Deep within a Madding Marriage

“A good wife is good, but the best wife is not so good as no wife at all.” That statement, from Pennyways in Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd (pg. 321 in my Penguin Classics edition), is really the perfect quote for the cynic of all things matrimonial. It is one quote that works better out of context, when one doesn’t take into account the extreme bitterness and animus Pennyways has for the real subject (i.e., Bathsheba).

Prior to that, Hardy paints a perfect picture of a marriage dissolving (Chapter XL – Suspicion: Fanny is sent for). Granted, if your husband pines over a lock of a former lover’s hair, you can bet the honeymoon is over – and one could argue the marriage between Troy and Bathsheba was ill-conceived and doomed to fail from the outset – but a strength of this chapter, beyond its context within the overall plot, is his ability to capture that point in a marriage where the euphoric blinders have fallen and spouses realize they must find a way, if possible, to deal with this person for the rest of their lives.


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