Thomas Hardy: the last Phase of the Victorian Realistic novel Although Hardy creates a fictional universe based

on the conventions of Realism, with a Documentary precision, addressing contemporary issues, his vision assumes tragic as well as 33ironic, poetic undertones. The typical Hardyesque novel seems a labyrinth, trapping characters in a world of determinism, pessimism, religious skepticism. This vision reduces plots to a melodramatic leel, the human b 737b15h eing allowed only a marginal position. His novels are set in a fictional world that abounds in signs of ill-omen, accidents, unhappy coincidences. His fiction suffers a strange distortion of the mundane world, abunding in powerful archetypal situations (the scapegoat in The Mayor of Casterbridge, the night journey, the dying god, the rebirth theme). After Jude the Obscure's unfavourable reception, Hardy decided to revert to writing poetry. Thomas Hardy can be seen as a poet and novelist at the same time. He was born at Dorset, the Wessex of his novels, on June 2, 1840. He became acquainted with Schopenhauer's work, which had an impact upon his outlook. Before his first great novel, Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), he had published Desperate Remedies (1871), Under the Greenwood Tree (1872) which was a great success. It was followed by the masterpiece The Return of the Native (1878). Next he published The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the D'Urbervilles, in 1891, Jude the Obscure in 1895. According to his own classification, his novels divide themselves into 1) Novels of character and environment, such as The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) 2) Romances and fantasies, The Well-Beloved (1892), Two on a Tower

Darwinism as well as to his love for rural Wessex. It was a denial of Victorian conformism and respectability. archaic and sometimes awkward vocabulary. which gave his novels a local flavour. Hardy challenged Victorian conventionalism. Spencer. symmetrical 34 positioning of characterization. unhappy coincidences. He put an end to novel-writing and began to publish poetry and drama. with fate or his own instincts. Man's struggle and the conflict between instinct and reason take place in a world dominated by omens. His works are often set against a background of immemorial traditions and customs with ancient monuments such as Stonehenge. accidents. He showed harmony of view with Huxley. Comte. Michael Henchard's downfall (in The Mayor of . and defined his ideas as « evolutionary Meliorism ». His chief fictional techniques are often described as his use of coincidence. while his distinctive stylistic signature lies in the picturesque.(1882) 3) Novels of ingenuity. so his novel Jude the Obscure was received with hostility by the authorities of the day because of its pessimism and the treatment of new subjects. As in the Greek tragedy. based on the attempt of perfecting life. He has been compared to the Greek dramatists. creating an impression of man's struggle with natural forces. There is an affinity between his view and Schopenhauer's concept of the immanent or blind Will. Hardy's artistic vision has often been associated to philosophical scepticism. Desperate Remedies. Hume.

cosmic forces shaping human existence. the Celtic temple dedicated to the sun). the relationship man . Hardy's village is not idyllic. destructive passions. From the beginning of the novel. suggesting some of his predispositions : « Man's character is his personal destiny or daimon ». Fate is ascribed the role of a cruel and capricious force that plays with the lives of mortals. The novel also has a closely-woven pattern . irreducible conflicts between man and his fate. There are mythical. although he doesn't intend or enjoy doing harm. Tess's destiny comes to the reader as an accumulation of omens which are interpreted in terms of folk superstition. it is rather the cradle of fatal conflicts.collectivity . a Shakespearian grandeur. describing "the sacrificial altar" of Stonehenge. Themes of guilt.cosmos is apprehended. sin. a Pure Woman renders the basic themes of Hardy's work. resposibility and remorse are typical for his fiction. then of society or by the characters' own errors. especially in the description of the wild Egdon Heath (the same atmosphere will be recreated in ample descrition of the heath scorched by the sun and plunged into darkness in The Return of the Native). Highly poetized descriptions of personified nature take a symbolic. The background suits his nature.Casterbridge) is brought about by a flaw in his nature. active part in the dramatic unfolding of events (for instance in the last but one episode of the novel. from concrete physical details to the social. Tess of the D'Urbervilles. myth and dramatized through symbols. Human beings appear to be crushed by a superior force: first of nature.The novel has a dramatic intensity.

there seems to be no ascent and cathartic purification in Hardy's novels which leave the reader frustrated and having a sense of the injustice perpetrated. the family horse: "The pointed shaft of the cart had entered the breast of the unhappy Prince like a sword and from the wound his life's blood was spouting in a stream and falling with a hiss into the road". the death of the horse is a blow to the precarious economic situation of her family and foretells its gradual degradation.of unfortunate incidents and folk superstitions. Tess immediately put her hand upon the wound "with the only result that she became splashed from face to skirt with the crimson drops". However. the forces of history or human civilization. Tess's future tragedy is foreshadowed by an episode early in the book . Dorothy van Ghent believes the subject of this novel is mythological as the human opposes "preternatural. to the mythos following that of autumn or tragedy. the mythos of winter . According to the definition given by Frye to tragic irony. We may therefore consider that Hardy's novels belong. namely to the mythos of winter. In this scene we 35 can almost see Tess's whole life. being crushed by both fate and society. Strong individuals with strong untameable souls are contradicted by strong social forces. which joins satire and irony. There is rather a devastating projection of man's marginal position in the universe. using Frye's terminology. inimical powers".the death of Prince.

In Jude the Obscure. He views himself in a larger context.reduces tragic situations to mere "comedies of the grotesque". being aware of his social disadvantages and finally goes through a downfall. we are presented with the story of the downfall of a man animated by scholarly ambition. he has too many passions in conflict with one another. the vegetable. The intellectual aspirations of the young Wessex villager Jude Fawley are crushed by his own sensuality. his attempt being "to point at the tragedy of unfulfilled aims". the animal. we are offered representations of hell and of the ungodly .they are all present in a distorted manner in Hardy's fiction. The archetypal orders of existence that Frye revises in his "Anatomy of Criticism". his passion for Arabella Donn. the third essay. the embodiment of instinctual desires and of his weakness. Hardy described his work as "a deadly war waged between flesh and spirit". is the garden of Eden after the fall. the mineral . the human. of inner torments and the description of a hostile society. The heroic element decreases as the ironic increases. by humanitarian ideals. The play of circumstances also took its toll. of introspection. the inclination to drinking. He cannot bear the burden of earlier mistakes and besides. a man who believes in values of spiritual emancipation but ends up discovering they are hollow and false. as the divine. The novel foreruns 20th century literature through the density of psychic life images. Hardy's region of the mind. The primaeval Wessex. At the divine level.

passionate heritage. where Jude aspired to study in order to become a bishop or a scholar).villains that occupy the godly position: they are called Time. respectively. Michael Henchard's former mistake (of having sold. The city offers the embodiment of a fortress that hides villains. Little Father Time (in Jude the Obscure. the professions in The Mayor of Casterbridge. Life's Little Ironies). "the city" (the French "ville") being set in opposition to the "field" in Alec and Tess's names. fictionally called The University of Christminster. trapped. But all institutions cooperate in Hardy's fiction for the destruction of man: the institution of learning in Jude the Obcure (a parody of Oxford university. Jude Fawley's vulnerability. The vegetable world is more often than not symbolic of modern hells as in The Return of the Native or Tess. The President of the Immortals. At the human level. Plot contrives against the character. giving it an archetypal value (in Frye's terms). .g. Marriage appears as a destructive machine in most of Hardy's novels and short-stories (e. the city versus the countryside. he strikes an ominous note by killing Sue and Jude's 36 children and himself). his tragic flaws. the characters are engaged in a relation of annihilation. the Christian earthly church in Jude and Tess. as a social institution ruined by conditions in contemporary British society. The characters are destroyed by their natures as well: Tess's wild. such as Alec D'Urbervilles.

Hardy's novels introduced the tormented hero.Lawrence. who were committed to a "normal" world and avoided extremes of social behaviour. his wife and children to a sailor .H. D. Homework 1.in a fit. The archetypal/mythic/cosmic dimension of Hardy's fiction . There is no doubt that Hardy's reliance on the workings of chance and cosmic irony dealt a blow at Victorian complacency.Conrad. 2. Unlike Thackeray or George Eliot. Camus. later re-discovered by authors such as J. Read Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles and comment on the impact of rural nature.his morally improved character after the incident as well as his temperance and virtue didn't mean the end of his sufferings and eventually he ended up alone and alienated).

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful