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Reading the Marriage Plot



Novels from the 18th and 19th centuries have powerfully shaped modern conceptions of marriage and family life. With the development of the British realist novel, the courtship and marriage plot took on a new cultural prominence that “naturalized” a deeply cultural institution and normalized a particular set of heterosexual gender roles. The cultural significance of these novels can be measured by their reverberations in contemporary popular culture and their impact on modern life stories. Jane Austen's (1813/2002) Pride and Prejudice and Helen Fielding's (1996) popular adaptation of Austen's novel, Bridget Jones's Diary, offer family theorists and researchers a case study on the influence of canonical plot structures on modern stories about marriage.