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Thomas Hardy British Victorian/modernist novelist (1840 1938)

IIIA. Thomas Hardy introduced into Victorian Literature the concept of fatalism. This belief
assumes that humans are subject to arbitrary and random forces, such as shape and timing which
shape their destinies.
But Hardy cannot solely be labeled as a Victorian novelist nor can he be categorized simply as a
modernist. In a tradition as writers like V. Woolf or D.H. Lawrence who built a new kind of
In many respects, T. Hardy was trapped in the middle ground between the 19 th and 20th centuries,
between Victorian sensibilities and more modern ones, between tradition and innovation.
The novel assured Hardys financial future but also aroused a substantial amount of controversy.
Here, Hardy shows his deep sympathy for Englands lower classes, especially for rural women.
He became famous for his compassionate, often controversial portrayal of young women
victimized by the self-righteous rigidity of English social morality.
Hardy lived and wrote in a time of difficult social change, when England was making its slow
and painful transition from an old-fashioned, agricultural nation to a modern, industrial one.
Businessmen and entrepreneurs or new money, joined the ranks of the social elite as some
families of the ancient aristocracy, old money, faded into obscurity.
Tesss family illustrates this change as Tesss parents, the Durbeyfields, lose themselves in the
fantasy of belonging to an ancient and aristocratic family, the DUrbervilles. The novel strongly
suggests that such a family history is not only meaningless but also utterly undesirable.

b. Tess DUrbervilles (1891) tough now considered a major 19th century English novel
and possibly Hardys masterpiece, it received mixed reviews when it first appeared, in part
because it challenged the sexual morals of late Victorian England.
In depicting what he called the ache of modernism, Hardy uses imagery associated with hell
when describing. Modern farm machinery, as well as suggesting the effete nature of city life as
the milk sent there must be watered down because townspeople cannot stomach whole milk.
Angels middle-class fastidiousness makes him reject Tess, a woman whom Hardy presents as a
sort of Wessex Eve, in harmony with the natural world. When he parts from her and goes to
Brazil. The handsome young man gets so ill that he is reduced to a mere yellow skeleton. All
these are indications of the negative consequences of mans separation from nature, both in the
inability to rejoice in pure and unadulterated nature.
Another important theme is the sexual double standard to which Tess falls victim despite being,
in Hardys view, a truly good woman, she is despised by society after losing her virginity before

Hardy plays the role of Tesss only true friend and advocate, subtitling the book: a pure woman
faithfully presented and prefacing it with Shakespeares words from The Two Gentlemen of
However, although Hardy clearly means to criticize Victorian notion of female purity, the double
standard also makes the heroines tragedy possible, and thus serves as a mechanism of Tesss
broader fate. Hardy variously hints that Tess must suffer either to atone for the misdeeds of her
ancestors, or to provide temporary amusement for the gods or because she possesses some small
but lethal character flaw inherited from her ancestors.
Because of the numerous pagan references made about her, Tess has been viewed as an Earth
Goddess or as a sacrificial victim. For example, early in the novel, she participates in a festival
for Ceres, the goddess of the harvest, and when she baptizes her dead child she chooses a
passage from Genesis, the book of Creation, rather than the more traditional New Testament
At the end, when Tess and Angel come to Stonehenge, which was commonly believed to be a
pagan temple, she willingly lies down on a stone supposedly associated with human sacrifice.