Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Divorce..where did it come from?

The topic of divorce enters Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End through Christopher and Sylvia Tjetjans. Divorce was uncommon before World War II. The only basis for divorce before this time was adultry. The Church which held much power over the state, regarded marriage as a sacrament. This made it impossible to get a divorce without recourse to the Pope, who rarely if ever granted a divorce decree. The rules behind a null marriage were very strange. For example, Roger Donnington's marrige was nullified because he had sexual intercourse with a third cousin of his future wife. During the sixteenth and seventeenth century the confusion continued. The ecclesiastical courts could not grant a divorce as it was still against their beliefs. If a couple wanted a divorce they had to petition to the parliment by means of a private bill. Couples could now divorce on certain terms:adultry, cruelty, or unnatural offences. Nullification was granted on other terms: consanguinity or affinity, mental incapacity, impotence, force error impuberty (under age) or a prior existing marriage.
Some American states enacted divorce laws during the 1780s and 1790s. However, some states were more liberal than others. For example, Conneticut was seen as the most liberal. In 1849 the courts were given the responsibility of marriage and divorce and the grounds by which one could divorce were slowly changing.
Through the nineteenth century, divorce laws became more and more liberal and the grounds for divorce grew. By 1900, there were four recognized elements for divorce: 1)fault-based grounds 2)one pary's guilt 3) the continuation of gender-based marital responsibilities after divorce 4)linkage of financial awards to finding of fault.
Divorce became more and more available to American and Canadian citizens. This is an important aspect of Ford Maddox Ford's novel in that it contextualizes Christopher and Sylvia's relationship. It was a newer development during Ford's time and readers are shown this idea throughout Some Do Not.

"you want to know why I hate my husband. I'll tell you; it's because of his simple and sheer immorality" (Ford, 39)

After stating this, Sylvia's parents suggest she go off to a convent. They do not suggest divorce as it was still a new practice that was looked down on many. I think that it is important to see recognize the establishment of divorce in order to understand why Ford's characters do not just go out and get a divorce right away.

-Heather Blondé

Ford, Ford Madox. Parade’s End. London: Penguin Books, 2002.

Simmons , Charlene. "State Grounds for Divorce" California Research Bureau. pp 2-14

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