The second season of HBO’s ‘The Gilded Age’ brings another possibility of a marriage for Marian Brook. In the first season, she fell in love with Tom Raikes and was ready to give up her place in the New York society of old money people. But then, Raikes backed out, and Marian learned a valuable lesson. In the second season, things seemed to take a turn for her when Dashiell Montgomery entered the scene, and it looked like she might finally settle down when he asked for her hand in marriage, and she said yes. In the final episode, however, Marian makes a hard but necessary decision. SPOILERS AHEAD
Marian and Dashiell Were Never in Love With Each Other
The chemistry between two people is the most important thing between two characters in a romance story, and Marian and Dashiell never quite had it. They’d always been friendly to each other, but there was never a spark between them. It was clear from the way that Marian acted around him. She never looked at him the way she looked at Tom Raikes. She always saw him as Cousin Dashiell, the father of her student Frances, and a good and dependable friend. But she never saw him as the man she would fall in love with.
While Dashiell proposed to Marian, he was never in love with her either. In fact, the only reason he seemed to want to marry her was because of his daughter. When his wife, Harriet, died, he realized that his daughter needed a mother, but it was difficult to find someone who could fill that place. The woman needed to have a close bond with Frances, someone that the girl would not just like but adore, and Marian was the only one who got that seal of approval from Frances.
Moreover, when Dashiell proposes to Marian, he emphasizes the fact that he is looking for someone who could be a good mother to Frances. His proposal was more about what he wanted his new wife to be like rather than why he loved Marian as an individual. All he ever saw in Marian was someone who could fill Harriet’s place for Frances while he himself was still in love with his late wife. This becomes apparent when he calls Marian “Harriet” and doesn’t even realize it.
Had Marian been in love with Dashiell, perhaps she’d still have gone through with the marriage, but he was never the one for her. In fact, when Marian met Dashiell, she wasn’t even thinking about marriage. She’d recently started working as a teacher and was quite happy with her job. Having found a purpose made her happy, and having her own money, no matter how minuscule, was still important to her. She didn’t need the money because she was taken care of by her aunts, but the job itself was something that she desired.
So, it was quite a disappointment when she discovered that Dashiell didn’t want her to work after marriage. He wanted her to be completely focused on the family and be indulged in society rather than spend her time teaching kids. He was (perhaps unintentionally) condescending towards her job, and this is never a good sign in one’s partner.
Marian would still have married Dashiell, considering that everyone approved of it, especially Aunt Agnes. Because she already had such low prospects, marrying Dashiell didn’t seem such a bad idea. But then, Reverend Forte fell ill, and it made her reconsider everything. She saw the love between him and Aunt Ada, no matter how brief their time together might have been. She saw how Aunt Ada remained a spinster but never settled down for someone she didn’t love until Reverend Forte came along. Didn’t Marian deserve something like that, too?
Even if Marian didn’t deserve the grandest love story out there, she did deserve someone who could understand her and support her desires and her ambitions, no matter how commonplace they might seem. She wanted someone who would encourage her to follow her dreams and celebrate her independence rather than demand her to leave it all behind for the sake of the family and what was expected of her in the role of a wife. Dashiell was none of those things, so it didn’t feel right for her to bind herself to him forever, and she broke off the engagement.