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Persuasive Text Analysis (Grades 11-12)

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Persuasive Text Analysis


‘Marriage is the great mistake that wipes out the smaller stupidities of Love.’ —Schopenhauer.

In one of his essays Stevenson says: ‘I am so often filled with wonder that so many marriages are passable successes, and so few come to open failure, the more so as I fail to understand the principle on which people regulate their choice.’

Out of the chaos which envelops this ‘principle’ four special motives seem to stand out, and we can therefore roughly divide the marriages that take place into five sections thus—

1. The Marriage of Passion.
2. The Marriage of Convenience.
3. Marriage for a Purpose.
4. Haphazard Marriage.
5. The Marriage of Affection.

The Marriage of Passion.—One of Mr. Somerset Maugham’s characters in The Merry-Go-Round says: ‘I’m convinced that marriage is the most terrible thing in the world, unless passion makes it absolutely inevitable.’ Although a profound admirer of Mr Maugham’s work, here I find myself entirely at variance with him. Most of the mad, unreasonable matches are those which ‘passion makes inevitable.’ Theoretically this is one of the most promising types of marriage—in practice it proves the most fatally unhappy of all.

‘They’re madly in love with each other, it’s an ideal match’ is a comment one often hears expressed with much satisfaction, but it is a painful fact that these desperate loves lead very frequently to disaster and divorce. Most of the miserable married couples personally known to me were ‘madly in love’ with each other at the start.

Is it to be wondered at when one considers the matter? Nature, who seldom makes a mistake where primitive mankind is concerned is by no means infallible when dealing with the artificial conditions of our Western civilisation. In the East where greater sex licence is allowed, it seems quite safe to trust Nature and follow the instincts she implants. Not so in our hemisphere. The young man and maid who fall under passion’s thrall are temporarily blind and mad; their judgment is obscured, their reasoning powers non-existent, nothing in the world seems of the slightest importance except the overwhelming necessity to give themselves—to possess the beloved, the being who has fired their blood.

Unhappy indeed are these two if, when they stand facing each other over passion’s grave,
there proves to be no link at all between them except the memory of the madness that has died. Fortunately this is by no means always the case, but when it is a very unhappy married life must inevitably follow. Schopenhauer gives as the reason for such matches proving unhappy the fact that their participants look after ‘the welfare of the future generation at the expense of the present,’ and quotes the Spanish proverb, ‘He who marries for love must live in grief.’ From the point of view of the individual’s interest, and not that of the future generation, it certainly seems a mistake to wed the object of intense desire unless there is also spiritual harmony, community of tastes and interests, and many other points of union in common. But under the influence of suppressed passion people lose their clearness of mental vision and are therefore more or less incapable of judging.

Let there be passion in marriage by all means—so far I entirely agree with Mr Maugham—but let it be merely the outer covering of love—a garment of flame the embrace of which is ecstasy indeed, but which, when it has burnt itself away, still leaves love a solid form of joy and beauty, erect beneath its ashes. ‘Real friendship,. founded on harmony of sentiment, does not exist until the instinct of sex has been extinguished.

Marriages of Convenience are of two kinds, the wholly sordid, when money, social position, or some personal aggrandisement has been the motive on one or both sides, without any basis of affection; and the partially-sordid, when these reasons are modified by some existing affection or liking. In this category come the people who marry principally in the interests of their business or profession, such as the barrister who weds the solicitor’s daughter, or the young doctor who marries into the old doctor’s family. In this connection one recalls the father who advised his sons not to marry for money, but to love where money was. No doubt the possession of a little money or ‘influence’ is an added attraction to a maiden’s charm in the eyes of the go-ahead young man of to-day; and considering how hard it appears to be to earn a living nowadays one cannot altogether blame them—distressing as it seems from the sentimental point of view. I don’t believe, however, that there are so many wholly sordid marriages outside the confines of the set generally prefixed as ‘smart.’ People who are not members of this glittering circle are already sufficiently shy of matrimony nowadays, and are afraid of the enormous additional handicap such a match would carry. Of course these unions are almost inevitably miserable failures, and one wonders what else the victims could have expected.

We now come to the third division, Marriage for a Purpose. These matches are distantly allied with the partially-sordid, but there is nothing sordid about them, as they are frequently undertaken from the highest motives. In this class are the widowers who wed for the sake of their children, the spinsters whose motive is their desire for motherhood, the men and women who marry to possess a home, or for the sake of companionship. All these reasons are justifiable enough, and people who embark on matrimony with a set purpose generally take it very seriously, and determine to make a success of it. Such marriages often prove extremely happy, perhaps for the very reason that so little is asked. The spirit of contentment is an excellent influence in married life, since love is often killed by its own excessive demands, as I shall endeavour to show later.

Haphazard Marriages seem to me the best way to describe those unions into which men drift without any special reason, sometimes almost against their own wish. Nature does not care how the young people come together as long as they do come, and sometimes a man finds himself drifting into matrimony almost before he is aware. I write a ‘man’ advisedly as women never drift into wifehood. In these cases it is generally their set and deliberate purpose that has steered the man into the conjugal harbour unknown to him. He has merely followed the line of least resistance and found to his surprise that it leads to the altar. Mr Bernard Shaw has given a very amusing, and, in spite of itself, convincing, picture of this manœuvring in Man and Superman, where he also expresses his conviction that ‘men, to protect themselves . . . have set up a feeble, romantic conviction that the initiative in sex business must always come from the man . . . but the pretence is so shallow, so unreal that even in the theatre, that last sanctuary of unreality, it imposes only on the inexperienced. In Shakespeare’s plays the woman always takes the initiative. In his problem plays and his popular plays alike the love interest is the interest of seeing the woman hunt the man down. . . . The pretence that women do not take the initiative is part of the farce. Why, the whole world is strewn with snares, traps, gins, and pitfalls for the capture of men by women. It is assumed that the woman must wait motionless to be wooed. Nay, she often does wait motionless. That is how the spider waits for the fly. The spider spins her web. And if the fly, like my hero, shows a strength that promises to extricate him, how swiftly does she abandon her pretence of passiveness, and openly fling coil after coil about him until he is secured for ever!’

The Marriage of Affection.—‘Do you know any thoroughly happy couples?’ says one of the characters in Double Harness.

‘Very hard to say. Oh, ecstasies aren’t for this world, you know—not permanent ecstasies. You might as well have permanent hysterics. And, as you’re aware, there are no marriages in heaven. So perhaps there’s no heaven in marriages either.’

These sentiments are of a nature to disgust and irritate the ignorant girl of twenty by their callous unreality in her eyes, and to delight the experienced woman of, say, thirty, by their profound truth in hers—so utterly do one’s ideas about life change in the course of ten years or so!

I have purposely used the word Affection in this division, in place of one signifying a greater degree of feeling, and I unhesitatingly state that generally speaking, the most successful marriages are those which—‘when the first sweet sting of love be past, the sweet that almost venom is,’ develop into the temperate, unexacting, peaceful and harmonious unions which come under this heading. To the ardent youths and maidens—restless seekers after the elusive joy of life—who will have none of this prosaic and inglorious counsel, and who are prepared to stake their all on the belief that the first sweet sting of love is going to last for ever, I say: Get your roses-and-raptures over some other way; don’t look for romance in marriage or, unless your case prove the exception to the rule, you will inevitably make a terrible mistake! . . . Oh, don’t ask me how it is to be done, but remember what I say, and don’t marry until the quiet, sober, beautiful and restful affection you now scorn becomes in your eyes a haven of peace from the storm and stress of life, and the highest good it contains.

Another reason why the Marriage of Affection is the most likely to prove a success is because mutual respect enters so largely into its composition, and how enormously important this is in the holy estate, none can realise until they marry. I shall have more to say later about the urgent necessity for respect in married life.
Based on the passage, which type of marriage is most likely to be successful?
  1. The Marriage of Passion
  2. The Marriage of Convenience
  3. Marriage for a Purpose
  4. Haphazard Marriage
  5. The Marriage of Affection
The author has a favorable view of marriage in general.
  1. True
  2. False
A marriage of passion may experience success in the East, but not in our hemisphere.
  1. True
  2. False
What argument does the author use to explain why marriages of passion don't last?

What are marriages of convenience and why don't they last?

How does a Marriage of Affection differ from a Marriage of Passion?

Traditionally men are supposed to seek out the women. Does the author believe this is always true?

Women are just like a spider waiting to capture a fly.
  1. True
  2. False
Which type of marriage to people tend to take most seriously?
  1. The Marriage of Passion
  2. The Marriage of Convenience
  3. Marriage for a Purpose
  4. Haphazard Marriage
  5. The Marriage of Affection
Based on the passage, which type of marriage do you think will be most successful?

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