Over the course of the novel, Juliet becomes engaged three times, and at the novel's close, she's finally set to follow through and marry Dawsey Adams days later. By exploring Juliet's previous two engagements to Lieutenant Rob Dartry and Mark Reynolds, particularly in terms of how her relationships with those two men intersect with Juliet's desire to work and the societal norms of the mid-1940s, the novel suggests that Juliet is in a unique position for women at that time. Ultimately, for an independent woman like Juliet who wishes to continue writing after marriage and seeks a relationship in which her thoughts and desires will be taken seriously by her partner, she must actually step outside of traditional gender roles in order to find a fulfilling relationship, and must find a partner who is willing to do the same.
In a letter to Sophie that Juliet writes after meeting a disgusting doctor on her book tour, Juliet suggests that she's simply not good at interacting with men and has standards that are too high. While she does say that she'd never lower her standards to the level of the doctor, she does wonder if she's too picky about the men she dates. It should be noted that Juliet's high standards come from her life of relative independence and her love of her work, something that stands in direct contrast to the trajectory of Sophie's life. Though the novel never looks down on Sophie for choosing the more conventional life path of getting married and having children, it's also worth keeping in mind that nobody who writes to or about Sophie mentions that she has pressing or attention-heavy interests outside of her familial duties. This in turn suggests that one of the reasons that Juliet struggles with romance and the possibility of marriage is because she does have interests aside from pursuing marriage and a family.
Juliet confirms that she has no interest in giving up her career as a writer or her love of books when she recounts to Sidney the particulars of how her engagement to Rob Dartry ended the day before their wedding. The two were in the middle of moving Rob's things into Juliet's flat, which she had prepared for by clearing out half of her dressers and shelves. However, Juliet returned from an outing to find that Rob had boxed up all her books and filled the shelves with sporting trophies, ribbons, and memorabilia, thereby erasing Juliet's independence and identity separate from his own. Horrified at the sight of her books in boxes, she ended their engagement and sent him packing. For Juliet and her friends, this casts her as an eccentric and independent woman, though notably, not a bad, cold, or inadequate woman.
Mark Reynolds represents an entirely different kind of man for Juliet. Mark is charming, American, and extremely rich—in other words, he's everything that a woman like Juliet is supposed to want in a man. However, while Juliet finds Mark interesting and fun for a while, she's surprised by his proposal of marriage after only two months of dating, as well as upset by his lack of support for her project in Guernsey. In Juliet's letters to Sidney and Sophie in the days following her refusal of Mark's proposal, Juliet is very aware that she's turning down the prospect of a conventionally desirable life—but she's also aware that the life Mark offers her isn't one that she actually wants. She describes how, in the hours after Mark proposed, he angrily berated her for refusing and only stopped when she began to cry. Poignantly, Juliet notes that she almost said yes in that moment, but reconsidered when she thought of having to cry in order to make Mark treat her kindly and respectfully. As painful as that moment was for Juliet, it strengthens her resolve to not marry a man who callously disregards her beliefs and her career. Later, when Mark comes to fetch Juliet from Guernsey, a new occurrence of Mark's callousness combined with the memory of his prior bad behavior leads Juliet to send him away again, this time for good.
Unlike Rob or Mark, Dawsey is genuinely interested in Juliet's career as a writer and, over the course of their correspondence and their in-person relationship, he actively helps her in her career by writing and speaking about Guernsey's occupation and by providing anecdotes about Elizabeth. Through these actions, Dawsey shows Juliet that he respects her for who she is and doesn't seek to change her at all—to the point where his love remains a secret until Isola begins watching Dawsey for signs that he loves Remy, a Frenchwoman that Elizabeth befriended in the concentration camp, and instead uncovers signs that Dawsey loves Juliet. Juliet's proposal of marriage to Dawsey then becomes a testament to Juliet's independence and her willingness to flout traditional gender roles in order to find happiness in her future marriage. With this, the novel finally suggests that an independent woman like Juliet can find happiness, as long as she's willing to stand up for herself and insist that she be taken seriously.
Women, Marriage, and Work ThemeTracker
Women, Marriage, and Work Quotes in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
I don't want to be considered a light-hearted journalist anymore. I do acknowledge that making readers laugh—or at least chuckle—during the war was no mean feat, but I don't want to do it anymore. I can't seem to dredge up any sense of proportion or balance these days, and God knows one can't write humor without them.
The simple truth of it is that you're the only female writer who makes me laugh. Your Izzy Bickerstaff columns were the wittiest work to come out of the war, and I want to meet the woman who wrote them.
Though I had little hope of success, I knew it was my duty to warn her of the fate that awaited her. I told her she would be cast out of decent society, but she did not heed me. In fact, she laughed. I bore it. Then she told me to get out of her house.
But then I imagined a lifetime of having to cry to get him to be kind, and I went back to no again. We argued and he lectured and I wept a bit more because I was so exhausted, and eventually he called his chauffer to take me home. As he shut me into the back seat, he leaned in to kiss me and said, "You're an idiot, Juliet."
And maybe he's right.
Maybe I am a complete idiot. I know of three women who are mad for him—he'll be snapped up in a trice, and I'll spend my declining years in a grimy bed-sit, with my teeth falling out one by one.
If she marries him, she'll spend the rest of her life being shown to people at theaters and clubs and weekends and she'll never write another book. As her editor, I'm dismayed by the prospect, but as her friend, I'm horrified. It will be the end of our Juliet.
How could I ever have considered marrying him? One year as his wife, and I'd have become one of those abject, quaking women who look at their husbands when someone asks them a question. I've always despised that type, but I see how it happens now.
She was showing me her treasures, Sophie—her eyes did not leave my face once. We were both so solemn, and I, for once, didn't start crying; I just held out my arms. She climbed right into them, and under the covers with me—and went sound asleep. Not me! I couldn't. I was too happy planning the rest of our lives.