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Literature Reading

In: English and Literature

Submitted By Aprilsheep
Words 466
Pages 2
Michael Henchard, an unemployed hay-trusser "of fine figure, swarthy and stern in aspect," his wife Susan, and their little child Elizabeth-Jane are wearily approaching the Wessex village of Weydon-Priors at the end of a late-summer day in the year 1826. When she looks at the child, Susan is pretty, but her face often has "the hard, half-apathetic expression" of one who expects the worst. They learn from a passer-by that there is no employment in the village. A fair is still in progress, and once the trio has arrived Michael attempts to enter a refreshment tent which advertises "Good Home-brewed Beer, Ale, and Cyder." However, Susan persuades him to enter the booth where "furmity" is sold, since the food is nourishing even if repulsive in appearance.
In the tent Michael pays the furmity woman, "a haggish creature of about fifty," to spike his basin of furmity with large dosages of rum. He quickly finishes a number of well-laced portions and, in a "quarrelsome" mood, begins to bewail the fact that he has ruined his life by marrying too young.
As the liquor takes hold, Michael offers his young wife for sale to the highest bidder. Susan, who has experienced his outrageous displays before, swears that if Michael persists, she will take the child and go with the highest bidder. She ignores the advice of "a buxom staylace dealer" and stands up for the bidding. Michael continues the bidding with renewed vigor and raises the price to five guineas for wife and child. The staylace dealer rebukes him to no effect. Before long, a sailor offers to meet Michael's terms. With the appearance of "real cash the jovial frivolity of the scene departed," and the crowd of listeners "waited with parting lips." Michael accepts the sailor's offer, pocketing the money with an air of finality. Susan and Elizabeth-Jane leave with the sailor, but before they depart she turns to Michael and, sobbing bitterly, flings her wedding ring in his face. The staylace vendor says: "I glory in the woman's sperrit." The shocked spectators — who until now had thought it all a joke — quickly depart, leaving Michael to his own conscience. Within a few moments he falls into a drunken slumber. The furmity woman closes up shop, and Michael is left in the dark, snoring loudly.
The physical surroundings in this chapter serve to reinforce the dramatic movement of the unpleasant events. The road toward Weydon-Priors is barren, the leaves on the trees are dull green, and powdered dust covers the road and shrubbery. There is no employment in this village, and, as Michael and Susan learn from a passing stranger, "Pulling down is more the nater of Weydon . . ."
As we gather soon enough, Michael is portray

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