Thomas Hardy's Use of Fallen Women in His Writings
Thomas Hardy sheds new light on the idea of the fallen woman. Throughout several of his works, he portrays the fallen woman through her own eyes, and, in doing so, presents a different perspective. Three of his works which establish this new perspective are the poem, "The Ruined Maid," and the novels Far from the Madding Crowd and Tess of the d'Urbervilles.
In "The Ruined Maid," which he wrote in 1866, Hardy focuses on one woman's recent loss of chastity and how she is perceived by a friend who is returning to town. Rather than feeling ashamed of her actions, she expresses a sense of pride. In the last line of each stanza, she points out how she is ruined; however, the tone of her various declarations is triumphant. For example, at the end of the third stanza she states, " 'A polish is gained with one's ruin' " (l.12). After Hardy portrayed the idea of the fallen woman in this manner through his poetry, he proceeded to explore this idea within his novels.
In Far from the Madding Crowd, Hardy's portrayal of Fanny Robin represents a different view of the fallen woman. Fanny clearly suffers as a result of her fall, and the only time when she seems to triumph over her situation is after her death. Through her death, she becomes immortalized and idolized in the eyes of her lover, Sergeant Troy, and in essence, controls him in a way that she never could when she was alive. Fanny Robin represents Hardy's first attempt of developing the fallen woman within his novels. Although Hardy creates a weak fallen woman with Fanny Robin, this first attempt paves...