THOMAS HARDY[BR] (1840-1928)[BR]Perhaps the greatest representative of late Victorian prose and poetry, Thomas Hardy was among the novelists who pioneered the transition to 20th. century English and American fiction.He did that particulary through :1)carrying further the psychological novel-initiated by George Eliot-and maintaining some of the latter''s aspects of determinism;2)emphasizing the theme of early guilt or sin and their consequences (subsequently developed in the most important novels of Joseph Conrad,1857-1924);3)resuming the opposition or conflict Man-Divinity(Fate-Providence) in terms similar to those of the Greek tragedies (later emphasized by foremost 20th.century dramatists as O''Neill and Sartre).[BR] He studied architecture but tried his hand at story-telling and in 1871managed to publish his first novel,Desperate Remedies-originally rejected by publishers.There followed another two novels that completed the group of "Novels of Ingenuity":"Under the Greenwood Tree" and "A Pair of Blue Eyes".Although those novels were far from giving the full measure of Hardy''sgift for fiction , they annonced a few of the themes of the writer, among them the countryside .Hardy''s village is not at all idyllic , it is rather the cradle of burning passions , of complex psychologies , of fatal conflicts.[BR] Hardy''s first important novel was"Far from the Madding Crowd", where he developped the idea that the village is not a quiet, patriarchal oasis, but a place where passions are even more consuming and violent than anywhere else.Very much as in many other novels, Hardy opposes wild , uncontrolled , destructive passion to modest , obscure , unobtrusive devotion.The novel"TheMayor of Casterbridge"is characterized by high dramatic intensity , many episodes are of Shakespearean grandeur -particularly those which describes the heath-fascinating and wild like the nature of the local people.The mass scenes-at the fair, at harvesting time-, the variegated typology of the villagers , the oppressive , profoundly tragic atmosphere , are all depicted by Hardy in a sober manner , which evidences his psychological insight.[BR]In "Return of the Native", the action takes place on the same sombre Egdon Heath-mainly to symbolize connections with ancient , pagan times.The atmos[BR]phere of the novel is one of the gloomiest, permanently foreshadowing the tragic end of its heroes .[BR]"The Woodlanders"describes honest Giles Winterbourne ''s devotion to Grace Melbury , their unhappy love affair and his tragical end.The final scene-when Grace and the simple but wild Marthy who is also in love with Giles meet at the young man''s deathbed and pray for him together-is among Hardy''s most impressive episodes through its dramatic concentration and skilful integration into the context , as well as through its beautiful language.[BR]"Tess of the D''Urbervilles, a Pure Woman"is generally regarded as Hardy''s tragic masterpiece , and certainly it is his most ambitious tragic novel, a story of innocence and sophistication of man and nature , of history and its relation to the present .
The gentle Tess, who can never find happiness because of fateful circumstances and who can only find her rest in death-is a modern embodiment of the tragic victim typical of the ancients .(cf.Aeschylus and Euripides)Very much as in other novels by Thomas Hardy , the contrast between Man and Nature acquires symbolic value , while there are so many further elements to confirm Hardy''s successful reproduction of mytical, irreducible conflicts.Such a scene as that of Tess and her frion the turnip field where they are forced to work to exhaustion,- under a grey, gloomy , menacing sky -suggests to Hardy a cosmic image of the human condition.The heroine who is found asleep by they rising sun on the thousand-year-old cromlechs at Stonehenge-caught the sky and the earth-looks like an innocent victim sacrificed to the gods on an altar, as in ancient history, in the Bible, etc.[BR]"Jude the Obscure"tells how the intellectual aspirations of the young south-Wessex villager Jude Fawley are crushed by his own sensuality and lack of character , as well as by the play of circumstances. Like other heroes of Hardy''s novels short-stories, Jude cannot bear the burden of earlier mistakes , of remorses for his inconstancy and faithlessness, and thus goes through a downfall and dies in loneliness and misery.[BR]Besides the typical story and the qualities present in Hardy''s other novels , there is an interesting description of Oxford , where Jude aspires with all his being to study.The scenes of horror and the torments of guilt may have frightened Hardy himself into giving-up novel-writing and turning to poetry.Most of his highly valued verse -included in volumes with significant or even emblematic titles such as "Wessex Poems", "Poems of the Past and Present", "Time''s Laughing Stocks", "Satires of Circumstances" reveal the same obsessions with moral contradictions in the contemporary society -leading to the same dark pessimism and feeling of futility as his novels.On the other hand, his poems of nature are rather different and quite remarkable , occasionally pervaded with the strong , primitive force of man''s deep-going relations with land.[BR]Acknowledged by many critics as an important and original poet, Hardy is nevertheless remembered mostly for his gallery of novels -some of them masterpieces.He is also a master of the short-story, characterized by the highly dramatic concentration of the plot , by a vast range of potraits.