Last Updated 10 Apr 2020

Thomas Hardy Biography

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    Thomas Hardy, one of the few writers to succeed as both, a major novelist and a poet. He is best known for his beautiful but often harsh portrayal of the rural England, set in around his beloved Wessex.

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    . Whatever Hardy's intention of this work might be, however, it is certain that this work demonstrates the panorama of how characters are influenced, distorted, and destroyed by the Victorian patriarchy. That is to say, all major characters?not only women (Susan, Lucetta, and Elizabeth-Jane), but also men (Henchard and Donald Farfrae)?suffer from the Victorian patriarchy, whether they are conscious of it or not. It is difficult to jump to the conclusion that his aim of this work is to delineate the tragedy of men and women under the Victorian patriarchy. However, one of the most important aspects of this work is to illuminate character's relationship with the Victorian patriarchy. It is evident in that the wife-selling in the first chapter determines the destinies of all characters throughout the work. Hardy, by giving the place and situation, allows them the freedom and strength to display their personal feelings, to secure themselves, and to make their own choices within the Victorian conventions. Henchard is depicted as an embodiment of traditional values and traditional man of Victorian society and he is very distinctly put against the chief female characters that represent the possibilities for women in Victorian society. The transition of the female characters from simple everyday characters of Victorian period to self conscious and responsive women shows that Hardy was aware of the shifting world- a world that was processing elements of both the Victorian and modern times. The search for an ideal relationship which was so common during Victorian age is overtly redefined from a new perspective through the major female characters. We may take a note of Hardy's comment on "The Mayor of Casterbridge" which he made on January 2, 1886, the day when the novel began in the 'Graphic newspaper', and 'Harper's Weekly': "..after all it is not the improbabilities of the incidents but the improbabilities of the characters that matter".(Nemesvari 60) But we find that the improbabilities in the women characters are equally evident as in the character of Henchard. In "The Mayor Of Casterbridge", Thomas Hardy attempts to make Victorian society more aware of its treatment and attitude towards women and he has successfully affected this objective through the chief female characters---Susan, Elizabeth and Lucetta to a great extent. Thus by giving the place and situation, Hardy allows them the freedom and strength to display their personal feelings, to secure themselves, and to make their own choices within the Victorian conventions.

    Research Questionnaire

    • What is Gender Roles?
    • What is the impact of gender roles in human society?
    • How Patriarchal culture effects gender roles in Victorian society?
    • Why Thomas Hardy sketches same sexes with multiple gender roles?

    Research Metodology

    The novel The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy has been selected for the study. The research is going to use the Gender Deconstruction and Gender Performances as a tool. The research is qualitative and the primary source is text of the novel and the secondary sources are articles, online journal, library etc.

    Literature Review

    Literature is always open for the interpretations and analyses of researchers and critics. These interpretations make a piece of literature genuine and interesting. The critical works also pave ways for other researchers. Therefore, no literary work can be treated in isolation. When we study the critique about Hardy's works, we come to know that many researchers and critics have discussed many aspects of the Hardy's novels. They have discussed Hardy's themes, characters, ideas and his philosophy of life. Similarly many modern literary theories are being applied on the work of Hardy. For instance Jung-Sun Choi says "Thomas Hardy's The Mayor Of Casterbridge (1886) has been criticized in two directions, the universal and the particular. The first examines the place of the individual life in a hostile or indifferent world, its destiny and limitation, broadly speaking, man's place in Nature. Thus, it focuses on the concepts such as coincidence, nature, destiny, and cosmic irony in relation with Hardy's pessimism. The second investigates the aspect that each character is the product of social and economic conditions, specifically, that of the Dorset region in England during industrialization. It delves into how characters are constructed, influenced by this specific region.(Jhung-Sun Choi 55) Interestingly, Hardy's depiction of male characters also illuminates how they are the victims never the beneficiaries of Victorian patriarchy in The Mayor Of Casterbridge. The most typical example is portrayed in Henchard's case. In the beginning of the novel, he is revealed as the perfect agent of the Victorian patriarchy. His relationship with his wife appears only as the relationship between a lord and a slave. He speaks to his wife only when he needs to, and he avoids all possible conversations by reading or pretending to read. Furthermore, in order to confirm his ownership to her, he sometimes threatens her that he will sell her. At last such relationship between them reaches its climax in his wife-selling in Weydon Fair-field. By selling his wife with his daughter, he blandishes his patriarchal power over her. But ironically, it eventually causes his consecutive catastrophes. Henchard symbolizes the Victorian patriarchal ideology in the work in that he completely leads his life the Victorian patriarchy demands of men. It is no coincidence that he indulges himself only in searching after financial success and title, the "mythology of manliness" that the Victorian patriarchy requires to men .He achieves these things through male competition in that time. But coincidentally, his success leads to his loneliness because what he wants is only a "greedy exclusiveness". Furthermore, he fails to make true relationship with others because he continues to show "the tendency to domineer" Pallavi Gupta states in her research thesis "In the novel, The Mayor Of Casterbridge, Hardy presents Michael Henchard as 'a man of character' while throughout the novel Henchard commits a number of blunders. Hardy puts two characters in front of us– Michael Henchard and Donald Farfrae. By using this technique of showing the actions of his characters, Hardy proves that even an uneducated man may be a man of character. He draws a line between 'education and qualification', and instead of introducing his main character by his name, he gives a detailed description of Michael Henchard's personality to show that it is the personality of Henchard that matters more than the name he has. Hardy tries to prove that a lot of the bad stuff that happens to Henchard is a result of his natural personality, which he really cannot change. That is a convincing way of Hardy to introduce the main character of his novel. Moreover, it goes along with the novel's title because the novel is not named Michael Henchard but The Mayor Of Casterbridge: The Life and Death of a Man of Character. Throughout the novel Hardy tries to have a balance in Henchard's character because Henchard is something between 'a Man' and 'a Mayor'.(Gupta 288) Tazir Hussain in his work "The Mayor Of Casterbridge": Attitude toward Changes and Challenges of Social Conventions' examines the position of women in the 19th century was a critical one. The society was governed in the patriarchal mode. The public sphere was not accessible to women as it was to men. Various kinds of limitations were imposed on women's conducts especially in the fields of law, education and even on lifestyle. Again, side by side, there were various positive changes taking place around that time. For example, the Married Women's Property Act was passed in 1870 which protected the legal position of women within the family. The 19th century was also important as a time when feminist campaigns to improve the legal status of women were undertaken in areas such as vote, the family and reproduction. Much have been said and written about the representation of women characters in Hardy's novel. The scope of this subject is broad. "Character is Fate" (Hardy 112), but Henchard's character demands an understanding of the other characters in relation to him, because it's not Henchard's character alone that brings in his tragic end. It's the character of the people as a whole that surround him and their responses to his life and death that probably goes up to make his fate. Let me begin from the moment when Susan returns with her grown up daughter Elizabeth Jane. This Susan who comes after a long gap of 18 years is a different Susan. She is no more that Susan who somewhat excitedly left Henchard 18 years ago because of his senseless announcement of selling her. She is now endowed with a personal will, feelings and aspirations. On her first meeting with Henchard right after her arrival, she says
    "O Michael!... I meet you now only as his widow. I consider myself that, and that I have no claim upon you. Had he not died I should never have come---never! Of that you may be sure." (Hardy 71)
    Her self-assertion is very remarkable. It tells so much about the changed and confident Susan. At the same time, the implicit sense of detachment that she creates between herself and Henchard that she is no more dependent on anybody even after Newson's death is mistaken by Henchard. He says:
    "It's only that which makes me feel'ee an innocent woman."(Hardy 71)
    But Susan is not that innocent woman who let her husband to sell her.  She is different now who goes on asserting her new strength that she has gained over the years. She also gained enough experiences to realize the attempt of intimacy shown by Henchard. She separates herself from that and says that she came to see Hnechard and that she will go away with her daughter at once if he wants them to. Here we must remember that Susan's primary aim was to secure a safe shelter for her daughter and herself, and she was aware of Henchard's emotions and impulsive nature very well. Henchard, by now, recognized the new confidence in Susan. He replies to her:
    "No, no Susan, you are not to go… I have thought of this plan that you and Elizabeth take a cottage in the town…that I meet you, court you and marry you…and I should have the pleasure of seeing my only child under my roof as well as my wife." (Hardy 71)
    Once she becomes assured of Henchard's politeness, then only she reveals her intention of coming to Casterbridge. She tells Henchard:
    "I come here only for the sake of Elizabeth, for myself, if you tell me to leave again tomorrow morning, and never come near you more. I am content to go" (Hardy 72)
    Henchard doesn't want her to go away and thus Susan secures her daughter first and then herself in the hands Henchard. Dale Kramer, in his "Thomas hardy: The Forms of Tragedy", discusses this turn of events from Henchard's perspective. He suggests that Henchard remarries Susan not for renewed love but because of a sense of obligation, duty and rightness. Kramer may be right in his observation, but it is also important to explore the nature of obligation and rightness on the other side, that is on the side of Susan. Susan admits that she had entered the situation solely for the sake of her daughter's reputation. She expresses her indifference to Henchard although implicitly. Henchard, on the other hand, has to bow down or come to a certain sort of compromise leaving his "rule o' thumb" (Hardy 50) status. It is also interesting to know how Elizabeth becomes the central point of Henchard's and Susan's discussion. All precautions are taken by Henchard and Susan so that her sentiments remain unhurt. The public auctioning of Susan has now become a private matter. Henchard fights hard to keep it a secret. This becomes a responsibility on Henchard. The creation of such sensibility in Henchard is a sole credit of Susan. It is she who sows the responsibility in Henchard and keeps it alive in him through her speeches. But this sense she creates in him seems to be enveloped with a kind of selfishness which is carried to a certain extreme where Henchard's emotional need is completely forgotten. Henchard receives no or little response from Susan, except the fatal lie that Elizabeth is not his daughter, but of Newson. But, there is no denying to the fact that Susan's primary concern was the safe future of her daughter, and moreover, we must admit that she was honest in her confession, although she deliberately reveals it late to Henchard because she wanted no harm to the sentiments and feelings of either of them. Hardy, by giving the place and situation, allows them the freedom and strength to display their personal feelings, to secure themselves, and to make their own choices within the Victorian conventions. Henchard is depicted as an embodiment of traditional values and traditional man of Victorian society and he is very distinctly put against the chief female characters that represent the possibilities for women in Victorian society. The transition of the female characters from simple everyday characters of Victorian period to self conscious and responsive women shows that Hardy was aware of the shifting world- a world that was processing elements of both the Victorian and modern times. The search for an ideal relationship which was so common during Victorian age is overtly redefined from a new perspective through the major female characters. Julie C. Suk in his thesis The Moral and Legal Consequences of Wife-Selling in The Mayor Of Casterbridge, delineates what kind of man sells his wife? Thomas Hardy's The Mayor Of Casterbridge opens with a famous episode in which a poor hay trusser, Michael Henchard, sells his wife, Susan, by impulsively putting her up for auction in a public market. Susan is purchased by a sailor, with whom she departs and subsequently lives as husband and wife. Subtitled "The Life and Death of a Man of Character," the novel presents itself as a study of the flawed, complex, and ultimately tragic moral character of the man who sold his wife. His essay interprets the novel's account of the moral consequences of the wife-sale in The Mayor Of Casterbridge, by examining the shifting legal and social meanings of the practice in nineteenth century Britain. The novel exploits uncertainty about the legal consequences of wife-selling to generate its moral tragedy. Andri Hermansyah, Analysis on Tragic Character In The Mayor of Casterbridge, stated that, the unit analysis of this study is Thomas Hardy's novel. The objective of the study on this thesis is to find out how Henchard as tragic character is presented in the novel and how overwhelming pride leads to his downfall. The collected data is qualitatively analyzed using the theory of tragic character. After collecting and analyzing the data, the writer concludes that Thomas Hardy presents Henchard's rise and fall. Hardy introduces Henchard as nobody. He undergoes a change from being nobody to become somebody because of his hard work, his success in persuading Farfrae to become his employee and his ability to abstain from drinking alcohol. Yet, Henchard's success does not last long. He turns back from somebody to nobody because of his judgement errors and his poor personality that lead him to the fall. After discussing the views of various writers about Hardy's work, it can be concluded that the idea of Gender Trouble has not been explored by other researchers

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    Thomas Hardy Biography. (2018, Aug 26). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/thomas-hardy-biography/

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