Does Jane Austen portray in her novel Persuasion that a good wife would make a bad husband?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Anne is described as having the qualities that make the best wife. She is caring, sensitive, motherly, intelligent, sensible, and gives good advice. In fact it is stated that she has "an elegance of mind and a sweetness of character" (Ch. 1). When at the Musgrove's, the family frequently confides in her and asks her opinion. It is also Anne who stays and nurses young Charles Musgrove, Jr. after he falls and dislocates his collar bone (Ch. 6).

Austen also describes a good wife as being capable of making a good man's character even better when she states of Charles Musgrove that "a more equal match might have greatly improved him" (Ch. 6). For example, Anne agrees with Lady Russell that marrying a woman with more sense, would have helped his character and made him more useful and less idle with respect to pursuits other than sports (Ch. 6).

Austen describes good husbands in quite a similar light. In fact she describes Charles Musgrove's sense and temper as being above Mary's. Wentworth is described as kind, caring, polite, and handsome.

So in the sense that a good wife has as good a character and mind as a good husband, good wives and husbands are alike, thus a good wife would make a good husband.

The one distinction is that it was the wife's job to tend to the household affairs and it was the man's job to tend to the affairs of household income.  With respect to Jane Austen's time period, in that a woman was educated to stay at home, a good wife would have made a poor husband, but only because she was not educated to tend to matters of earning money.

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