WR098Layan AlSharifEssay 3Outlooks on Modern Marriage The modern concept of marriage isdifferent than what it was many years ago. The realities of love and marriageare constantly being challenged by highly educated and working women. JhumpaLahiri, through her novel The Namesake, narrates the story of the Gangulis:a Bengali family who immigrates to America. Ashima, themother, gives birth to Gogol who represents the second generation of theimmigrant family. The novel examines one outlook on modern marriage: using loveto satisfy temporary needs rather than having a relationship dependent onactual feelings of trust and loyalty. Lahiri shows this outlook by providing adetailed view into Gogol’s series of unsuccessful romantic relationships, whichare contrasted alongside his parents’ enduring arranged traditional marriage. Another outlook on modern marriage is thatit’s optional nowadays.
Christina Larsen challenges the whole idea of marriage throughher essay “The Startling Plight of China’s Leftover Ladies.” The third outlookon modern marriage is presented through Andrew Guest’s essay “Pursuing the Science of Happiness.” He proves thatmarriage does not guarantee happiness. The different views on love andmarriage, put forth by Gogol in The Namesake, along with the views ofthe Chinese leftover ladies, and the author Andrew Guest, showcase threedifferent 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 hisparents, he uses love as a mean of rebelling against his past and trying toform his own identity.
Gogol’s love life is intense and filled with openlysexual relationships with three different women. As Gogol grows older andpasses through different life stages, his outlooks on life and self-identitychange. Therefore, the women he is attracted to represent his development; eachsignify a stage in his identity crisis. Gogol’s first relationship is withRuth.
This relationship represents Gogol’s life stage as a college student atYale. In this new place, where he is nervous about introducing his origins, andfears being rejected as an immigrant, Ruth “expresses interest, asking abouthis visits to Calcutta” (The Namesake,111). He feels closely attracted to heras he “begins to meet her after her classes, remembering her schedule” (TheNamesake,113).
The identity she represents is that of a typical Yale student,and therefore, he finds himself attracted to her. However, when she returnsfrom a trip to England, she is back with a new identity; one full of Britishphrases which does not fit Gogol’s identity. Their relationship ends asthey both realize that they have changed. Gogol’s secondrelationship, more intense, is with Maxine. He is attracted to her because sheis all-American; the complete opposite of the type of girl his parents would wanthim 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 isintroduced into Gogol’s life, we see Gogol’s new life stage that strives for astable identity.
Maxine is an easy source for his temporary stability asdescribed in the novel, “From the very beginning he feels effortlesslyincorporated into their lives” (136). Furthermore, Maxine is comfortable withher own identity as the story narrates, “Maxine has the gift of accepting herlife; as Gogol comes to know her, he realizes that she has never wished shewere anyone other than herself”. This sensation draws Gogol immediately as he suffersa divided identity. Although Maxine is freedom to Gogol, she also represents hisseparation from his family and roots. Consequently, when his father passes away,their relationship ends.
Gogol is now drawn to his past and feels moreconnected to his heritage. This is where his relationship with a Bengali girlnamed Moushimi begins. Evidently, their relationship only serves to help Gogolcope with his father’s tragedy and bring him back to his roots. Therefore,their relationship ends in divorce. Overall, Gogol uses love with differentwomen to satisfy his temporary needs at each life stage he goes through. Christina Larsenholds another outlook on modern marriage: postponing or abandoning it forindependence and success.
According to Larsen, with the world shifting to aneconomically driven industry and with the rise of women rights, marriage isbecoming increasingly optional. Marriage is no longer necessary for socialacceptance or economic survival. In “The Startling Plight of China’s LeftoverLadies,” Larsen describes the plight of the sheng nu, meaning theleftover ladies. This term encompasses women who are giving up or postponing marriageto further their education and careers. In the Namesake, Ashima partakesthe traditional marriage. She sacrifices her work and social life to take careof her home and family, following the traditional Bengali customs. However,Larson shows that today’s educated females show another kind of life for womenfull of freedom and independence. In the past, marriage was a necessity for awomen’s survival.
A marriage certificate served as a passport into adulthood andgranted rights as Larsen points out, “Until you’re married, there were no basichuman rights” (285). But now, women have achieved economic independence andsecured good positions in the job market; therefore, they don’t have to dependon men anymore. For many women nowadays, pursuing higher education or establishinga career has become more important than starting a family.
For example, Larsonintroduces Xu-a journalist working for one of Beijing’s most respectednewsmagazines- who is “increasingly convinced that devoting her time andattention to work constitutes time better spent dawdling on disappointing datesor ‘friends with benefits’ “(288). Women, especially the best-educatedtop-earners now flocking the cities, are increasingly rejecting the institutionof marriage altogether. Andrew Guest, in “Pursuingthe Science of Happiness,” sets forth a discussion on the uncorrelationof marriage and happiness. He introduces the third outlook on modern marriagewhich is that it doesn’t guarantee happiness. He challenges the widely spreadbelief that marriage is the key to happiness, and that unmarried people areunhappy. In the opinion of Guest, “Children bring joy, but they alsobring burdens and anxieties” (100).
Many times, marriage gives the initial lifesatisfaction effect. But over time, the trajectories of satisfaction could headin the negative direction. The author backs up his argument by introducing severalscientific phenomena. The first phenomenon is referred to as the “parentingparadox” which states that people with children are no happier than peoplewithout children.
Additionally, Guest introduces the “set point” phenomenon forhappiness. This theory suggests that the traits deep-rooted in us early in lifedetermine our happiness. Therefore, our level of happiness remains constantthroughout our life.
The level may change in response to life events, yet iteventually returns to its baseline. Based on this phenomenon, researchers foundthat people who got married initially reported an increased level of happiness,but in the long run, their levels of life satisfaction and happiness returnedto their initial states. Similarly, first-time parents reported an increased levelof happiness, but over time, their happiness levels returned to what they werebefore they became parents. Guest’s essay serves to show how marriage does notguarantee happiness. Giddens (1999) once said, “Marriage andfamily remain firmly established institutions, yet are undergoing major stressand strains.” The institutions of love and marriage are going through criticaltransitions. Their entire definitions of love and marriage are beingre-examined as we pass from one generation to another.
The outlooks on modern marriageare introduced by Lahiri, Larson, and Guest. Lahiri shows how love these daysis used as a temporary satisfying tool. Larson suggests that marriage is notrequired anymore, in contrast with the past, and Guest proves that marriagedoes not guarantee happiness.
We live in a world where divorce is widespread,and many suggestions are being made to update the traditional family and marriagemodel. The future of the concept of marriage is hard to predict, and youngadults are confused on the idea of marriage, but who can blame them? Works Cited: Guest, Andrew. “Pursuingthe Science of Happiness.” Globalization: A Reader for Writers.
Ed. Maria Jerskey. New York: Oxford UniversityPress, 2014. 210-217. Print. Larson, Christina.
“The Startling Plight of the China’s Leftover Ladies.” Globalization: AReader for Writers. Ed. Maria Jerskey. New York: Oxford University Press,2014. 210-217. Print.
Lahiri, Jhumpa. TheNamesake. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004. Print.