Why was Mathilde married to a minor official?

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In the first paragraph, the narrator tells us that Mathilde

had no marriage portion, no expectations, no means of getting known, understood, loved, and wedded by a man of wealth and distinction; and she let herself be married off to a little clerk in the Ministry of Education.

In other...

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In the first paragraph, the narrator tells us that Mathilde

had no marriage portion, no expectations, no means of getting known, understood, loved, and wedded by a man of wealth and distinction; and she let herself be married off to a little clerk in the Ministry of Education.

In other words, then, Mathilde is the daughter of artisans, respectable people who have no fortune, and she has no dowry, or "marriage portion." She has no "expectations" of marrying above her class or station and no way to even meet a man of fortune or high position. Without an introduction, she cannot be known to such a man, and such a man does not have the opportunity to fall in love with and propose to her. Therefore, she "let herself" be married off, presumably by her family, to a lower-level government official. What other choice did she have? She seems to have settled, at least in her own mind, for a man of her own station. The narrator says that she "was as unhappy as though she had married beneath her" because she seems to believe that her beauty, character, and charm ought to have entitled her to a more illustrious match.

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Mathilde is very pretty, but she was born into a family of clerks. She has no dowry, which is money a richer girl would be provided with by her family to help her future husband offset the expense of having a wife to support. A dowry made a young woman a more attractive marriage prospect. Mathilde also has no expectations of inheriting money. She has no friends or relatives either who could introduce her to wealthy men.

Mathilde has to marry who she meets, so she settles for a man with a minor post in the ministry of education. In other words, she is a lower middle class young woman who is respectable but not much more. She has to accept who she can get and therefore marries a man from her own class.

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