Far From the Madding Crowd, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure

Far From the Madding Crowd, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure

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Compromising Female Characters in Far From the Madding Crowd, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure  

The novels of Thomas Hardy are intricate and complicated works whose plots seem to be completely planned before the first word is ever actually formed on paper. Though I have no proof of Hardy’s method of writing, it is clear that he focuses more on plot development than characterization in the novels Far From the Madding Crowd, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. The advantages of this can be easily seen in the clever twists and turns that occur in the novel which hold the reader’s interest. But the main reason Hardy uses this method, especially in the tragedies Tess and Jude, is to present a moral argument to the reader through actions done by and to the main characters of the novels. By mapping out the turning points ahead of time, Hardy is able to control the course of his writings, and they emerge as a social criticism. But in doing this, the characters are condemned to a literary predestination. Hardy concentrates more on forcing the characters to carry out these actions than allowing their personalities to become fully and freely developed. Females perform most of the necessary but unlikely actions, and Hardy blames any erratic behavior on woman’s natural inconsistency. Thus, in reaching for a high literary purpose Hardy inadvertently stunts the development of the main female characters. 

Jude the Obscure is designed to show the faults and repercussions of religious and social conventions, with an emphasis on marriage. According to Hardy, short-lived impulses cause people to marry, which binds couples together until their deaths. When these feelings of affection fade, they must live together i...


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...nally draw the attention of a man she has no desire to be with, he turns her character into a tease. She begins to be seen as a comic character and less respect is given to her. She is just another female character used to make the machinery of Hardy's novels function, and takes on a more mechanical and stereotypical countenance as a result. 

Hardy's intentions are noble. He tries to show the reasons for giving more social freedom to everyone, females in particular, but compromises their characters in the process. The novels would benefit by far if there was a more spontaneous atmosphere and the characters were allowed free reign to develop unhindered, but the novels could result in the loss of such powerful moral messages. So, changing the characters could endanger the novels' importance in history, but would definitely improve the overall reading experience.

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