Thomas Hardy as a Novelist and a Brief Essay on His Novels.

Thomas Hardy As A Novelist

Thomas Hardy As A Novelist and his Novels.

Thomas Hardy stands out triumphantly among the English novelists. As a novelist, he is a Victorian, rather late Victorian. The marks of Victorian conventionalism are well-marked in his novels, which are considered conventional in the modern standard. Like most Victorian novelists, he is a voluminous author. His novels are not merely many in number, but they are significant as literary works also. Hardy, in fact, is a prolific as well as proficient author.

Hardy’s career as a novelist spread over a period of more than twenty-five years. His first published novel Desperate Remedies appeared in 1871, while his last novel Jude the Obscure came out some twenty-five years later, in 1896. During those twenty-five years, he wrote numerous novels on human destiny, human relationship and humanity and nature in a telling style, such as Under the Greenwood Tree, The Trumpet Major, Far From the Madding Crowd, The Return of the Native, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and The Mayor of Casterbridge to win a place of fame and permanence in English literature. His novels, are found to deal with the diverse shades of life. Under the Greenwood Tree is a delightful pastoral comedy, though not without grave moments and situations. Entanglements in the matter of love and human relationship are treated in his celebrated Wessex novels Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, The Trumpet Major and The Return of the Native. Tess of the D’Urbervilles is, perhaps, the most tragic of Hardy’s novels, that portrays the human tragedy under the hostile influence of nature. His novels, pregnant with fine story telling, deft structure, philosophic depth, high characterisation, dramatic situations and poetic diction drew the attention even of the continent and made him almost the counterpart of the eminent European novelists, like Flaubert, Zola and Tolstoy.

The novel tells a story. This must be admirably told to make it popular. The first quality in Hardy, as a novelist, is found in his art of story-telling. He is primarily a story-teller-one who tells his tale wonderfully well. As a storyteller, of course, he belongs to the conventional English fiction-writers. He is here a primitive and tells his story in a direct and epical manner. His native strength, as a novelist, lies in this straight-forward, unsophisticated manner of story-telling.

Hardy is found not merely a storyteller. The novelist in him is a philosopher, too, His novels are made profound with his philosophic views. His originality, as a novelist, is well struck in his philosophic outlook, which is basically tragic. His vision of life, as expressed in his novels, is tragic, and this is also the cause of their penetrative appeal. His novels may be deemed as mighty tragedies, elaborately worked out, tragedies, in the fictional form, conceived almost on an epic scale.

But what particularly marks Hardy’s tragic vision of life is his perception of a mighty force, shaping and directing human fortune. This is a sort of fatalism that shapes Hardy’s pessimism. But it has the powerful indication of the tragedy of human helplessness under the impact of an inexplicable, inviolable force. Here Hardy seems to attain almost the grandeur of a classical dramatist. Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Far From the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge may well be instanced to indicate Hardy’s concept of tragedy that seems to teach that happiness is but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.

But Hardy is not great because his novels are packed with philosophic thoughts or framed as powerful tragedies. What matters most in him is his art that synthesises the plot and characters in a novel. Hardy was a keen student of architecture, and his architectural design is exhibited more than sufficiently in the structure of his plot. He may appear to have reached here Shakespeare’s structural skill to weave different materials into one smooth texture. His command over his plot is always firm and his story remains well balanced all through. This makes his novels quite exciting and full of suspense.

Hardy’s plot and plot-structure, as seen in his great novels, are commendable. His art of characterisation, however, is no less admirable. The psychological introspection of the psychological novelist may not, of course, be traced in him. His characters are mostly simple, straight-forward men and women, brought up in the bosom of nature. Nevertheless his characters are no where flat, but developed well in the course of events. Moreover, they are mostly set against a natural background that invariably affects their conduct conduct and moulds their character. The primitive human nature, with its strength and weakness, is Hardy’s concept of life. His heroes and heroines are presented from this angle. His tragic heroes possess the stature of the classical heroes in their struggle, short-coming and suffering.

In fact, Hardy’s novels are the bold attempts to harmonise action and characterisation. He tells the story of human life as well as human mind, and thereby produces an impressive effect. This is further strengthened by Hardy’s dramatic technique. His novels are found abound in dramatic materials. The presentation of tense dramatic situations and the effective employment of dramatic ironies serve to heighten particularly the tragic effectiveness of his plot. Far From the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Tess of the D’Urbervilles well illustrate all this.

Lastly, Hardy’s prose novels have poetic expressions. His description of the natural environment has a poetic glow. This is, however, spontaneous, not sophisticated, and has a magic melody in its stark simplicity. There is perceived a poetic soul in Hardy, and this is distinctly borne out in his novels. He is, no doubt, a realist, but his realistic scenes are found drawn with a poetic grace that is seldom found in other novelists.

Hardy remains a novelist of rare power and integrity. He has added an epic dimension to the familiar social realism of the Victorian world. His fictional epic is not, like Fielding’s, comic, but rather tragic. The realism of the Victorian society, found in Dickens, Thackeray and Mrs. Gaskell, is transformed into realistic rural scenes and life of his Wessex novels. Hardy’s tragic vision of life has a classical grandeur in his concept of the sense of inevitability and in his steady compassionate awareness of the tragic human destiny, expressed in his poetical prose.

Hardy to belong thoroughly to English life and literature. He seems here one with the much read English authors Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott and Dickens. An English critic has rightly commented: “Hardy is our flesh and our grass.”

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