Jane Austen, seen by some as the mother of all chick-lit, is synonymous with tales of love and marriage. Generally, scholars have classified the types of marriages Austen writes about as either companionate (a marriage based on love) or pedagogic (a marriage based on an older man training a younger woman to be his ideal wife). In comparing the companionate and pedagogic marriage models in Austen's Sense and Sensibility and Emma, however, one finds that these traditional definitions and classifications of the companionate and pedagogic marriages prove to be complicated. The companionate marriage is not only a marriage based on love, but also takes into account rank, wealth, social status, religious values, and moral character. The pedagogic marriage, on the other hand, includes not only a marriage where an older man takes a younger woman and “trains” her to be the perfect wife for him, but also when a woman admires a man's values and approach to the social world and changes her behavior to reflect those attitudes. Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars from Sense and Sensibility and Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax from Emma are classified by scholars under the companionate marriage model. However, neither of these couples fits into the companionate model due to Elinor and Jane's lack of fortunes and Edward and Frank's lack of good character. Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility and Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley from Emma are classified by scholars under the pedagogic marriage model. Marianne and Brandon would fall under the category of the woman changing her behavior to reflect the behaviors of a superior man, while Emma and Knightley would fall under the category of an older man training the younger woman to be his wife. Marianne does undergo a transformation, but it is not a result of Brandon's values or influence. She changes based on self-reflection and then turns to Brandon and falls in love with him. Emma and Knightley, on the other hand, do start out with a mentor-pupil relationship. However, as the novel progresses, so does their relationship. By the end of the novel, Emma and Knightley equally teach each other and discover a relationship based on mutual respect and love. Therefore, none of the relationships fall neatly into their assigned categories; each relationship is more nuanced and full of complexities that can't easily be classified. By more clearly understanding the complexities involved in each relationship, readers can gain an even greater appreciation for Austen, thus helping them to value Austen as more than an author of chick lit.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Wheelwright, Kandace Hansen, "Companionate and Pedagogic Marriage Models in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility and Emma" (2015). Theses and Dissertations. 5765.
Jane Austen, Marriage, Love, Companionate, Pedagogy, Sense and Sensibility, Emma