◎ Yu Dafu
The other day, Mr. Lin Yutang said something to the effect that women’s only career lies in matrimony. Now, an eminent French writer declared at a press interview after arriving in Shanghai that men should stay bachelors if they want to achieve success in life.
Washington Irving was a confirmed bachelor, but in his Sketch Book there is an article extolling the wife as a graceful and lovely life-long partner. Charles Lamb, also a single man, in A Bachelor’s Complaint of the Behaviour of Married People, one of his essays signed “Elia”, speaks mockingly of married people with their inevitable postnuptial fruits — the children.
Marriage or no marriage, which is more desirable? That sounds like the chicken-and-egg question, which, though often discussed, remains a perpetual puzzle. Generally speaking, one who has no family dependants is not supposed to rent a house, one who has no petticoat influence in the government should refrain from becoming an official, an unmarried male writer is in no position to write about “my wife”. All these seem to hint at the advantages of marriage. But, to get married, you need to have five prerequisites, namely, money, leisure, employment, good looks and potentness, of which all are not always available. What is more, after your marriage, your offspring will come to this world of themselves. And in a world with overpopulation, economic crisis, educational bankruptcy and deteriorating public morals, they may, just as Charles Lamb says, through their own acts of indiscretion, be sent to the gallows. With such a terrible misfortune befalling your family, how could you still have wedded bliss to speak of?
Thinking the matter over and over again, I cannot but come to the conclusion that neither matrimony nor bachelorship has anything to recommend itself.