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ConnieAnnKirk
Posts: 5,472
Registered: ‎06-14-2007
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Chapters 1-9 (No Spoilers, please)

For readers who like to discuss as they read, please keep discussion here to the plot not later than the end of Chapter 9.  Thank you!
~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
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ELee
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Wife-selling

Wife-selling was not a figment of Hardy's imagination.  Here is an article from the NY Times on the subject, and here is a picture with some further information.  It seems that in most cases it was consensual on both sides, so it is not quite the horror story that one might think!
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ELee
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Wit

Every so often, I find it necessary to revisit Hardy's works in order to enjoy his wonderfully dry humor. 
 
In Chapter 1, note his description of the "smoking gentleman, whose coat had the fine polish about the collar, elbows, seams, and shoulder-blades that long-continued friction with grimy surfaces will produce, and which is usually more desired on furniture than clothes."
 
My man.
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Laurel
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Registered: ‎10-29-2006
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Re: Wife-selling

Here's another article of interest.

ELee wrote:
Wife-selling was not a figment of Hardy's imagination. Here is an article from the NY Times on the subject, and here is a picture with some further information. It seems that in most cases it was consensual on both sides, so it is not quite the horror story that one might think!


"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Laurel
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Startling juxtapositions

This sentence near the end of chapter 1 made me want to cry:

"In contrast with the harshness of the act just ended within the tent was the sight of several horses crossing their necks and rubbing each other lovingly as they waited in patience to be harnessed for the homeward journey."

And in the sentences that follow we get further into the juxtaposition of man and nature and end up being told that nature isn't always benevolent, either:

"Outside the fair, in the valleys and woods, all was quiet. The sun had recently set, and the west heaven was hung with rosy cloud, which seemed permanent, yet slowly changed. To watch it was like looking at some grand feat of stagery from a darkened auditorium. In presence of this scene after the other there was a natural instinct to abjure man as the blot on an otherwise kindly universe; till it was remembered that all terrestrial conditions were intermittent, and that mankind might some night be innocently sleeping when these quiet objects were raging loud."
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Laurel
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Silas Marner

Somehow, as I read this, George Eliot's Silas Marner keeps coming to mind. Perhaps the people are of the same class and simplicity, or--
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Everyman
Posts: 9,216
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Re: Wife-selling

Very interesting, ELee.

I couldn't access the NYT article, and I'm not sure I consider Uncle John's bathroom reader an authoritative source. But I easily found enough other references to the practice that it does seem that it happened, not frequently, but not rarely, either.

From this source com the following documented instances:

On Thursday September 13th 1814, William Heslam of Thornhill brought his wife Margery to Wakefield Market Cross, with a halter around her neck, and there publicly sold her to the highest bidder. The sum of five shillings was offered by John Blagg and accepted by the woman's husband; the money having been paid, Blagg walked away with his purchase, the woman seemingly the most pleased of all.

As late as 1888, evidence was given in a Barnsley Police Court of the sale of a wife when Ann Holgate unblushingly stated that her husband had sold her for a half-crown to John Pearson with whom she was living.


Hardy sets his novel in the time when wife-selling seems to have been a fairly regular happening in rural areas; is it safe to assume that most of his readers would have been aware of this history? If so, for them the opening scene would not have held the bizarre horror that it does for us, but would have been a recognized plot device to get the novel underway, no more unique than, say, Gabriel Oak's young dog driving all his sheep off the cliff to their deaths, another dramatic incident which sets a young man off on a new course of life.

Several of the articles on wife selling I read pointed out that divorce at the time was almost impossible to obtain, and very expensive, so it was not an option for country folk. And since a single woman, particularly one with a child, would have had a very, very hard life in those days if she had no had a man to support her, some wives may indeed have been quite willing to be sold to a man they hoped would be a better provider and mate (though not husband, since the initial marriage was never abolished). One article even suggests that wives often were happy to be sold, in some cases to men they had already left their husbands to live with or had formed attachments to.

Anyhow, ELee, I thank you for sending me on this exploration. I have read Mayor several times, but never with the realization that Hardy was working with an established practice, not inventing some outlandish plot device to instill us with instant disgust for Henchard, nor making us wonder appalled what on earth would cause Susan to actually let herself be sold.


ELee wrote:
Wife-selling was not a figment of Hardy's imagination. Here is an article from the NY Times on the subject, and here is a picture with some further information. It seems that in most cases it was consensual on both sides, so it is not quite the horror story that one might think!



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Everyman
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Re: Chapters 1-9 (No Spoilers, please)

The opening scene of Michael and Susan walking along the road reminds me how often Hardy's characters travel on foot. Austen's characters walk only for pleasure (with rare exceptions such as Lizzie's walk in the rain to see the ill Jane); when they travel they do so by horse or carriage. Dickens's characters are often found traveling by chaise, post, or on horseback. But in book after book, Hardy's characters walk, even on trips of relatively long distances.

Hardy was expert at describing these walking characters. The description in Chapter 1 of Henshaw walking is delightful: "His measured,
springless walk was the walk of the skilled countryman as distinct from
the desultory shamble of the general labourer; while in the turn and
plant of each foot there was, further, a dogged and cynical indifference
personal to himself..."

If I had a PhD thesis to write, I could do worse than write it on "Walking journeys in thomas Hardy."
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I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
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Everyman
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Re: Wife-selling

While the majority of the wife-selling incidents I read about in the references from ELee and Laurel and the ones I found myself seem to be highly consensual with no regrets by any of the three people, in Mayor it's clear that Michael does, as soon as he sobers up, regret what he has done.
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Author
ConnieAnnKirk
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Re: Chapters 1-9 (No Spoilers, please)

An interesting observation, Everyman.  Each person's walk is distinctive, but it's hard to describe in writing.  I think that would make a neat dissertation to examine the motif and technique in Hardy.  There's lots of walking in Tess, too, as I recall.

Everyman wrote:
The opening scene of Michael and Susan walking along the road reminds me how often Hardy's characters travel on foot. Austen's characters walk only for pleasure (with rare exceptions such as Lizzie's walk in the rain to see the ill Jane); when they travel they do so by horse or carriage. Dickens's characters are often found traveling by chaise, post, or on horseback. But in book after book, Hardy's characters walk, even on trips of relatively long distances.

Hardy was expert at describing these walking characters. The description in Chapter 1 of Henshaw walking is delightful: "His measured,
springless walk was the walk of the skilled countryman as distinct from
the desultory shamble of the general labourer; while in the turn and
plant of each foot there was, further, a dogged and cynical indifference
personal to himself..."

If I had a PhD thesis to write, I could do worse than write it on "Walking journeys in thomas Hardy."


~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
Author
ConnieAnnKirk
Posts: 5,472
Registered: ‎06-14-2007
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Re: Chapters 1-9 (No Spoilers, please)

This message has been moved to a more appropriate location. This helps to keep our boards organized.

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emmajane
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Registered: ‎06-03-2008
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Re: Chapters 1-9 (No Spoilers, please)

[ Edited ]
Was anyone else surprised that there was not more time apart for Mr and Mrs Henchard than a couple chapters? I thought after the selling the reader would get to see their lives away from each other before they meet again.
Hardy's characters are never as well to do as Jane Austin's normally are so they have to walk to their destinations. Also walking in Austin is a mixture of pleasure and purpose. For example, P and P, the girls walk to the nearby town, to go to town for functional things as well as pleasure. Just thought I would throw that out there.
Oh and I love this book so far. Completely different from Jude.

Message Edited by emmajane on 06-12-2008 10:06 PM
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Everyman
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Re: Chapters 1-9 (No Spoilers, please)

Those are all good observations. Yes, Hardy does write much more of the working classes than Austen (or, say, Trollope) -- he's more with Dickens, except that Dickens writes both of wealthy and working, and writes mostly of city life, whereas Hardy is almost entirely rural life.

And yes, Austen's characters mostly walk for exercise or pleasure, not from necessity. If it's raining, they mostly stay in or take the carriage. Good observation.

emmajane wrote:
Was anyone else surprised that there was not more time apart for Mr and Mrs Henchard than a couple chapters? I thought after the selling the reader would get to see their lives away from each other before they meet again.
Hardy's characters are never as well to do as Jane Austin's normally are so they have to walk to their destinations. Also walking in Austin is a mixture of pleasure and purpose. For example, P and P, the girls walk to the nearby town, to go to town for functional things as well as pleasure. Just thought I would throw that out there.
Oh and I love this book so far. Completely different from Jude.

Message Edited by emmajane on 06-12-2008 10:06 PM


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I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
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