Arranged Marriage in Fiction: A Discussion

Periodically, I like to do discussion posts.

I haven’t in a while, because, while I love them, I struggle to come up with ideas that haven’t been done before (or at the very least, haven’t been done in a while).

Last week, I published a NaNoWriMo post and briefly mentioned that I love arranged marriage stories. Alan Zaroff asked me why, which led to a few comments on the subject. I thought it might be interesting to do a discussion post about it.

If you’re new here, I absolutely love arranged marriage in books. I’m not entirely sure why, when I personally do not ever want my marriage to be arranged, but I have always been fascinated by the concept of falling in love after marriage.

Here’s the thing: As someone who is so intrigued by the concept, I’d really like to read about it. However, I can name exactly 2 novels (okay, so one is a series) off the top of my head involving love-after-marriage. And very few books, even political fantasy novels that I’ve read, have arranged marriage as a part of a plot, whether or not it actually happens.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge is a Beauty and the Beast retelling that executes the arranged marriage trope rather well. It’s not a personal favorite, but I did enjoy it.

Morgan Rhodes’ Falling Kingdoms series did it very well– although, to be completely honest, after book one, the arranged marriage development was about the only thing I enjoyed about the series. I still haven’t read the last two books.

What bothers me is that even these two books at first act as though arranged marriage is a horrible tragedy, etc. (I will say that, given who the characters are marrying, it makes sense that they’re opposed–but I’d also like some books where the man the girl is marrying isn’t a demon or seemingly horrible enemy prince.) And that’s the case with pretty much every book that mentions arranged marriage in some way. It’s often treated as a violation of human rights, the worst thing that could happen to a character, all that.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I know very well that sometimes arranged marriage is forced and a basic human rights violation, especially child marriage. Aisha Saeed’s Written in the Stars is a good one that illustrates this point, and I love that book.

However, in 2017, the average percent of arranged marriages that ended in divorce was only 4% (brandongaille.com). (I am aware that this article shows the dark side of arranged marriage, which is definitely important to consider.) According to the American Psychological Association, “40-50% of married couples in the United States divorce.” In America, love marriage is the most common. Love marriages aren’t bad– I want one myself. What I’m saying is that, in reality, arranged marriages aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be in the books we read.

Repeatedly, arranged marriages end up as happy marriages. My parents know people who are in arranged marriages and are very happy. This article (please excuse the curse word) shares other stories about arranged marriages that have worked out well.

I am not going to sit here and tell you that every single arranged marriage is wonderful and perfect. What I am going to tell you is that it needs to be presented differently and a little more often in books. Because, in reality, lots of people in the world are in arranged marriages. 55% of marriages are arranged, actually (brandongaille.com).

I would really appreciate more books, YA novels especially, that involve arranged marriage that isn’t treated like a tragedy. In all genres.

I’m trying to do this with my current writing project. I’ve been guilty of treating arranged marriage as horrible at first in my books, but it works out well in the end. What I’m writing now, The Nikolai Project (here’s my NaNoWriMo post about it), is, at its core, about an arranged marriage. It’s got politics and magic, of course, but it centers around two people falling in love– after the wedding.

If any of you have ever wondered why in the world arranged marriage plots are one of my favorite things, I hope this answers your question at least a little bit.

I want to hear your thoughts on this topic–let’s discuss in the comments!

-Clara

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Arranged Marriage in Fiction: A Discussion

  1. The Wrath and the Dawn duology and The Star-touched Queen, although they are not arranged marriages in the strictest sense of the word, are also stories where love comes after the wedding. 

  2. Marriage is a utilitarian institution, it bonds together a male and a female for the purpose of begetting children in a symbolic way that represents Christ and the Church. It does not need love to instigate it, as love is a choice, once married the arranged marriage couple makes the choice to love each other.
    CS Lewis talks about this stuff in The Four Loves, highly recommend the “Eros” chapter Clara if you are going to go in depth about this stuff.
    “The times and places in which marriage depends on Eros are
    in a small minority. Most of our ancestors were married off in early youth to
    partners chosen by their parents on grounds that had nothing to do with
    Eros… And they did right; honest Christian husbands and wives,
    obeying their fathers and mothers, discharging to one another their
    “marriage debt”, and bringing up families in the fear of the Lord. ”
    -CS Lewis

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