Analysis of a Love Affair
Marriage, for all it’s intent and purposes is a beautiful institution. A marriage between two people is a commitment that should be based on love, honesty, trust, and fidelity. But, what happens to a marriage if these basic fundamentals are flawed due to circumstance, can it still survive? Is there ever a good reason to deceive the person you love and are married to even if it’s for his or her own good? In marriage, people will lie for many reasons. People will lie to avoid arguments over minute issues; some may lie to prove a point. And, there are times when a person may lie in order to protect the person they love.
In the tale “New Year’s Day”, you will find Lizzie Hazeldean, a woman who lied for three reasons. Lizzie lied for the sake of love. Lizzie lied to protect her husband’s honor of caring and providing for his wife, and she lied due to the commitment she felt to Charles and their marriage on a whole.
Lizzie Hazeldean loved her husband Charles very deeply. So deep that in order to protect and comfort him in his final days on earth due to heart damage; she must create a world based on deception. Lizzie must lie to everyone in order to fortify her clever tale. At home from the hotel fire she lies to her parlor maid Susan. When out socializing, she lies to a young and naive Hubert Wesson upon their meeting at a social event and of course, she lies to her husband Charles. These lies are told in attempts to shield Charles from the reality of the truth. However, with every dishonest word that she utters Lizzie, in fact, is honoring Charles. Honoring his intention to care and provide for his wife. But, due to his damaged heart he can no longer honor his intended vow. Lizzie is quite aware of her husband’s fears. So in attempts to relax his fears and to comfort him in his final days, Lizzie continues the illusion of “high society” and economic independence.
With the constant urging from Charles, Lizzie kept up appearances by continuing to make herself beautiful and appealing, accepting invitations to Mrs. Struther’s to hear performances by the latest tenor and in Charlie’s words “be amid all the youth, good looks and gaiety of New York”. So, Lizzie wears the elegant black velvet evening gown and further continues to live her “socialite” status. Although, Lizzie would have preferred to stay away, she went to appease and honor Charles.
Lizzie’s commitment to Charles is endless, for as she states on page 293, “He took me out of misery into blessedness”. “He put me up above them all, and he put me beside himself.” With this in mind, how can she fail him now? Lizzie goes to great lengths to eradicate any air of financial difficulty. When questioned by Charles as to how she keeps their home so lovely, especially her bedroom with its fresh pillows and satin coverlet, Lizzie lies and tells him the money comes from her rich Portuguese stepmother. Lizzie hides the fact from Charles that she is struggling to pay the household bills along with the expenses incurred due to his failing health, at times, borrowing sums of money and even forgoing payment altogether.
However, the burden does become too heavy for Lizzie to bear on her own. When faced with this reality, Lizzie devises a dishonest and deplorable plan. A plan, which on the surface appears to be self-serving, but upon closer evaluation one can realize that Lizzie, with her limited resources, has no other option than to risk everything and begin an affair with a man of independent means.
Money means nothing to Lizzie; she’d rather have more time with Charles. But in her desperate situation, with no money and having no other means of financial support, she had to do something. With this knowledge at hand, Lizzie could not select any type of man to assist her in her circumstance. The man Lizzie would favor would have to be a man of independence, prominence, and a man who would be the least suspected regarding such a shameful and repugnant matter.
That man would be Henry Prest. A man well known for his wealth and distinction. Henry was handsome, single, and could have any woman he chose. Most importantly, he would not be questioned in regards to having an affair with a married woman.
In Lizzie’s era, women often married successful, prominent men, men with a sense of class, honor, and prestige. An affair was viewed by society as something that men did. Women, on the other hand, were expected to appear genteel and accept whatever negative circumstances beset their marriage and carry on. It was unheard of for a woman to dishonor herself in such a manner. The risk of an affair for lizzie was enormous. Not only did she chance the mark of an adulteress, but she is also married to a “Hazeldean;” A name synonymous with respect and class. Charles, having previously made a name for himself practicing law, was well accepted in the high societal circles. Rumors suggesting his wife of having an affair would bring shame upon the family’s good name.
Lizzie, in contrast, was a “Winter.” A family name of insignificant means and scandal involving Lizzie’s father the bishop and money stolen from the church. Lizzie surely did not wish to dishonor herself and Charles and lose the affluence and prestige that accompanied the Hazeldean name, nor does she care to shame Henry. But what else could she do? Allow her husband who has been her savior to suffer in his final days with the knowledge that because of his damaged heart, he could no longer care for his wife? That his beloved wife would find herself hungry and penniless, for she has no other means or skills to speak of, in order to provide for herself? No. Therefore, Lizzie without afterthought came to a conclusion and a resolution was made.
Charles Hazeldean went to his final resting-place peacefully with the knowledge that he had honored his duty to his wife. Henry Prest sustained his reputation as a distinguished, eligible bachelor, and Lizzie maintained her status with high society and as a widow of a Hazeldean, and with her love, honor, commitment, and a touch of womanly wisdom did all that she could to uphold her husband’s honor.