The first “why”

by Andrea Elizabeth

I’m up to page 64 in Kierkegaard’s Either/Or Part II. He has just finished his argument against the first, most respectable, but not justifiable, reason given people marry: to build character. At first I had in my head an argument, ‘what about the idea of Marriage as Salvation, and the reason the Orthodox ceremony includes a martyr’s crown?’ He gives an example of a man who married an older, plainer person than himself, causing one to think “that the ‘why’ must be an eccentric one.” Playing into stereotypes much, Mr. Kierkegaard? That men are only naturally interested in pretty young women? But the man stated that one marries to build character, “to the slight edification of his [listening] wife.” I can see his point, though, that one’s preconceived notions about character building can make the spouse a guinea pig. They are there solely for the upbuilding of the other person. It reminds me of a certain Calvinist posture where others are dung that God miraculously and monergistically uses to his own, and vicariously, the Christian’s ends. There is a bad way to view martyrdom that removes oneself too much from the cause and effect.