Abuzeid, Ahmad Elsayyad Ahmad
The theme of alienation in the major novels of Thomas Hardy.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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The predicament of human isolation and alienation is a
pervasive theme that has not been sufficiently studied in Thomas
Hardy's fiction. This study investigates the theme of alienation
focussing on Hardy's major novels.
Although the term 'alienation' is one of the most outstanding
features of this age, it is not very clear what it precisely
means. The writer has to draw extensively on Hegel, Marx, Fromm
and other thinkers to understand the complex ramifications of the
term. The numerous connections in which the term has been used are
restricted to include only a few meanings and applications among
which the most important refers to a disparity between one's
society and one's spiritual interests or welfare.
The theme of alienation, then, is investigated in
representative texts from the wide trajectory of Victorian
literature. It is clear that the central intellectual
characteristic of the Victorian age is, as Arnold diagnosed it,
"the sense of want of correspondence between the forms of modern
Europe and its spirit". The increasing difficulty of reconciling
historical and spiritual perspectives has become a major theme for
Hardy and other late Victorians.
Next, each of Hardy's major novels is given a chapter in
which the theme of alienation is traced. In Far from the Madding
Crowd, Boldwood's neurotic and self-destructive nature makes him
obsessed with Bathsheba, and as a result, murders Troy and suffers
the isolation of life imprisonment; Fanny Robin's tragic and
lonely death, only assisted by a dog, is a flagrant indictment of
In The Return of the Native, Clym is the earliest prototype
in Hardy's fiction of alienated modern man. He returns to Egdon
Heath only to live in isolation unable to communicate with the
very people whom he thought of as a cure for his alienation.
Eustacia has consistently been leading a life of alienation in
Egdon Heath which leads to her suicide.
In The Mayor of Casterbridge, Henchard's alienation may be
more ascribed to his own character, recalling Boldwood, than to
incongruity with society. Yet Hardy emphasises the tendency of
society towards modernity which Henchard cannot cope with.
In The Woodlanders, not only does wild nature fail to be a
regenerative and productive force bet also human nature fails to
be communicative and assuring. The people of Little Hintock fail
to communicate with iry other. The relationship between Marty and
Giles is an "obstructed relationship"; Giles dies a sacrificial
death, and Marty ends as a wreck in a rare scene hardly credible
in a newly emerging world. Fitzpiers and Mrs Charmond, on the
other hand, are isolated in the sterile enclosure of their own
fantasies. Grace, anticipating Tess and Sue, is torn in a conflict
between two worlds, neither of which can happily accommodate her.
In Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Tess, after her childhood
experiences at Marlott and later at Trantridge, soon discovers how
oppressive society is,particularly when she is rejected by Angel,
whom she loves and through whom she aspires to fulfil herself.
Angel suffers from self-division in his character, and the
conflict between received attitudes and advanced ideas leaves him
an embodiment of an alienated man hardly able to reconcile the
values of two worlds.
Jude the Obscure is Hardy's most complete expression of
alienation. Jude's alienation is explicitly social and implicitly cosmic, and his failure to identify himself in society constitutes
a major theme of the novel. The novel foreshadows the modern
themes of failure, frustration, futility, disharmony, isolation,
rootlessness, and absurdity as inescapable conditions of life.
In conclusion, the theme of alienation in the major novels of
Thomas Hardy is a pervasive one. Nevertheless, not all his
characters are alienated; however their happy condition, like that
of the rustics in Gray's Elegy, is seen to stem from their
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