Does a good/bad husband have the same qualities as a good/bad wife, as seen in Jane Austen's Persuasion?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Even though Jane Austen shows in Persuasion that men and women have different roles, namely that men work or otherwise amuse themselves outside of the home while women work and entertain inside the home, Austen also shows that it is generally a person's character that makes a person either a good or bad husband or wife. In Jane Austen's Persuasion, while there really are neither perfect husbands nor perfect wives, some do possess a few good qualities.

While generally speaking, Austen does not seem to approve much of Charles Musgrove as a husband, she does attribute him with some good qualities. In general, Austen portrays Charles as lacking in education. As a result, his quality of conversation is not as good as Anne would like it to be; plus, he is very self-indulgent and focuses only on hunting. Anne feels that a more educated woman, like herself, would have helped him develop his own character better and increase his interests. One example we see of Charles acting poorly as a husband is when he decides, against Mary's wishes, to dine with the Musgroves and Captain Wentworth at the big house immediately after his son had fallen and broken his collar bone.

However, regardless of his character flaws, he is recognized as being a good husband because he is far more sensible and has a better temper than his wife. Plus, his good temper and happy nature help him to put up with his wife's complaining, as we see in the lines:

He had very good spirits, which never seemed much affected by his wife's occasional lowness, bore with her unreasonableness sometimes to Anne's admiration. (Ch. 6)

Hence, we see that good qualities of a husband are sense and a generally calm and happy temper.

Likewise it is Mary's lack of sense, understanding, and mopey temper that make her a disagreeable wife and poor mother. Not only does she frequently complain, making comments like, "Upon my word, I shall be pretty well off, when you are all gone away to be happy at Bath," she is also accused of spoiling her children (Ch. 6). Nor does she want to remain with her son when Charles went out to dinner, but instead leaves him to Anne's care.

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