Divorce in Literature At Issue

At Issue

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Since divorce, the dissolution of marriage, is a legal process, it constitutes a socially sanctioned transformation of one kind of social unit into another. Divorce is significantly different from a dissolution of the family through the desertion or abandonment of one partner by the other, or of one or both partners of their children, because desertion is not sanctioned by society. On the contrary, abandonment is generally perceived as a socially unacceptable action, one which breaks with the culture’s established norms of order and moral value. Therefore, the legitimate return of married people to the legal status of a single individual is important because it means that society accepts that the rights and interests of the individual can be more important than those of the family or of social stability in general. Divorce has figured in North American literature, with some significant exceptions, as a powerful means of dramatizing a married woman’s struggle to attain an identity of her own. A man’s marital status has not, traditionally, been as important to his identity as it has been for a woman; hence the emphasis on the woman’s experience with divorce.