The Trope of the Interfering Matchmaker (and Why It Shouldn't Be Used)

A popular trope in romances in the interfering matchmaker--this is the friend, parent (mother/father), sibling, aunt, uncle, grandparent . . . who decides to bring a couple together (whether they want it or not).

It is a powerful trope with a long history. The 1940 version of Pride & Prejudice dropped the original intransigence of Lady Catherine de Bourgh in favor of this trope: her descent on Elizabeth isn't clueless outrage but clever information gathering.

Austen knew: romance is private, not public.
Austen herself backed away from this device. She dumped the original ending of Persuasion which relied on well-wishers forcing Anne and her captain to meet and talk. She used the impressive and now-iconic letter scene instead.

Austen was wise. The problem with the interfering matchmaker is that it shares a problematic coin with the interfering naysayer. If people are judged by action rather than intent, the machinations and pressures of the matchmaker don't look all that different from the machinations and pressures of the villain (different side of the same coin). In both cases, someone believes that he or she knows best! The only distinction becomes whether or not the couple wanted the result.

Human nature being what it is--sometimes, people aren't sure. For all we know, a not-dead and wiser Juliet may have thanked God that interfering Friar Laurence's "help" didn't work out while her parents' interfering "commands" did. I can't believe that I fell for that immature Montague. I'm so much happier in my marriage to Count Paris.

The freedom sought by Austen and Bronte--for women and men to choose their own mates--is a freedom worth preserving, at least literarily. A novel full of pushy, designing friends and family may be clever. In the long run, it may not bode well for a movie/book's primary relationship. 

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