Essay on Love and Marriage in Gallant's The Other Paris

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The Other Paris

Love waxes timeless. It is passionate and forbidden and a true head rush. Marriage, on the other hand, is practical, safe, a ride up the socioeconomic ladder. In "The Other Paris," Mavis Gallant weaves the tale of Carol and Howard, a fictional couple who stand on the verge of a loveless marriage, to symbolize the misguided actions of the men and women in the reality of the 1950s, the story's setting. By employing stereotypical, ignorant, and altogether uninteresting characters, Gallant highlights the distinction between reality and imagination and through the mishaps and lack of passion in their courtship mockingly comments on society?s views of love and marriage. Gallant typecast both Carol and Howard as
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of himself as an unwanted old bachelor and accordingly sets out to remedy the problem. The fact that he does not love Carol, whom he knows ?less than three weeks,? does not faze him in the least. Following the opinion of the 1950s, Carol, in his mind, becomes his ?competent housemaid? who will perhaps collect ?old pottery? and bake him ?little casserole dishes.? But Carol doesn?t mind. To be deemed ?complete? in the eyes of society in the decorum of marriage is enough for both individuals. In the characterization of Carol and Howard, who use each other?s presence as shields against judgment by a critical society, Gallant creates an amusing portrait of marriage as something that makes ?sense? with ?no reason?to fail? as long as both parties have ?a common interest? and ?[s]imilar economic backgrounds.? In addition to the silly depiction of Carol and Howard as people who so dread public humiliation as singles that they gladly agree to attach themselves to the first appropriate suitor, Gallant also employs an ironic tone and various figurative terms of language to comment on the laughable yet somewhat pathetic circumstance in which the couple find themselves. Many distinctions are made between the ?illusion? of love as a wonderful thing complete with ?violets,? a ?misty background,? and the romantic ?moonlight,? and the actuality of a practical marriage. Though not every proposal can be so romantic, Gallant deliberately emphasizes the underwhelming quality

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