WR098 and trying to form his own identity.

WR098

Layan AlSharif

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Essay 3

Outlooks on Modern Marriage

     The modern concept of marriage is
different than what it was many years ago. The realities of love and marriage
are constantly being challenged by highly educated and working women. Jhumpa
Lahiri, through her novel The Namesake, narrates the story of the Gangulis:
a Bengali family who immigrates to America. Ashima, the
mother, gives birth to Gogol who represents the second generation of the
immigrant family. The novel examines one outlook on modern marriage: using love
to satisfy temporary needs rather than having a relationship dependent on
actual feelings of trust and loyalty. Lahiri shows this outlook by providing a
detailed view into Gogol’s series of unsuccessful romantic relationships, which
are contrasted alongside his parents’ enduring arranged traditional marriage.

     Another outlook on modern marriage is that
it’s optional nowadays. Christina Larsen challenges the whole idea of marriage through
her essay “The Startling Plight of China’s Leftover Ladies.” The third outlook
on modern marriage is presented through Andrew Guest’s essay “Pursuing the Science of Happiness.” He proves that
marriage does not guarantee happiness. The different views on love and
marriage, put forth by Gogol in The Namesake, along with the views of
the Chinese leftover ladies, and the author Andrew Guest, showcase three
different outlooks on modern marriage: it serves as a mean of personal fulfillment,
is not required nowadays, and does not guarantee happiness.

     In the Namesake,
Gogol uses love and marriage to satisfy his temporary needs. Unlike his
parents, he uses love as a mean of rebelling against his past and trying to
form his own identity. Gogol’s love life is intense and filled with openly
sexual relationships with three different women. As Gogol grows older and
passes through different life stages, his outlooks on life and self-identity
change. Therefore, the women he is attracted to represent his development; each
signify a stage in his identity crisis. Gogol’s first relationship is with
Ruth. This relationship represents Gogol’s life stage as a college student at
Yale. In this new place, where he is nervous about introducing his origins, and
fears being rejected as an immigrant, Ruth “expresses interest, asking about
his visits to Calcutta” (The Namesake,111). He feels closely attracted to her
as he “begins to meet her after her classes, remembering her schedule” (The
Namesake,113). The identity she represents is that of a typical Yale student,
and therefore, he finds himself attracted to her. However, when she returns
from a trip to England, she is back with a new identity; one full of British
phrases which does not fit Gogol’s identity. Their relationship ends as
they both realize that they have changed.

     Gogol’s second
relationship, more intense, is with Maxine. He is attracted to her because she
is all-American; the complete opposite of the type of girl his parents would want
him to marry. With Maxine, Gogol feels he is breaking away from the Gangulis.
His relationship with her is more like an escape from his past. As Maxine is
introduced into Gogol’s life, we see Gogol’s new life stage that strives for a
stable identity. Maxine is an easy source for his temporary stability as
described in the novel, “From the very beginning he feels effortlessly
incorporated into their lives” (136). Furthermore, Maxine is comfortable with
her own identity as the story narrates, “Maxine has the gift of accepting her
life; as Gogol comes to know her, he realizes that she has never wished she
were anyone other than herself”. This sensation draws Gogol immediately as he suffers
a divided identity. Although Maxine is freedom to Gogol, she also represents his
separation from his family and roots. Consequently, when his father passes away,
their relationship ends. Gogol is now drawn to his past and feels more
connected to his heritage. This is where his relationship with a Bengali girl
named Moushimi begins. Evidently, their relationship only serves to help Gogol
cope with his father’s tragedy and bring him back to his roots. Therefore,
their relationship ends in divorce. Overall, Gogol uses love with different
women to satisfy his temporary needs at each life stage he goes through.

     Christina Larsen
holds another outlook on modern marriage: postponing or abandoning it for
independence and success. According to Larsen, with the world shifting to an
economically driven industry and with the rise of women rights, marriage is
becoming increasingly optional. Marriage is no longer necessary for social
acceptance or economic survival. In “The Startling Plight of China’s Leftover
Ladies,” Larsen describes the plight of the sheng nu, meaning the
leftover ladies. This term encompasses women who are giving up or postponing marriage
to further their education and careers. In the Namesake, Ashima partakes
the traditional marriage. She sacrifices her work and social life to take care
of her home and family, following the traditional Bengali customs. However,
Larson shows that today’s educated females show another kind of life for women
full of freedom and independence. In the past, marriage was a necessity for a
women’s survival. A marriage certificate served as a passport into adulthood and
granted rights as Larsen points out, “Until you’re married, there were no basic
human rights” (285). But now, women have achieved economic independence and
secured good positions in the job market; therefore, they don’t have to depend
on men anymore. For many women nowadays, pursuing higher education or establishing
a career has become more important than starting a family. For example, Larson
introduces Xu-a journalist working for one of Beijing’s most respected
newsmagazines- who is “increasingly convinced that devoting her time and
attention to work constitutes time better spent dawdling on disappointing dates
or ‘friends with benefits’ “(288). Women, especially the best-educated
top-earners now flocking the cities, are increasingly rejecting the institution
of marriage altogether.

    
Andrew Guest, in “Pursuing
the Science of Happiness,” sets forth a discussion on the uncorrelation
of marriage and happiness. He introduces the third outlook on modern marriage
which is that it doesn’t guarantee happiness. He challenges the widely spread
belief that marriage is the key to happiness, and that unmarried people are
unhappy. In the opinion of Guest, “Children bring joy, but they also
bring burdens and anxieties” (100). Many times, marriage gives the initial life
satisfaction effect. But over time, the trajectories of satisfaction could head
in the negative direction. The author backs up his argument by introducing several
scientific phenomena. The first phenomenon is referred to as the “parenting
paradox” which states that people with children are no happier than people
without children. Additionally, Guest introduces the “set point” phenomenon for
happiness. This theory suggests that the traits deep-rooted in us early in life
determine our happiness. Therefore, our level of happiness remains constant
throughout our life. The level may change in response to life events, yet it
eventually returns to its baseline. Based on this phenomenon, researchers found
that people who got married initially reported an increased level of happiness,
but in the long run, their levels of life satisfaction and happiness returned
to their initial states. Similarly, first-time parents reported an increased level
of happiness, but over time, their happiness levels returned to what they were
before they became parents. Guest’s essay serves to show how marriage does not
guarantee happiness.

     Giddens (1999) once said, “Marriage and
family remain firmly established institutions, yet are undergoing major stress
and strains.” The institutions of love and marriage are going through critical
transitions. Their entire definitions of love and marriage are being
re-examined as we pass from one generation to another. The outlooks on modern marriage
are introduced by Lahiri, Larson, and Guest. Lahiri shows how love these days
is used as a temporary satisfying tool. Larson suggests that marriage is not
required anymore, in contrast with the past, and Guest proves that marriage
does not guarantee happiness. We live in a world where divorce is widespread,
and many suggestions are being made to update the traditional family and marriage
model. The future of the concept of marriage is hard to predict, and young
adults are confused on the idea of marriage, but who can blame them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited:

 

Guest, Andrew. “Pursuing
the Science of Happiness.” Globalization: A Reader for Writers. Ed.                          Maria Jerskey. New York: Oxford University
Press, 2014. 210-217. Print.

 

Larson, Christina.
“The Startling Plight of the China’s Leftover Ladies.” Globalization: A
Reader for Writers. Ed. Maria Jerskey. New York: Oxford University Press,
2014. 210-217. Print.

 

Lahiri, Jhumpa. The
Namesake. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004. Print.

 

 

 

 

 

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