Essay on Thomas Hardy's Views on Marriage

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Thomas Hardy's Views on Marriage

Thomas Hardy lived in a time when marriage was the expected practice for young men and women. He had a very distinct view of the institution and the implications that came along with it. He himself was married twice in his long life, both times not very happily, and had progressive views about the union of the sexes, most particularly regarding divorce. His ideas and opinions are not too carefully concealed in his literary works, though he contested that he kept his own views out of his fiction. In order to understand Hardy and his views on marriage, we must first understand the time in which he lived. The Victorian society held rigid views on marriage and the role of women in life. Most women
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People most often simply lived apart or separated from one another. The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1923 equalized the grounds for divorce by allowing woman to sue an adulterous husband for divorce.

In the middle of this strict social code, Hardy came into being. He met his first wife, Emma Gifford, in 1870 when he visited Cornwall. He was captivated by both her and the landscape that surrounded her. Some controversy surrounded her methods in securing his hand in marriage. She probably exaggerated her attachment to a local farmer in the hopes of pressing Hardy into a proposal. It did eventually come, and the two were married on September 17, 1874. They were both thirty years old, though she thought he looked older and he thought she was much younger.

Although the first years of their marriage were comparatively happy, tensions infused their union. Arguments over whether to make their home in London or at 1 Arundel Terrace, their inability to have children, tension between Emma and her mother-in-law, and Hardy's various flirtations either indicated the underlying problems or represented the actual problems themselves. Regardless, each was ill-suited for the other. Hardy retreated inside himself and sought emotional connection with other women like Rosamund Tomson and Florence Henniker. She kept a private journal wherein she recorded her complaints about him and also discussed their marriage with a few acquaintances.
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