A Modern Instance is a realistic novel written by William Dean Howells, and published in 1882 by J. R. Osgood & Co. The novel is about the deterioration of a once loving marriage under the influence of capitalistic greed. It is the first American novel by a canonical author to seriously consider divorce as a realistic outcome of marriage. PLOT: The novel explores the deterioration of what could have been an otherwise healthy marriage through industrial enterprise and capitalistic greed. The story chronicles the rise and fall of the romance between Bartley Hubbard and Marcia Gaylord, who migrate from Equity, Maine, to Boston, Massachusetts, following their marriage. The reader believes at the beginning of the story that their love for each other is unbreakable, but as the plot advances, more and more troubles arise, alienating the couple. Soon their entire marriage collapses, inundated with problems from a wide array of areas. Marcia Hubbard, lost and desolate in the gloom of her husband's abandonment, is offered solace in the comforting touch of her friend Ben Halleck, who secretly is attracted to her. However, he worries that she may reject him, unable to move on from her previous partner. The story concludes in a meaningless vortex of isolation representing modern society. Marcia Hubbard, still attached to Bartley, confines herself to her father's home in Equity, Maine, from which she never leaves. Bartley, on the other hand, has died. Ben Halleck stands hesitantly, unable to determine whether or not he should seize the chance and propose to her.
Excerpt from A Modern Instance
The village stood on a wide plain, and around it rose the mountains. They were green to their tops in summer, and in winter white through their serried pines and drifting mists, but at every season serious and beautiful, furrowed with hollow shadows, and taking the light on masses and stretches of iron-gray crag. The river swam through the plain in long curves, and slipped away at last through an unseen pass to the southward, tracing a score of miles in its course over a space that measured but three or four. The plain was very fertile, and its features, if few and of purely utilitarian beauty, had a rich luxuriance, and there was a tropical riot of vegetation when the sun of July beat on those northern fields. They waved with com and oats to the feet of the mountains, and the potatoes covered a vast acreage with the lines of their intense, coarse green; the meadows were deep with English grass to the banks of the river, that, doubling and returning upon itself, still marked its way with a dense fringe of alders and white birches.
But winter was full half the year.