Thomas Hardy as a Novelist – qualities, features and critical observations with examples

Thomas Hardy as a Novelist – qualities, features and critical observations with examples


Main articleThomas Hardy

As a novelist, Thomas Hardy had many contributions to the lists of bestselling, classics, and evergreen publications. He was known for his romantic descriptions, social representations, depictions of human helplessness and much more. He brought many changes in the writing style of the late Victorian Era and extended the impressions of his ink to early twentieth-century writing. Critics have highlighted Hardy’s qualities in different domains. A few believe that his style and content were way ahead of his time – Jude the Obscure. And many believe that his writings were in sync with the time when people were feeling confused and helpless with increasing machinery and industrialisation. Therefore, Hardy took his readers to the landscape of villages, rural sides, and simplicity by inventing Wessex, a popular place born out of imagination. There are many qualities in the writings of Thomas Hardy. We will discuss a few below.

Thomas Hardy as a Novelist


Thomas Hardy’s writing and the role of Fate – an analysis

As much as we praise the writing style of Hardy, we need to determine the roles of other agents in his works as well. Thomas Hardy is known for his novels that often explore themes of fate and determinism. In Hardy’s novels, characters often feel powerless to escape the forces that shape their lives and destinies. For example, in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Tess is a victim of her circumstances and the actions of others, and she is unable to escape the tragic fate that ultimately befalls her. Often, in Hardy’s novels, characters are denied the prowess to take proceedings into their own hands. Reiterating, the characters are helpless, powerless, and made a captive of their fate. In another example, Similarly, in The Mayor of Casterbridge, the main character, Michael Henchard, is haunted by a series of misfortunes and mistakes that he is unable to overcome, leading to his downfall. These and other works by Hardy illustrate the idea that individuals are not always in control of their own lives and that their destinies are shaped by larger, external forces. Such exhibitions in the works of Hardy are more than often, usual and the casual course of life. However, there are other elements in the novels of Hardy as well. We will discuss them below.


Pessimism and the Novels of Hardy – a critical observation

In the eyes of many critics and literary scholars, Thomas Hardy is often seen as a pessimistic novelist, as many of his works explore themes of tragedy, suffering, and loss. Though themes like these are accompanied by happy endings in the ultimate scenes, more often, still, the impression with which readers put the novels aside always lingers around loss and suffering. His characters often struggle against seemingly insurmountable obstacles and are unable to achieve their goals or find happiness. Negativity, downfall, loss, dramatic change for the wrong and much more are tantamount to a seemingly anti-protagonist atmosphere in the works of Hardy. Moreover, this sense of pessimism is particularly evident in Hardy’s later novels, such as Tess of the d’Urbervilles and The Mayor of Casterbridge, in which the main characters are plagued by misfortune and are ultimately unable to overcome the challenges they face.

Hardy’s pessimism is also reflected in his portrayal of society and human nature. We will find in his novels that he often presents a bleak view of human relationships, suggesting that people are selfish and uncaring and that they are unable to truly understand or empathize with one another. This bleak view of the world and human nature is a key element of Hardy’s literary style and contributes to the overall sense of pessimism that pervades his works. However, can we determine whether this pessimism is unfitting in the overall scheme of Hardy’s fiction? I guess not! Hardy’s plots develop with loss and suffering and often end with a positive note of hope, love and life.


Role of Love in the novels of Thomas Hardy:

If fate and pessimism are essential ingredients in the works of Hardy, Love also plays an important role in Hardy’s plots. In many of his works, love often plays a central role and is a driving force for the characters’ actions and decisions. However, Hardy’s portrayal of love is often complex and not always positive. A reader might find love in many different forms in the works of Thomas Hardy – sometimes keeping the hopes of protagonists alive and sometimes just running the storyline (somehow). In many of Hardy’s novels, love is portrayed as a powerful, all-consuming force that can bring both joy and suffering to those who experience it. No reader who has read Far from the Madding Crowd can forget the contrasting depictions of love – love that keeps Gabriel Oak alive and running and love that consumes Miss Everdeen without a pause. However, the ultimate happy ending somehow saves the grace of the story. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Tess’s love for Angel leads her to make difficult and ultimately tragic choices. Similarly, in “Jude the Obscure,” Jude’s love for Arabella is ultimately self-destructive. He becomes tragically helpless and is unable to reconcile his love for her with his own personal and intellectual ambitions. You can find many other examples where love acts as a double-edged sword in the stories by Hardy – keeping the hopes alive and also forcing the characters into a perennial world of suffering and loss.

If one ponders these examples and the overall corpus of Hardy’s literary productions, Hardy’s portrayal of love often reflects his own seamy views of human nature and the world. In his novels, love is often depicted as a force that is ultimately beyond the control of those who experience it, and the characters’ attempts to find happiness through love are often thwarted by external forces or their flaws and weaknesses. You can relate this idea to Hardy being a pessimist and the role of fate in his novels. And vice-versa. Despite this, Hardy’s novels also suggest the positive side of love. In many of Hardy’s stories, love can be a source of strength and resilience, as his characters often find the courage to persevere through difficult circumstances due to their love for others. In The Mayor of Casterbridge, for example, Elizabeth-Jane’s love for her father ultimately helps her to forgive him for his past mistakes and move forward with her life. Love, mark the distinction, in Hardy’s novels and does not limit itself to a relationship between two people of opposite sexes. It is an emotion that keeps people close, in each other’s minds and hearts. It is spread, wide and ubiquitous.


Style of Writing of Thomas Hardy as a Novelist:

Every novelist does bring something new to the corpus of an age, era, a genre and eventually to the body of literature of a nation and the world. Thomas Hardy also added much to the literature of England, novel as a genre, and world literature too. One of the distinctive features of Hardy’s writing style is his use of descriptive language. He often employs detailed and vivid descriptions of the landscapes and environments in which his stories take place. He describes the scenes very well. Sunset, sunrise, rain, summer, fields, vehicles, carts, people, sheep and so on… Hardy also focuses on the physical appearance and characteristics of his characters. This use of descriptive language helps to create a strong sense of place and atmosphere in his novels. If you read Hardy before, you must agree that his attention to detail is remarkable. He often includes intricate and meticulous descriptions of objects, settings, and characters, which contribute to the realism and depth of his stories. In addition to his descriptive language and attention to detail, Hardy is also known for his focus on the natural world and the ways in which it impacts the lives of his characters. Who can forget Wessex? A detailed and deep landscape that Hardy created out of his imagination! Many of his novels are set in this rural location, and he often incorporates elements of the natural world, such as the weather and the changing seasons, into his narratives. In short, one can conclude that Hardy’s writing style is characterized by his use of descriptive language, his attention to detail, and his focus on the natural world, which contribute to the richness and depth of his stories.

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