn’t know him that well, but had she accepted she might have gotten to know him through marriage. The “perfection” of the match would be the fact that the family estate would stay within the family.

  2. A weird thing I noticed to answer your original question of why they were grouped together: I can really see similarities between Azza and Darcy and Gateefa and Bingley. When Azza talks to Gateefa about kin, it reminded me a lot of when Bingley speaks about how he wishes he had what Darcy does. While Darcy and Azza have their families and their traditions already, Gateefa and Bingley must create their traditions and their families. The difference is that Gateefa created her family and is happy with what she has and has grounded herself like Darcy and Azza, but Bingley was still shopping around for his. I just found this comparison really interesting because Azza tries to make Gateefa feel bad because she doesn’t have a family to go to if she needs help, but Gateefa refuses to feel bad stating that she only needs one family because those people are the kin that she sort of chose. Bingley is jealous of Darcy because he just wants the connections and the traditions already made, he doesn’t want the responsibility of building up years and years of tradition.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s