Austen Musings

As I was reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion a couple of things really made me think. The first one was about the prevalence of dating/marrying your cousin. When you read a romance novel part of the fun is when another beau comes along. You worry about whether or not you want to like them better than the first. Trying to decide who would be the best mate for the “book you” is exciting. Is the new guy the one or is he a mass murder? Oh, the excitement. But in Persuasion when one of the beaus was her cousin all I could think was ewwww! I couldn’t enjoy the drama because I was full of anxiety. With every word and page I devoured I just kept praying that she wouldn’t pick him.
Then it made me wonder. Austen wrote in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. All her works where published in the early 1800’s so around 200 years ago. 200 years is really not that long in the context of time. A person can live to be over 100 years old so it could conceivably be the lifespan of two people. Cousin marriage was widespread and comfortably thought of by all a mere 200 years ago.
What changed? When did the tide switch? Did someone write a book? Cousin Love: It’s just not right or How to have a child with three eyes and one leg with your Cousin perhaps?
Could it be that since the inception of America we have been involve in one conflict and/or war right after the other? The history is quite amazing. I was looking at the list and I saw very few years here and there in history where we didn’t appear to be at conflict with someone. With all that conflict perhaps so many families were destroyed or at least weeded out so many male heirs that it became necessary for families to branch out to their neighbors. Interestingly enough while there are 31 states that ban cousin marriage or it is only okay if they are past reproductive age or under go genetic testing. For most of the rest of earth cousin marriage is still legal. I worked with a woman once who had married her cousin. It wasn’t the reason I disliked her. She ate weird things that smelled funny and it annoyed me.
On a serious note I figure the main reason for the change in perspective is the development of science and the studies of genetics.
Overall I don’t opposed cousin marriage on any high moral or religious reason. I just think of all my own cousins. Ick! They would just as soon wrestle me to the ground and rub my nose in the carpet than look at me in some romantic glow. I would just as soon kick them in the shin and run then look at them. With the exception of one of my first cousins on my mom’s side we were raised more like siblings then cousins. Since B’s mom and mine were single parents we spent almost every summer together if I wasn’t spending the summer with one of my uncles in Washington. I love them all dearly but the thought of marrying any of them makes me want to vomit. So I guess my main objection is that I like to delve into an story I’m reading with my whole being. I like to pretend I’m living this whole other life but essentially it is still me. If I can’t even consider the thought of marrying my cousin then I can’t take serious the thought of the “book me” doing it.
This was longer than I thought so I will address my other line of thought on Persuasion tomorrow.

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