Questions for Volume I:
1. What expectations are raised by the title, Marriage, and by the three epigraphs? Can you speculate on what mindset or set of references might cause someone to juxtapose quotations by Dr. Johnson, Jeremy Taylor, and a Renaissance dramatist?
2. What effect is created by the opening scene between Lady Juliana and her father? What thematic points do you think this scene and its consequences are intended to convey? What narrative attitudes towards the protagonists are conveyed through language? To what degree does the narrative show sympathy for the ideal of youthful love by mutual preference?
3. What seems to be the range of social class of the characters presented? Do you know other contemporary novels which subject characters as wealthy as the Earl of Courtland and Lady Juliana to intense criticism?
How is the character of Alicia Douglas used for contrast, and what background does she represent? To what extent is she an interesting character?
What criticism, if any, does the narrative intend to make of the mores of contemporary British society? What options seem open to prosperous and would-be prosperous well-connected young people? How ought Henry Douglas and Lady Juliana to have behaved?
4. How do geographical contrasts structure the social criticisms presented in volume I? What are features of its Scottish upper-class life?
Who seems to have been the intended audience for this novel? Would they have felt superior to the social groups which it represents? What attitudes towards Scotland and its internal divisions does this volume seem to convey?
5. What are some features of this volume's general tone and narrative style? Does the style shift for different situations? What range of speech habits is represented in the characters?
6. Are there any characters with whom we can sympathize? If not, does the absence of a central sympathetic protagonist alter the narrative's tone? What contrasts structure our responses to the issues of kinship and hospitality?
7. Do some of the characters represent “humors” or “types”? If so, which, and how are we to respond to them?
8. What attitudes do the plot and its characters suggest about: duties of parents and children, the uses of money and leisure; characteristic flaws of upper-class educations; proper expenditures and social obligations; the nature of intelligence and good taste; and the best uses of leisure time?
9. Marriage presents a closed society in which small groups of people are thrown on each other's society for long periods of time; what vices in tact and perception does the author satirize? Are these satiric moments convincing, and do they add to the plot? Can you tell from this volume what the narrative considers the best uses of friendship and family ties?
To what extent to you think these ideals are presented as gender specific, that is, are the hopes and duties of life essentially different for men and women?
10. What attitudes about national character are expressed by characters throughout the novel? How do their views reflect their general level of acuity and good-will? Does the narrative seem to place value on these national stereotypes, and if so, in what context?
11. Within the context of the late eighteenth-century novel, Ferrier is usually considered a comic (ironic) moralist. What aspects of her style seem ironic, and how do these affect the tone and enjoyment of the plot? Do you find her sarcasms and moralisms blend into a unified point of view?
11. In a day in which many could not afford to travel, and few had access to the society of the very rich, what features of this novel might have served the purposes of travel narrative or social description?
Which plot features do you think were probably familiar to Ferrier's readers, and which were more innovative?
12. As volume I closes, what do you anticipate will happen next? How have the incidents of this volume prepared the way for the themes and events of the next one?
13. Are there ways in which you think the tone of this novel might be influenced by the reservations of Ferrier's audience about female authorship?
What are some new themes and topics in volume II which had not been as present in the first one? What new characters are introduced, and how does their presence add to the range of possible situations?
How is the novel organized, socially and geographically?
How is Mary raised by Mrs. Douglas, how do the aunts think she should have been raised, and what does the author seem to believe are the topics a young woman should study?
How might these assumptions reflect social circumstances of the time, and Mary's future assumed occupations? To what extent do Ferrrier's views on the education needed by women seem progressive or advanced for their period?
To what extent is the virtuous Mary an interesting heroine? How is the narrative designed to interest us in her conflicts and difficulties, and does it succeed? How is contrast of character used to develop the author's themes?
Is the plot of this novel organized around actions? If not, what types of incidents or scenes function as substitutes?
What thematic/plot functions are served by the interventions of the Glenfern sisters, and later, by the characters and opinions of ladies Juliana, Adelaid, and Emily? Do some of the characters continue to represent "humors" or "types," or do they develop into more fully represented portrayals?
What thematic purpose is served by the introduction of the Gaffaws, Mrs. Macshake, Dr. Redgill, Lord Courtland, Lord Lindore, and Mrs. Lennox?
What attitudes do the plot and its characters suggest about: love of homeland and one's native Scotland; the value which should be placed on dining and taste; the value and nature of friendship; and the purposes of life and its best pleasures?
Why do you think the presence of Methodists was so controversial during this period, and how do the characters reveal themselves by their reactions to the this "alien" group?
What seem to be Mary's religious preferences, and those of the author? Why are these thematically important? To what extent do religious and cultural tolerance seem to be values in this text?
What function is served by the presence of poems throughout the text? (e. g., "The Exile," 278) What kinds of poems are usually presented?
What perceptions of sickness and death are conveyed in this volume? How may these reflect contemporary conventions of fiction writing, and/or medical knowledge of the day? Are doctors flatteringly presented?
Does the novel convey a progression in the protagonist's life? What forms of closure does the reader anticipate at the end of volume II?