She Stoops to Conquer. Treatment of Women Regarding Courtship

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Ever since woman was created by God in the Garden of Eden, she has been through adventures, solved problems, and broken barriers. However, since woman was created to be man’s helper, she has always been inferior to man in that way. During the 18th century, women were treated differently depending on their class; for instance, a woman in the middle class was treated with more respect than a woman in the lower class. There are many instances where women of different classes are treated differently, one of which being the ordeal of courtship. In “She Stoops to Conquer” by Oliver Goldsmith, the author portrays through a main character how women were treated differently when it came to courtship.

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Young Charles Marlow was known among his friends and peers as a ladies’ man. Called simply ‘Marlow’ by his friends, this young gentleman enjoyed merry-making with the girls he met at a local tavern. Marlow’s father, Sir Charles Marlow, decided that it was time for Marlow to get married. Sir Charles arranged an engagement with Mr. Hardcastle, and old friend. The two men agreed that Marlow would marry Miss Katherine Hardcastle, and they set a date for the two young adults to meet. When Marlow did meet Kate, he believed that he was staying at an inn. He treated Kate with the utmost respect- he kept his eyes fixed on the floor, stuttered through sentences he never completed, and politely agreed with everything Kate said. He never looked at her face or tried to correct her, acting the gentleman he was raised to be. In reality, Marlow was staying at the Hardcastle estate. Kate was appalled by Marlow, having heard he was smooth with the ladies and disappointed in their meeting. She didn’t want to trifle with a man who could not show her love and affection, even if her fiancé was rich and handsome.

Kate’s father despised the finery of London’s newest fashions, while Kate loved dressing up. Father and daughter came to a mutual agreement- Kate could wear whatever she wanted during the day as long as she wore plain clothes in the evenings and to dinner. The evening that Marlow was at the Hardcastle residence, he encountered Kate again, who was now dressed in plain clothes. He mistook her for a barmaid, a position in an inn held by a low-class woman. Marlow approached Kate as he would approach any low-class woman, not recognizing his host’s daughter. Marlow was bold with Kate now, and he spoke many words of love and admiration for Kate. He even tried to kiss her hand. Kate enjoyed the attention, but realized that Marlow mistook her for a barmaid and her house for an inn. She used this error to her advantage, and proved to her father that Marlow was the gentleman he claimed to be.

Marlow’s two very different treatments of Kate are perfect examples of how women of different classes were treated in the 18th century. Everyone seemed to think that taking a woman’s virginity and pride was perfectly respectable as long as the woman wasn’t in the middle or upper class. Women who were in the middle and upper classes were treated as all women should be treated- courted with respect and seen as untouchable until marriage. Now, all women are given the opportunity to be treated as equals. Sadly, some of them are taken advantage of, and mankind has moved in a direction where women are free to be seized and controlled, rather than be respected and untouched. Women too do not live lives that demand respect and do things that are destructive to themselves on their own. Thankfully, there are men who abstain from that beastly behavior, and there are women who see value in themselves. They treat each other with respect, honor, and follow Christ’s rules about sex and marriage.

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