In the novel The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, Michael Henchard auctioned his wife in a bar and sold her to a sailor named Newson for five guineas along with his infant daughter.
As far as critics are concerned, Henchard sold his wife because he got drunk and lost control of himself. But it seems quite too much to sell one’s wife just by drinking spirits. Hardy didn’t tell us about the psychopathical conditions of Henchard, so we cannot deduce how much his conscience got weakened.
What did Hardy want to tell us about human nature by that act of Henchard? Did he want to tell us that humans can get as ugly as they want and weakening the conscience is gradual but attainable?