Love and Marriage in Austen and Nair

Although they occur in extremely different times, I think that there are parallels between the relationships of Mina and Demetrius in Mississippi Masala and Anne and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion. In both mediums, the women are torn between their families and their relationships with their lovers. In Mississippi the prejudices that Mina’s family has are racial, while in Persuasion, Anne’s family is prejudices by wealth and social class. There are also many differences between the two. In this paper I will discuss, Mississippi Masala, Persuasion, and the ideas of marriage in both of them.

In Mississippi Masala, Mina was born and raised in Uganda until the age of six, when dictator Idi Amin decided to expel all South Asians (Indians). After six years over moving around, Mina and her family end up in a small town in Mississippi. Mina works in an Indian-owned motel while her mother runs a liquor store and her father continues to battle the Ugandan government for their lost property.

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Mina meets Demetrius, an African American carpet cleaner, after a car accident. Smitten by Demetrius' smashing good looks, Mina is immediately attracted to him, something her father, Jay, intensely objects to. His wife respects current times a bit more, but also wants to marry Mina to their business partner's son. When Mina starts dating Demetrius the Indian community in Mississippi is fuming. Their romance induces a confrontation between the two ethnic groups. I would like to point out that Demetrius has never set foot in Africa, he was born in the United States and that Mina and her family are themselves Africans. This does not matter the members of the community or Jay. Jay’s racism blinds him to the fact that he survived only thanks to his black African childhood friend, Okelo, who bailed him out of jail in Uganda.

From the standpoint of Demetrius and Mina’s families, they probably do think of it as a black and white issue. Not black and white in a sense of racial color, but in a sense of being opposite. Demetrius argues with Jay about this point exactly saying, “Your skin is just a few shades lighter than mine.” There are even examplse given in the movie of a dark and light issue within their own races. When talking about Mina, one woman at the Indian wedding says, “You can be dark and rich, or you can fair and poor, but you can’t be dark and poor and expect to get a guy like Raju.” She is referring to Mina’s light skin and lack of money. Raju is wealthy Indian man who is looking for a bride and is interested in Mina. Also, a barber explains to Demetrius that blacks can not stand to see other blacks do well in society.

In Persuasion, Austen examines the class structure of her society. The Elliots are a respected, titled, landowning family. Lady Elliot, Sir Walter's wife died fourteen years ago, leaving him with three daughters: Elizabeth, Anne, and Mary. Sir Walter, who lavishly overspends, has brought the family into great debt. When Lady Russell, a trusted family advisor, suggests that the Elliots reduce their spending, Sir Walter is horrified. He is remarkably vain and cannot bear to imagine life without the lavish comforts he is accustomed to; but with no other feasible option, the Sir Walter decides they must move to Bath where their everyday expenditures will be more manageable. The Elliots intend to rent the family estate, Kellynch Hall.

They soon find excellent tenants to rent their home; Admiral and Mrs. Croft are wealthy and well-mannered Navy people who have a model marriage. I will further discuss their marriage later on. Sir Walter is pleased that the Admiral is a handsome man. He agrees to let them live at Kellynch Hall even though he dislikes the Navy because he feels the its sailors are of a lower class:

Yes; it is in two points offensive to me; I have two strong grounds of objection to it. First, as a means of bringing persons of obscure birth into undue distinction, and raising men to honours which their fathers and grandfathers never dreamt of; and secondly, as it cuts up a man's youth and vigour most horribly; a sailor grows old sooner than any other man. (20)

It is because of his great vanity that Sir Walter highly values appearance and attractiveness, and so naturally he dislikes how sun and sea can make a man look weary and worn. Sir Walter also, more accurately objects to the Navy because it functions as a means of social growth. The Navy allows committed, hard-working men not born of wealth, to build a fortune and to gain social status.

Sir Walter’s views of the Navy contribute to Anne breaking off her engagement to penniless Naval Lieutenant Frederick Wentworth. In the late nineteenth century, a woman's status in society was very fragile. After marriage, a woman's rank depended completely on her husband's rank. Therefore, it was crucial that a woman choose her husband well..


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