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Friday, December 13, 2013

Dear Jeannie: A Family Divided and Arranged Marriages


Dear Jeannie,

Sean, Matt, and their family are newcomers to a tightly-knit, politically volatile community. The boys are all young enough to grow up with the neighbors, but old enough to still be considered transplants. When war breaks out, Sean and his brothers are pretty evenly split between joining one of the two sides--or abandoning both and falling prey to cowardice and greed, in Matt's case. Sean joins the "enemy" army, which had more of his loyalty before they moved. I'm thinking this is going to really tear up the family (there were 4 brothers, most of whom were very close to their idealistic mother). Sad, but workable. But what about their community? Since some boys joined "the cause" and others didn't, would they be completely booted? Attacked, either physically or verbally? And what about Matt's new criminal career? Will the family be able to maintain a life here, or are they going to need a new start, somewhere else?

Armed Brat in Arlington

Dear Armed Brat,

War definitely polarizes people in and of itself, much less if you've got a North & South-type thing going (great television series!). If the family is divided, I'd think the sons who joined the "enemy" side would definitely be unwelcome in the community that is predominantly for the other side. Would they have to hide out? And as to whether they'd be able to maintain a life there (I'm assuming after the war?), I'd think that would depend on a few things: 1) Does the family consider this place their home? Since you made a point to mention that they are still considered "outsiders," they might not want to. 2) Has Matt's criminal career made them lepers of society by their association with him? 3) How idealistic is their mom? I find it somewhat hard to believe she'd want them to be involved in this policital upheaval, but that all depends on what her stance in it is. If the brothers are close to her, then her opinion will hold a lot of sway over them.  Anyway, there were some parts of your question that were unclear, so if you want to clarify some things in the comment section below, I'll respond as soon as I can. Thanks for writing in!

Dear Jeannie,
When she was 15, Francesca's stepmother asked her to choose between raising her half-sisters or starting her own family. She thought hard about it at the time, but she's been a faithful surrogate ever since. The girls are close. But now they're in the New World, with new rules, new family, and new relationships. Francesca's been maneuvered into an arranged marriage, and her groom doesn't know she comes with a ready-made family. Between being completely up-ended by the move and having her control taken away from her, she has a sizable dose of anger. Where and how is she going to direct it? The girls? The groom? She's been making "adult" choices for a number of years, but they don't seem to have prepared her for any of the new dilemmas facing her. How can she learn to make decisions *with* someone, instead of *for* them?

Micromanaged in Micronesia 

Dear Micromanaged,

Francesca's biggest challenge will be the arranged marriage, not the move. He would represent the largest unknown. How was she maneuvered into the arranged marriage? She'll likely feel incredible resentment toward that figure. And if the husband-to-be comes across high-handed (or perhaps he's just a regular, chivalrous male), she's not going to appreciate that, either. You didn't mention how old she is when they make the move to the New World or if she's harbored hopes of a marriage of her own, so it would seem feasible that her anger could resolve fairly quickly as she journeys through her character arc and through marriage. It might be helpful to have her and her fiance butt heads early on as they join forces for some task. They can learn each others' ins and outs over this task, which they are both less emotionally invested in than marriage. Hope you write him with miles and miles of patience. :)


Maybe I've got some answers. Leave your question in the comment section below and I'll post my answer in a future Dear Jeannie column. Queue's empty!