One question that comes up in older novels such as Northanger Abbey and The Vicar of Wakefield is that of the economy of love or more specifically marriage. Today, people take for granted that people get married for love and little else. The idea of marriage as an economic decision is a foreign and fascinating idea in today’s society, but it was very prominent in Goldsmith’s and Austen’s times and that is reflected in their novels.
Take first, Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield and what role romantic love plays in the novel. The Vicar himself presents many different arguments about how his daughters should marry throughout the novel, some of these contradicting each other and very few of them in favor of love as a motive of marriage. At first, it seems that he wants his daughters to marry men of their own social class, and discourages his oldest from pursuing Mr. Thornhill on the basis that “disproportioned friendships ever terminate in disgust” (Goldsmith 15). He likewise rejects the benevolent Mr. Burchell as a suitor for his youngest daughter because “…he is poor, and perhaps deserves poverty; for he has neither the ambition to be independent, nor the skill to be useful” (Goldsmith 17). Later, however, he looks more closely at the characters of his daughters’ respective suitors and seems to set aside, if not abandon altogether, the issue of marrying within one’s own class. He very obviously disapproves of Mr. Thornhill asserting that he “…could have been better pleased