‘For my component we don’t realise why males who have got wives and don’t need ‘em, should not be rid of ‘em since these gipsy fellows do their old horses…Why should not they place ‘em up and offer ‘em by auction to guys who will be looking for such articles? Hey? Why, begad, I’d sell mine this full moment if anybody would purchase her!’
Therefore states the young farm labourer Michael Henchard, in just one of the most arresting passages in Thomas Hardy’s 1886 novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. Close to the start of the guide, Michael gets drunk on rum-laced furmity (frumenty), and it has an argument together with spouse, Susan. He chooses to sell Susan and their infant child, who will be bought with a sailor for five guineas. When Michael sobers up, the enormity of just exactly what he’s done hits house; he realises he cannot get their spouse and child straight straight back, and swears down liquor for the following 21 years because of this.
The scene is shocking, no question, exactly just exactly what with Michael’s casual brutality, Susan’s misery, as well as the misogyny that is pervasive. Yet when it emerges that Susan normally quite keen to part means with Michael, i will be struck by there being something oddly progressive in just what is actually a quick no-fault divorce or separation. Michael describes to your onlookers that:
‘It’s an agreement to component. She shall use the baby|Thebaby shall be taken by her if she desires to, and get her means. I’ll simply take my tools, and get my methods. […]