Money and status are everything to the characters in HBO’s ‘The Gilded Age,’ and the plot revolves around all of them trying to find their place in the elite social circles of late 19th-century New York. Apart from wealth and social standing, love is another motivator that influences the actions of the protagonists, often making them do questionable things. Unlike most people around her, Marian Brook is driven by her heart. She doesn’t have the same desire to be at the top of the social ladder and often thinks with her heart, which puts her in difficult situations.
At the end of Season 1, she finds herself on the cusp of losing her good reputation when she decides to run away with Tom Raikes. But despite their strong desire to be with each other, things don’t come to pass between them. Why does that happen? Why do Mr. Raikes and Marian break up? Let’s find out. SPOILERS AHEAD
Tom Raikes Jilted Marian Brook For Better Prospects
Marian Brook was born into old money, which her father spent recklessly until he lost everything and left nothing to his daughter’s name. Tom Raikes was his lawyer, and it’s he who tells Marian about her newly attained poverty and advises her to find help from her long-lost aunts who had severed connections with her father a long time ago. As Marian is about to leave for New York, Raikes asks her if he can write to her. She is not sure if it’d be a good idea unless it’s something related to legal issues, and for a while, this looks like the end of it between them.
Things take a turn when Mr. Raikes arrives in New York with the intention of completely reinventing his life. At first, it looks like he followed Marian there, and all his efforts at placing himself in the same social circles as her is him trying to get closer to her. As he gains coveted popularity among New York’s socialites, his desire to marry Marian seems to get stronger. Despite her initial hesitation, Marian develops feelings for him, which get so strong that when he asks her to run away with him, she doesn’t hesitate as much as she should have, considering that her aunt Agnes is strictly against Mr. Raikes.
What Marian doesn’t see is that Agnes has a lot more experience with men trying to worm their way into the hearts of young women whom they see as an opportunity for better wealth and social standing. Agnes calls Raikes an adventurer because she knows that his feelings for Marian aren’t as sincere as her niece wants them to be. Raikes believes that marrying Marian will get his foot in the door of the Van Rhijn family and its wealth, when in truth, Marian doesn’t have any claim because it all belongs to Oscar. Agnes warns Marian that once Raikes realizes this, he will leave her for someone else, but young Marian is too innocent to accept that Tom Raikes wants anything more than love from her.
Reality hits her when she realizes Agnes is on point about her suitor. It turns out that Marian wasn’t the only one Raikes had been wooing all this while. Apparently, he cast a wide net, hoping to trap a wealthy young lady who could elevate his financial and social status. Having run around those circles, going to balls and parties and operas, Mr. Raikes didn’t want to give up this lifestyle, which he realized he might be pushed out of if he eloped with Marian. On the other hand, marrying someone like Cissie Bingham, with whom he was spotted at the opera by Aurora Fane, would be a much better prospect. She has the money and the social position that Raikes is looking for, and when she agrees to marry him, he is quick to drop Marian, who was waiting for him to show up at Mrs. Chamberlain’s house so that they could run away together.
Even when Raikes is a few hours late, Marian doesn’t entertain the possibility that she has been duped. It isn’t until Aurora Fane tells her about Raikes and Cissie Bingham at the opera that Marian is forced to consider the reality of her situation. Whatever faith remains in her heart is washed away when she finds Raikes at his office, drafting a letter in which he intends to explain why he is dumping her. This puts an end to their relationship, with the final nail in its coffin being the news that Raikes and Cissie Bingham are getting married.
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