Rules of Engagement: Four Couples and American Marriages Today

Overview

Despite the social turmoil of recent decades, marriage as an institution has remained surprisingly constant - over 90 percent of Americans marry at least once by the age of sixty-five. No two marriages are alike, of course, and few are immune to change. In Rules of Engagement, Lis Harris gives us an engaging and provocative look at the state of modern marriages by telling the stories of four very different couples, placing their stories in the context of marriage in this country. What these very different unions ...
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New York 1995 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Paper over boards. 256 p. Audience: General/trade.

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Overview

Despite the social turmoil of recent decades, marriage as an institution has remained surprisingly constant - over 90 percent of Americans marry at least once by the age of sixty-five. No two marriages are alike, of course, and few are immune to change. In Rules of Engagement, Lis Harris gives us an engaging and provocative look at the state of modern marriages by telling the stories of four very different couples, placing their stories in the context of marriage in this country. What these very different unions have in common, says Harris, is a uniquely American quality - the willingness to experiment and invent. American marriages have often reflected social trends at large, from the days when the Puritans took marital advice from a treatise that recommended wives address their husbands as "Master," to the proliferation of laws regulating marriage during the nineteenth century, which included more liberal divorce laws as well as bans on polygamy and interracial marriages, to the changing dynamics within marriages today, including the struggle to maintain an equal partnership while juggling the demands of family and work as the two-income family becomes the norm.

Acclaimed social observer Lis Harris examines how marriage is holding up amid the social changes of the late 20th century, and analyzes the institution through the eyes of four couples from different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Harris (Holy Days: The World of a Hasidic Family), a staff writer at the New Yorker, presents four couples as representing varieties of American marriage in the late 20th century, though four couples can hardly stand for all marriages. Over several years, she consorted with an upper-class couple in New York City, a middle-class African American couple, a blue-collar couple and a couple best described as determinedly bohemian. Being privy to these vastly differing marriages allowed Harris to draw interesting, even entertaining conclusions. For instance, all four couples agreed that none of them was prepared for the reality of marital life (who is?). In a pleasing anecdotal style, especially with the story of the upper-class pair, the author conveys her respect for the eight people who allowed her into their lives, as well as her appreciation for marriage as an institution that, however challenged, is still viable. (Sept.)
Donna Seaman
Harris is able to insinuate herself into people's lives and then describe them succinctly and insightfully. A "New Yorker" staff writer whose first book was about Hasidic life, Harris decided to write about contemporary marriage to see how that most basic of human units has fared in light of the changes the women's movement has wrought. Harris, who must be easy to talk to (she's certainly a pleasure to read), found four couples willing to share their private selves: the McLanes, an upper-class couple; the Robbins, a blue-collar couple; the Jacksons, a middle-class African American couple; and the Clarks, the most egalitarian and artistic of the bunch. Each couple's story is compelling, as true stories always are. Harris manages to cover family histories, courtship, sex, money issues, arguments, children, and housework. What emerges from these intriguing anatomies of marriages is that the improved status of women has changed marriage for the better and that people work "terribly hard all the time" both at their jobs and at their relationships.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684808260
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 8/1/1995
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 15
1 We Mapped It Out: Sarah and Eaton McLane 25
2 By Wedlock Prescrib'd: After the Revolution 92
3 Getting Somewhere: Michael and Claire Robbins 109
4 Working Relationships 168
5 Pushing the Other Way: Carlita and Samuel Jackson 171
6 Body and Soul 214
7 O Pioneers: Neal and Vera Clark 222
Epilogue 252
Select Bibliography 254
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