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?