Tuesday, November 02, 2021

"If you will take me for your wife": Florence Dombey's marriage proposal in Charles Dickens's "Dombey and Son"

The plot of Jane Austen's "Persuasion" depends on Anne Elliot's silence: she can long for Captain Wentworth, but she cannot tell him of her longing until he speaks first in the letter that he writes her with his marriage proposal. The same is true of all of Austen's novels: the women do not propose to the men or even speak openly of their desires. But in Charles Dickens's "Dombey and Son", although Walter Gay alludes to his love for her shortly beforehand, Florence Dombey – here as powerful a woman as her stepmother Edith – proposes to Walter Gay: "If you will take me for your wife, Walter, I will love you dearly." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 2 November 2021)


Walter Gay and Florence Dombey, illustration by Fred Barnard, 1877

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