A Story of a Wedding Tour by Margaret Oliphant
In A Story of a Wedding Tour by Margaret Oliphant we have the theme of control, insecurity, escape, freedom, independence and responsibility. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Oliphant may be exploring the theme of control. Rosendale does not really love Janey rather he loves how she looks. It is as though she is an object on his arms for him to proudly show to other people. There is no real or solid connection between Rosendale and Janey. Something which may have made it easier for Janey to abandon her life with Rosendale who in reality controls every aspect of Janey’s life. This may be important as Oliphant may be suggesting that at the time the story was written society was male dominated and men controlled the lives of their wives (or of women). Janey also appears to be impressed with the fact that someone could love her and does not consider the importance of her actually loving Rosendale before they get married. If anything Janey through her upbringing may be somewhat insecure about herself. She has been treated as a second class citizen by the Midhurst’s. Who help Janey not out of any sense of kindness but more because they feel obliged to do so.
There is also no disputing that Janey is being exceptionally brave when she decides to abandon her Rosendale. All she has is one hundred pounds and no idea as to where she might go. She is stepping into a world that is unknown to her but rather than being afraid she is enthusiastic about her future. Grasping the opportunity of a new life with both hands. Even if her actions may be deemed to be scandalous by others. Janey is able to find work and adapt to her circumstances all without the help of Rosendale (or any other man). Which may be the point that Oliphant is attempting to make. She may be suggesting that should a woman be brave enough to sway from the accepted norms of society. They too can be like Janey and make a success of their lives. Ten years go by and Janey has only used up half her one hundred pounds and is settled in the community in St Honorat. If anything Janey has become independent of not only male dominated society but more importantly of Rosendale.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The dress that Janey changes into when she is in the hotel and contemplating her future may symbolise a change in life or direction for Janey. The illness (which is unnamed) that Rosendale is inflicted with could also symbolise a life that has been lived selfishly and one in which Rosendale never refused himself any of his desires. Janey’s son John may also be symbolically significant as he represents a new start for Janey. Even if she has to rear him alone. It is also interesting that Janey has remained faithful to her marriage vows and has not taken another man to be her companion. This might suggest that Janey believes in the tradition of marriage or the vows that she might have taken. The fact that there are only two types of trains mentioned (one fast and one slow) could also be important as Janey appears to be more content taking the slow train. Which might suggest that Janey though in a rush to disappear is in no rush to necessarily decide upon what type of life she will live. Janey could have quite easily lied to others about who she was in order to gain in some way personally. If anything Janey is not looking for others to pity her. She is standing on her own two feet.
The end of the story is also interesting as the reader suspects that Janey feels responsible for Rosendale as he is laying in the train station dying. Though he was an unfit husband Janey still feels as though she owes him something. This may be significant as it shows or highlights to the reader how good-natured Janey is. Though Rosendale had been a threat to her (and John) Janey no longer thinks about that and instead feels for Rosendale. Something which some critics might find remarkable considering that Rosendale did not necessarily appreciate or love Janey. However the important thing to try and remember at the end of the story is that Janey does not abandon Rosendale for a second time. In fact she is secure and independent enough in her own life that she has no need to. Rosendale is no longer a threat to Janey or John. It is out of good will and decency that Janey ensures that things are properly organized after Rosendale’s death.