Androgynous Characters in Thomas Hardy's Novels
Androgyny may be defined as "a condition under which the characteristics of the sexes, and the human impulses expressed by men and women, are not rigidly assigned" (Heilbrun 10). In the midst of the Victorian Era, Thomas Hardy opposed conventional norms by creating androgynous characters such as Eustacia Vye, in The Return of the Native ; the title character in Tess of the d Urbervilles ; Sue Bridehead in Jude the Obscure ; and Marty South in The Woodlande rs. Hardy's women, possessing "prodigious energy, stunted opportunity, and a passion which challenges the entire, limiting world" (Heilbrun 70), often resemble men in actions and behavior.
Eustacia Vye may be considered androgynous for her passion, rebelliousness, and refusal to accept the confines of Egdon. She exists in a state of untamed romantic emotion and fantasy, and has little concern for the effects of her actions. These characteristics of Eustacia make her less typical of women during the Victorian Era, but the scene in which her androgynous behavior is most evident occurs during the Mummer's play, when the woman disguises herself in men's clothing: "I can get boys clothes--at least all that would be wanted besides the mumming dress. . . let me take your place for an hour or two on Monday night" ( The Return of the Native , Chap. IV). Cross dressing illustrates the gender blurring so prevalent in the novels of Thomas Hardy.
Tess Durberfield is another androgynous character recognized as such in her rejection of typically feminine characteristics. D.H. Lawrence maintains that Tess "despised herself in the flesh, despising the deep female that she was" (Lawrence 440). The woman is also well-informed, versatile, and learns quickly, traits normally associated with males during the time. She has expectations beyond marriage, and yearns to "taste anew sweet independence at any price" ( Tess of the D'Urbervilles , Chap. XIV).
In Jude the Obscure, Sue Bridehead is represented in a gender-neutral way. She is considered a tomboy in mannerisms, joining boys...