Thomas Hardy's Philosophy On Life Essay

2214 words - 9 pages

"Happiness is an occasional episode in a general drama of pain"-this is the conclusion drawn by one of Hardy's chief women characters, Elizabeth-Jane in his tragic novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. This is also the concluding sentence of the novel. We can imagine how much emphasis is put upon this observation made by a character who has throughout her life remained a passive sufferer, and therefore an observer, of human life, of human misery. This sad realization is not something that we find in this novel only; all of Hardy's so-called novels of character and environment reflect human tragedy after the grave and sombre manner of ancient tragedies. All the novels depict the despair and agony of man in eternal conflict with external as well as internal forces. His protagonists fight not only with circumstances but also with their own impulses, their own strong passions.

The Return of the Native is one of Hardy's representative novels based on his sombre recognition of life as a series of ironic situations which play with mankind, allure them to his doom, and he dies -either spiritually or physically or both-with the kind of bitterness in his heart which may be found in a Macbeth or an Oedipus. The critic John Paterson is not ready to place RN in the same category with The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d'Urburvilles, and Jude the Obscure. He calls it "too studied and self-conscious an imitation of classical tragedy." The novel is, according to him, merely `an attempt at great tragedy'. He reminds us of Hardy's original plan to divide it into five books or `acts' of traditional tragedy: "The Return of the Native was meant to recall the immensities of Sophocles and Shakespeare. But the facts of its fiction simply do not justify the application of so grand, so grandiose a machinery." Paterson readily disowns the tragic effect the novel produces just because it is not Sophoclean or Shakespearean. It will be wise on our part to ignore the first part of his judgement and to agree with the second: the Return is not a classical tragedy but a typically Hardeian masterpiece. It contains all the material Hardy would be using in the future as a writer of the Mayor, Tess, or Jude.

The Background of Egdon Heath : First let us consider the background. Egdon Heath in this novel is much more than a landscape. It shows the juxtaposition of two entities: man and nature, the relation between whom is strange. In fact, the cohabitation of the two and the impact of each on the other was a matter of great concern to Hardy. In the Mayor, after Henchard has sold his wife off, the landscape outside is in its full glory and splendour. Hardy contrasts the apparently benign world of nature and the despicable world of man. But he warns us not to form a foolish notion of parallelism from this contrast because there are times when the elements of nature cry havoc and mankind sleeps peacefully. Hardy, it seems, wants us to believe that these two separate entities...

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