The Living Force
The lack of any standards or norms to shape and inform relationships between the sexes was even becoming quite prevalent in my generation. I was quite surprised at all the sanctions and rules imposed on young adults in Balogh's novels. If I would have had these rules to go by when I was in my early twenties, things might have been a whole lot different.I have been thinking about the culture in these novels, those 'values and rules' you mentioned. In comparison to the world I grew up in, its highly regulated. The examples are legion. Unwed girls may not walk with a man alone. There is a specific Season of balls and garden parties which is in part designed to 'bring out' eligible young men and women for the purpose of finding mates. And of course, there are rules of esteem and honour that many times force a marriage to prevent some sort of scandal. And on and on.
There is a social standard that everyone in these books has to contend with - whether they like it or not. And whether they're a man or woman, old or young, these customs give their lives sense and meaning, something to push against or been drawn towards, to navigate, to discuss, ponder - something to live for. Although incredibly heartbreaking and difficult, as the authors in this thread display, it is these customs that form a sort of ground that the characters walk on in their lives.
When I was growing up through the teen years (or trying to, at least), there wasn't anything even remotely like this. So what follows is that many people of my generation have had to contend not with the necessary problem of standards, per se, but the bewildering state of an almost complete lack of any social standard - particularly when it came to dating, sex, finding a partner, and how a lifelong and loving relationship could be cultivated between two people. For many people born in the last 30 years, there has been no solid ground to stand on - no healthy culture to guide young minds towards good, lasting relationships.
I mean, when you're 16 years old, pumped full of hormones, discovering your sexuality for the first time and you know you can watch all the porn you want for free - what incentive is there to sit patiently and listen to an elderly Aunt to discuss potential brides, and how one must comport oneself to be worthy of one?
So in all of that, I see the cultural poverty of my (and our) historical moment. And in reading these books, I get a kick out of letting my imagination run - not just in terms of what a real relationship may be like, but also towards some sense of how life in a healthy culture would feel.
As it is, better late than never, and I'm finding it quite refreshing, even fun, realigning my behavior based on what I've discovered in this reading project, particularly about the fairer sex, and what they expect from us guys.
So, onward and upward to the new reality fellas. Let's keep reading.