‘I wish I could divorce you,’ George says. ‘I wish you had a pre-contract, but Jesus, no chance of that, the fields were black with men running in the other direction.’

— Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

What is the meaning of the bold sentence?

  • 1
    Metaphorical: potential suitors had fled from her like soldiers in a chaotic mass retreat. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 21 '15 at 14:03
  • Ha Ha...I can draw a picture in my head. That had been quite an insult for a wife. Thank you. – whitecap Sep 21 '15 at 17:38

'Black' in this case means that there are so many people, you can't even see the ground beneath them - there's no 'free space' between them. I can't find any references right now, but we have a similar saying in Dutch.

If there are so many people running in the opposite direction than you want to go, you have no chance of achieving your goal. You might know the idiom uphill battle, which seems to be a weaker version of this.

  • 1
    A common, similar English metaphor used in literature is that "the sky was black with arrows," meaning (in a Medieval-themed battle) there were so many arrows shot from bows that the sky couldn't be seen from the perspective of one of the soldiers on the opposing side. – Crazy Eyes Sep 21 '15 at 14:46

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