There is a lot to take in when reading Modern Love by George Meredith. Quickly, it is understood that the relationship that is being talked about is completely estranged. It is full of sadness and anger. In Sonnet I the wife’s sobs are described in the husband’s point of view as, “like little gaping snakes, / Dreadfully venomous to him.” (lines 5-6). This shows the readers, even with her clear remorse and sadness portrayed by her weeping, the husband is still full of anger and resentment. At the end of Sonnet I, it is written, “Upon their marriage-tomb, the sword between; / Each wishing for the sword that severs all.” (lines 15-16). These lines are a very dramatic and descriptive way for the narrator to describe the marriage. It shows the readers how “dead” the marriage is by saying it’s in a tomb and that they are both wanting a “sword” to end it. To continue, in Sonnet XVI, it is written, “Her cheek was salt against my kiss, and swift / Up the sharp scale of sobs her breast did lift:- / Now am I haunted by that taste! That sound” (lines 14-16). These lines explain the pain the husband feels around and about his wife. Finally, in Sonnet XVII Meredith writes, “Fast, sweet, and golden, shows / the marriage-knot. / Dear guests, you now have seen / Love’s corpse-light shine.” (lines 28-31). These four lines explain how the couple have put on a show for their dinner guests. To conclude, all of these sonnets show the reader different scenarios where the couple is basically miserable together.
To fully wrap our heads around the situation of these sonnets, let’s get into what marriage was like in the mid-Victorian time period that these sonnets were written. In general, the entire Victorian era was based on romanticism. There were many rules for courting which was the step before engagement at the time. These rules were mostly for women to follow. Women were groomed to be perfectly, dutiful wives and mothers before they were even in a courtship. A woman could be married off as early as 12 years old, although they were normally married around 18. When married, women signed everything over to their husbands and that was that.
So, what about divorce? Was it even a thing in that time period? Why doesn’t this unhappy couple just get a divorce and move on? The answer is complicated. Divorce was slowly becoming more allowed during the time, but it was still incredibly difficult to do and usually caused a scene in the community. Basically, if a woman wanted a divorce, she had to have extensive evidence of her husband causing her harm. This was the case even in an instance of adultery performed by the man. It was also incredibly expensive to divorce in this time period. All of this made it socially and economically silly to divorce in the Victorian period.
Want to read the Sonnets? Check them out here:
Hello! Welcome to my blog page! My name is Abbie and I'm a Communication Studies student at Wright State University. I like to spend my free time shopping, playing Animal Crossing, and watching Netflix, of course. I'm currently not working so I get to hang out with my fiancé's two kids who are 4 and 5 every day.