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Unhappy wives’ tales: Divorce options for female literary characters

Unhappy wives’ tales: Divorce options for female literary characters

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

The above Jane Austen quote may be true in early 19th-century England. In 2020, the universally acknowledged truth is that a wife in possession of a bad husband must be in want of a good family law attorney.

The following female literary characters had troubled relationships with their husbands. Sadly, they didn’t know their divorce options and had to deal with more problems in their marriages than was necessary. There’s something to be learned from these unhappy wives’ tales.

Eyre deserved a prenup

Jane Eyre has had a tough life, and it’s hard to imagine that marrying the caddish Edward Rochester resulted in a happy ever after. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel tells the story of Jane Eyre: orphaned, abused by her aunt, bullied by her cousins, and haunted by the specter of the woman in the attic. She ultimately triumphs in the end, but her path toward marital bliss with her problematic love interest, Edward Rochester, was long and often distressing.

Jane’s journey from the halls of the Lowood Institution to the haunted Thornfield Hall was not a walk in the park. Meeting Edward would have been the salve to her hard life, but we doubt it.

This red flag was impossible to ignore: Edward married his first wife for money and did not tell Jane about it until after proposing to her. Jane would later marry him, with thousands of pounds under her name.

While Jane deserved a happy family life, she also deserved to be protected by a prenuptial agreement; one that, in the event of a divorce, would let her walk away with what she deserves.

What Daisy Buchanan needed: Access to divorce information

The Great Gatsby is a cautionary tale of an unhappy marriage. Daisy is Jay Gatsby’s one great love, but circumstances beyond their control (i.e., F. Scott Fitzgerald’s flair for the dramatic) turned them into star-crossed lovers.

Instead, Daisy had to stay married to the cheating, wealthy Tom Buchanan. She was evidently unhappy with the marriage, but many nights of partying and socializing kept her from exploring her divorce options.

If only she had access to divorce information, she never would have had to endure staying married to Tom and accidentally running over her husband’s mistress. More importantly, the magnanimous Jay Gatsby would have lived, and the novel could have ended on a more cheerful note.

Sole physical custody for Rosemary’s baby

In Ira Levin’s horror classic Rosemary’s Baby, we follow the story of Rosemary who is married to the duplicitous Guy Woodhouse.

After they move into a hexed apartment building where their strange neighbors secretly cast a spell on them, Guy hangs Rosemary out to dry. Unfortunately, she realizes too late that he was up to something sinister before she could even think to phone an attorney or contact the witchcraft police.

A real-life Rosemary could cite abandonment and cruelty as grounds for divorcing a real-life Guy. But a real-life Rosemary in a no-fault divorce state may not need to cite grounds for divorce other than “irreconcilable differences.” In any case, she should have taken steps to dissolve her marriage.

She could have also filed for sole custody. Never mind the fact that the baby may take after its father and cause her troubles later on.

What Amy Dunne should have done

Gillian Flynn’s modern marital thriller Gone Girl is about husband and wife Nick and Amy Dunne whose marriage is on the rocks. Compared to the three aforementioned classics, it’s more realistic in that there’s a lawyer character.

The first part of the novel, narrated from Nick’s perspective, paints him as an antihero who may or may not have had his pregnant wife kidnapped. The second half, which switches to Amy’s perspective, reveals that this is not the case. Amy is actually the villain who cleverly frames her husband for a crime.

To be fair, Nick was responsible for how Amy went from cool, sweet girl to notorious schemer. Ultimately, both characters are deeply flawed.

Unlike Jane Eyre, Daisy, and Rosemary, Amy had all the resources she needed to file for a dissolution of marriage. She could have easily looked into domestic violence as a factor to consider in property distribution in her spare time instead of fabricating stories in her diaries. Concocting a devious plan to set up her husband must have seemed more fun even though it’s criminal.

Family law attorneys Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams offer consultation to those exploring divorce options in Washington state. Call us at 425-448-6419 or leave us a message.

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