Thomas Hardy was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, he was influenced both in his novels and in his poetry by Romanticism, including the poetry of William Wordsworth. He was highly critical of much in Victorian society, especially on the declining status of rural people in Britain, such as those from his native South West England.
As a novel of Victorian England, Far from the Madding Crowd tells the realities of living in the idyllic farming communities of southwest England. Moreover, Hardy is acknowledged for his use of Victorian and modern literary techniques with traditional constructed plots, yet modern psychological development of his characters and reflection of modern problems.
As a satirical novel of the late nineteenth century, the themes of marriage and religion were perceived negatively. When the novel was published, Hardy’s contemporaries reacted bitterly, and a bishop ordered the text to be publicly burned. Moreover, Jude the Obscure is to be considered a tragedy, inspired by the great Greek dramatists, Aristotle and Aeschylus.
As a novel of the Victorian era, Tess of the d’Urbervilles was first published as a censored series in the British magazine, The Graphic. When it was published later as a single novel, it was received with mixed criticisms: one side saying the book strained ideas of credibility and another saying the book was too pessimistic. Moreover, Hardy was and is extremely readable, and the general public has been attracted and held by his exciting plots and his deep feelings for the poor, for women, for animals, and for all those other persons who somehow have been dealt losing hands of life.
The Mayor of Casterbridge, the most controversial of Hardy’s works as it toes the line between Victorian and modernism literature. As an author who lived to see both literary time settings, Hardy was often criticized during his lifetime for combining elements of realism and fantastic coincidences. Moreover, The Mayor of Casterbrige was Hardy’s attempt at using poetic techniques and psychology to create a more in-depth, psychological story.
The Return of the Native, arguably the most popular of Hardy’s 14 Wessex novels. As a novel first published in the magazine Belgravia, popular for its sensationalism, Hardy classified The Return of the Native as a “Novel of Character and Environment.” Moreover, themes from Hardy’s novels draw interesting conversations around the power of imagination.
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