Defoe’s excerpt “The Cons of Marriage” from Roxana presents what one might today call an atypical male and female response to marriage, which makes it both an entertaining and interesting read. These responses were also very divergent; Roxana’s explanation for her opposition to marriage is uninhibited and logical, while the Dutch merchant’s response is lacking and only seems to make appeals to ‘authority.’
Roxana defines marriage as “giving up [one’s] liberty” (p 2289) and reveals that her main objection to marrying the merchant involves her fear of giving up her money. In acknowledging this rational fear the merchant assures her he will not take her money, but Roxana explains that this “independence” is only an illusion - she will be an upper servant at best, always answerable to her husband. I enjoyed her ship analogy, where she explains that while the merchant will let her steer, he is ultimately in control of the ship. This is only one of the numerous occasions in which Roxana proves her ability to see past the ‘cons’ of marriage. Towards the end she makes another strong argument for not marrying the merchant, explaining that for a woman to marry the man she was once a mistress to is to “preserve the crime” forever – her husband will always berate her for it when they are no on good terms and her children will hate her. Roxana clearly has not been fooled by the arguments men make for marriage.
After reading Roxana’s reasoning, the merchant’s response, in my opinion, seems weak because it is merely rooted in tradition. Several times throughout the excerpt, when he can no longer debate with Roxana, the merchant cites tradition and marriage as “the fixed state of life” that “God has appointed” (p 2293) as the reason for her to get married. Tradition may very well be a good reason for one to get married… if that person is a man. Roxana recognizes that “the laws of matrimony puts the power into [a man’s] hands” (p 2292). As the one who has the most power in...
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