“What do you do if you marry a beast?”

“There were  a lot of women, and most of them got married.  If they couldn’t marry each other, and I didn’t think they could, because of having babies, some of them would inevitably have to marry beasts.” 

This is not the first time Jeanette worries about her perceived impending marriage to a man. Having the foreknowledge that this is a coming out narrative, and that Jeanette will not be marrying a man, it creates a very recognizable instance of dramatic irony for the reader.  She only gives the idea of women marrying women a brief thought, “…if they couldn’t marry each other, and i didn’t think they could, because of having babies…”.  This bit of ‘logic’  illuminates the way her mother and the church have curbed her thinking; first, she assumed that women couldn’t marry each other, even if they wanted to, they couldn’t.  This line also perpetuates the Christian ideology that marriage is for the functional purpose of procreation.  

Furthermore, the way in which Jeanette glides over this possibility in her train of thought, is indicative of how ingrained this way of thinking is in her, as well as the finality of the church’s ideologies.  She goes on to wonder “If only there was some way of telling, then we could operate a ration system.”  This line, in concert with the aforementioned line, really demonstrate that Jeanette has been conditioned to perceive marriage as functional, as a mere pairing of two people for its own sake, rather than something done out of love.  

This small passage is so revealing of the type of thinking that has been instilled in Jeanette’s mind, totally unbeknownst to her. As a reader who is aware of the events to come, this seemingly innocent train of thought makes me very sad for Jeanette and also very frustrated towards her upbringing for implanting these ideologies that are contradictory to who she innately is.

6 thoughts on ““What do you do if you marry a beast?””

  1. I entirely agree with the frustration that comes with reading this section of the book. It really reveals how much Jeanette’s upbringing has affected her views, making her so naive. To have the logic that woman could not marry another woman because they could not procreate was something ingrained in Jeanette’s brain for her entire childhood, making it more difficult for her sexuality to be accepted in the future. Jeanette also uses the word “beast” to describe men, instantly forming a negative stigma around who she “should” love. Constantly being told that a woman loving another woman is unnatural could lead to a confusing contradiction when loving another woman is what feels most natural.

  2. I thought your blog post was really thoughtful and interesting. I liked how you pointed out the use of dramatic irony, especially because I think that that is a really important aspect of this whole novel; the dramatic irony really helps to emphasize the inconsistencies in her mother’s teachings and the absurdity of them. I also think you focused in on a really important part of this passage; Jeannette thinks women can’t marry each other because it wouldn’t be functional, not because they don’t want to. I think that this is really illustrative of the tension going on in her mind between what she feels and what she has been taught. Clearly, she has been taught that women cannot marry women. However, since she perhaps feels the desire to do so, the only way she can rationalize what she has been taught is to focus on the functionality of marriage, like you said, not the love behind it.

  3. I completely enjoyed and agreed with your analysis of these lines in the novel. Jeannette’s thinking is due to the way her upbringing shaped her views on the world, including marriage. She learned that marriage was to be between a man and a woman so that they could have children. While Jeannette questions and analyzes the way her mom raises her to be, and the life that is already in place for Jeannette, as a child, she accepts it as true, because that’s all she knows. She is told that this way of life is the most logical, and doesn’t learn about any other ways of going about life. She even discusses the idea of same sex couples and was taught to dissociate from them completely. Jeannette is taught that it is better to marry a beast rather than another woman.

  4. Love your work on this passage. Jeanette’s mother clearly has instilled the strict word of the bible in her and she is trapped because God’s word has played such a big role in her life. Even as she goes against what God says (being a lesbian), she is unable to fully convert because the institution of marriage is for heterosexuals only. I also think it is important to note that her mother is by and far the dominant figure in the household and not the father – this is interesting because in normal heterosexual marriages mandated by the church, the patriarch is often the overwhelmingly powerful figure in the household. Yet, this relationship is flipped in Jeanette’s life, thus calling into question whether things maybe would have been different (Jeanette would not have been a lesbian) had a strong father figure had been present. Just speculating here.

  5. This connects to the ongoing theme that Jeanette’s mother insists on brainwashing her into the norms of society, in this case her society being the Christian faith. Jeanette is perpetually forced to have her mind refocused as narrow and limited as her faith allows her to be. It is evident that she does not understand beyond the inability of having children which causes women not to marry love. It is also evident in the novel that she sees that many marriages can be ingenuity because the women do not want to judged. For young Jeanette, the world is becoming more and more confusing because the these “unnatural passions” that her community rejects are beginning to feel natural and right without a clear reason to believe otherwise.

  6. This is a really great analysis of several lines from the text. I think it could benefit your writing to remember the 10 on 1 vs 1 on 10 concept. You bring a lot of evidence forward to back up your assertion on the way in which religion has affected Jeanette’s way of thinking. I wonder what you would have been able to bring out from the first passage if you had used the 10 on 1 idea. In other words, if you had pulled many different unique ideas from one passage. Regardless, this is a nice analysis. And you pointed out a lot of interesting instances of importance and explained their purpose for understanding the story and Jeanette’s as a character.

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