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This idea that a woman need only find a suitable husband to make her life a success is outdated in American society today, but at the time Jane Austen was writing, it was "business as usual" among England's upper crust, or hoping-to-be-upper-crust families. Austen treats the subject with a certain amount of good-natured contempt in Sense and Sensibility and her still-acclaimed-after-all-these-years Pride and Prejudice. The former opens with a plot set into motion by eighteenth century English practice of primogeniture: a Mr. Henry Dashwood dies, leaving his estate to his first wife's son, while his second/current wife and their three daughters are left more or less impoverished. This is because English law provided that the first son would always inherit the father's land and assets, regardless of how many daughters might precede said son. The Dashwood women are invited to stay with distant relatives at a home called Barton Park, and the story unfolds from there with the young ladies negotiating the worlds of Barton Park and London as they endeavor to find suitable husbands, which more or less means men who have some money with which to support them.
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