The development of pessimism in the novels of Thomas Hardy

Redshaw, Paul (2000) The development of pessimism in the novels of Thomas Hardy. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Hardy is a complex writer and to work out some of his concepts can be difficult and often causes confusion. One example is the relationship between pessimism and meliorism. Hardy can be pessimistic in his writing and yet, he says that he hopes for future improvement. Critics have often struggled with such complexities, and as a result, their criticism has been inadequate. In this thesis, I take a balanced view: while recognising that Hardy can be pessimistic, I also examine the ways in which this can be compatible with his hope of meliorism through his writing. In the first chapter of the thesis, I concentrate on Hardy's novel endings, to see how far his claims of meliorism can be supported. It is at the end of novels where we find out whether the conflicts that the characters have endured have been resolved. It is also where we discover what the future has in store for them. Jude and Sue's relationship, for example, ends in tragedy, however, Hardy is looking to the future by protesting that society must change if we are to avoid such suffering. It is also easy to forget Hardy's lighter novels, if we only emphasise the major tragedies, such as Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. One of the novels, which has largely been neglected by critics, which I examine is The Hand of Ethelberta. Here, Hardy is writing a social comedy that has melodramatic moments that have less serious implications than those of the tragedies. In the second chapter, I put the novels further into the context of the Victorian period, to understand Hardy's attitude towards society and how this is reflected in his work. The period was a time of mutability, which saw the rise of the tragic novel, where we see many characters struggle against conflicting sets of values. Little has been explicitly written about the relationship between tragedy and pessimism in Hardy's novels; it is easy to mistake the sense of tragic doom with that of the kind of gloom that Hardy has often been accused of Hardy was a story-teller of the ballad tradition, where tragedy is a central theme, and it is expected that events that involve unhappiness and suffering should occur. To conclude the thesis, I discuss Hardy's development of pessimism after his last major novel, Jude the Obscure. Events such as war and the death of his wife dominate his writing, where he admits that he has lost some of the optimism that he previously may have had. However, some of his greatest poetry was written at this time, which expresses the immense loss of his wife - and also celebrates the time they had together - and questions why, as humans, we let horrific events, such as war, happen.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Adviser: D Mackenzie
Keywords: British & Irish literature
Date of Award: 2000
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2000-73241
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/73241

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