Dear Book Doctor,
A friend is getting married for the third time. I went to her first two weddings, I really can’t face a third. Do I have to go?
Alisha H, Chicago

In Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, Jude reflects that his life has been ruined “by the fundamental error of their matrimonial union: that of having based a permanent contract on a temporary feeling”. Though your friend is embarking on her third such “permanent” contract, that’s no excuse to be so cynical about it.

Innumerable authors have themselves married several times, among them JD Salinger (3), Ernest Hemingway (4), Saul Bellow (5) and Norman Mailer (6). But this doesn’t stop novelists creating problems for characters who want to wed again.

Hardy’s Jude admits he got it wrong first time round and divorces to wed Sue, his true love – who is also married. But society condemns the couple and things get so bad the ostracised pair return to their former partners.

Literature actually thrives on society’s objections. In modern times, Hamlet would have been sent to therapy and told to forget his fanciful accusations against his new stepfather. Shakespeare, of course, made a masterpiece of his stubborn refusal to accept his mother remarrying.

In War and Peace,when Hélène seeks divorce from Pierre, she is publicly called a whore. At the other extreme of the literary spectrum, in Jackie Collins’ Married Lovers, Hollywood brat Mandy Lambert blames her own unhappiness on her father’s many marriages.

By belittling your friend’s new union, you’re nothing more than a literary cliché. Has that made you feel bad enough to attend the wedding?

Get alerts on Books when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Comments have not been enabled for this article.

Follow the topics in this article