How does Hardy show social injustice in the 19th Century in England?

How does Hardy show social injustice in the 19th Century in England?

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How does Hardy show social injustice in the 19th Century in England?

Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 and died in 1928 at the age of 88.
Thomas Hardy’s father was a stonemason and his mother a servant to a
vicar. Hardy could not afford to continue his education as he wished
and was apprenticed to John Hicks, a local church architect from 1862
to 1867. He served as assistant to Arthur Bloomfield, a London
architect. Hardy hated London and returned to Dorset and worked for
Hicks until 1874. Despite his employment Hardy was writing continually
during this period of life. Over the next 22 years Hardy wrote 15
novels, more than 1000 poems and 4 volumes of short stories. Hardy
wrote in these short stories about the law, class difference, women’s
position in the society and city versus the countryside. Most of his
stories are set in the Wessex, a fictional name that he gave to his
stories. His stories are set 50 years back in the past and show the
hardships, sufferings, trials and tribulations experienced by the
working class. This book is from the collection of the stories The
Withered Arm and other Wessex Tales.

When Hardy became an architect he went to work in London. However, he
missed the Dorset countryside so much that he returned there in 1867
and began writing novels and poetry. This was the first of many of his
novels describing characters and scenes from country life. Hardy’s
views about the countryside versus the city were about the injustice
of the loss of the old way of life. Hardy went to work in London in
1862. He took a return ticket with him in case he repented his
decision to work there. His aversion for London is apparent in his
comments where he describes London as, “the monster with four million
heads and eight million eyes.” Hardy describes the city in The Son’s
Veto, as Sophie is looking through the window at “a fragment of lawn,”
which shows the lack of greenery and space in London. He

describes the air as, “hazy air,” which shows the huge amount of
pollution in London unlike the pleasant and fresh air of the
countryside. Hardy portrays all the houses in London as, “drab house
facades,” which shows the ugly and depressing houses in London. The,
“ever flowing traffic,” and other quotes just shows the repulsive and
the disheartening city of London.

Hardy approves of smuggling in The Distracted Preacher. Legally
smugglers are to be penalized but every one ignores the law in The
Distracted Preacher. Lizzy says, “it has been their practice for

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generations and they think it no harm.” “My husband used to know of
their doings so did my father.” This goes to show that people were
used to stealing so everyone did it. Also it has been their practice
for generations. Their ancestors used to steal so they do not see any
harm in stealing. Even though smuggling is punishable by law Hardy
thought that it should be tolerated as he came from Dorset, where it
was a kind of tradition in these parts of England.

Great writers like Hardy perceive things differently in the society
from other people. Hardy’s views about the injustice of the law are
evident in The Distracted Preacher. Hardy was of the opinion that
smuggling should be tolerated and that the laws about smuggling should
not really be enforced as he came from Dorset where this undesirable
practice was in full bloom and people indulged in them to earn their
livelihood. Lizzy says, “My father did it, and so did my grandfather,
and almost everybody in Nether-Moynton lives by it, and live would be
so dull if it wasn’t for that, that I should not care to live at all.”
In The Distracted Preacher one night the custom men take hold of the
liquor but they are ambushed on their way back to the city. They are
tied to trees by the villagers and they get all the alcohol back from
them. This is a clear instance of Hardy’s attitude towards smuggling
at that time. Hardy writes about the working class and believes that
they should not be punished by the law for smuggling goods through
which the working class can earn their food.

Hardy deals with the phenomenon of hanging in The Withered Arm. Mrs
Lodge has a withered arm and she is willing to go to any lengths to
get her arm cured. She is advised by Conjuror Trendle to go to
Holmstoke and “… touch with the limb the neck of a man who’s been
hanged.” After this remedy suggested by the Conjuror Trendle, Mrs
Lodge prays, “O Lord, hang some guilty or innocent person soon!” This
shows that many people were executed even though they were innocent.
Also the executioner tells Mrs Lodge that the boy being hanged “Was at
the wrong place and at the wrong time.” Which proves the fact that
people were put to death despite the fact that they were innocent. The
boy hanged in The Withered Arm was innocent but was found guilty and
then hanged without any evidence.

Furthermore the Victorian age did not bother to take into
consideration the age of the culprit being hanged. In The Withered Arm
the executioner says, “the boy was very young.” One can see that in
most of Hardy’s stories the characters sufferer terribly in a cruel
uncaring world. They are caught up in such situations, which they have
no control of. Hardy describes in The Withered Arm how people went to
the hangings like a fair, “the hang fair.” People covered long
distances to watch the hanging scenes. Many people went to the
hangings, “Spectators had gathered,” and “multitudes of babble of
their voices”. Many people go as we go to the cinemas.

Hardy always shows his main characters to be in distress in his
stories. The characters in his stories suffer for no fault of theirs.
Hardy believes that there is a malignant power present in nature which
is out to thwart and hinder what made has proposed to do. His main
characters are the victims of fate.

Hardy was conscious of his poor class origins and modest education.
The awareness to social rank and class difference in the society
remained with him throughout his life and is present in his writings.
Many of his stories are about the harmful effects of the idea of class
system and social position.

In The Son’s Veto Sophie’s son treats her mother as if she is
disrespectful, worthless and is irritated by her. She speaks in a
strong dialect and her son corrects her “Has, dear mother - not have!’
exclaimed the public schoolboy, with an impatient fastidiousness that
was almost harsh.” The child is annoyed to keep correcting his
mother. Sophie was a parlourmaid who married the vicar for a social
taboo. He knew that he had ‘committed social suicide’. So he decided
to move to the city an anonymous place. So in the 19th Century young
women married older men. Sophie is 19 and the vicar is 40. This age
difference between the two sexes was totally acceptable in the 19th
Century England. Sophie cannot get married without the permission of
her son. “Sam Hobson has asked me to marry him, sir”. This shows how
much dependent she is on her son who veto’s her request. The Son’s
Veto bitterly discusses class distinction prejudice and snobbery in
the society. The son is a real snob and only cares about “ a few
thousand wealthy and fitted people.”

Hardy tale Absent Mindedness in a Parish Choir shows his ability for
comedy. The squire and his band go to sleep during a church service
and after waking up think that they are playing for a village dance.
Hardy pokes fun on the squire and says, “ he was a wickedish man”.
Such ridiculous behaviour on the part of the squire and his band is
absolutely unpardonable.

A preacher is supposed to be a role model of what he preaches. He is
required to practise what he preaches but that is not what we find in
The Distracted Preacher. Mr Stockdale falls in love with Miss Newbury
who is dealing in illegal transfer of goods. Mr Stockdale despite
being a minister sacrifices his duty for his love and condones her
illegal activities.

Farmer Lodges unfair behaviour to women is evident in The Withered
Arm. He has a sexual relation with Rhoda Brooks but never marries her.
On the other hand he marries Gertrude Lodge who is beautiful and
young. This fact degrades Framer Lodge in the eyes of the reader.

Hardy has a much deeper insight into women’s characters than into
men’s characters. He does not always portray the world as he finds it
but sometimes he portrays it as he wants to see it. Women in Hardy’s
stories suffer terrible injustices and are not given their rights in
the society. They are important to men as for as their features are
concerned. They are totally dependent on men. They cannot take their
own decisions without the help of men. This is what we see in Tony
Kytes the Arch Deceiver promises to Milly Richards that he is going to
marry her but the moment he sees Unity Sallet he forgets Milly and
begins to entertain Unity Sallet but after that Tony deserts even
Unity Sallet for Hannah Jolliver. This ridiculous behaviour on the
part of Tony shows what attitude the Victorian men had towards the
Victorian women. We can also see the dependency of women on men
regarding marriage in The Son’s Veto Sophie is Twycott’s mother.
Sophie is a widow but she wants to marry Sam Hobson. “Sam Hobson has
asked me to marry him, sir” this is what she tells her son. She calls
him ‘sir’. She is absolutely dependent on her son’s decision regarding
her second marriage with Sam Hobson. A son is supposed to obey his
mother and listen to her directions and advices as for as some of the
important decisions are concerned but we see in The Son’s Veto that
Sophie cannot marry without her son’s permission.

Hardy’s characters are shown to pass through different phases of their
lives in his stories. The circumstances in Hardy’s stories are more
powerful then the characters. Rhoda Brooks is a classic example of the
unfairness with which is subjected. She had an illegitimate child
because of which she was made an outcast. This also led to rumours of
her being a witch. Rhoda has been abandoned by Farmer Lodge even
though he fathered her a child. This goes to show how women were
ill-treated in the 19th Century England. “Now then, what the Turk do
it matter to us about Farmer Lodge’s age, or Farmer Lodge’s new
mis’ess?” A woman can get nothing more insulting from a man as having
an illegitimate child and this is what Rhoda Brooks is forced to have
in the 19th Century England. Gertrude fears that she will not be loved
by her husband if he comes to know about her withered arm and her
fears are right. The farmer stops loving her when he learns of her
disfigured arm. She brings him no child and fails as a wife.

Hardy deals with different types of injustices in The Withered Arm and
other Wessex Tales. The injustices suffered by the characters are of
different nature and are well put together. Some people are hanged for
no fault of theirs but nobody cares. When there is no fair
distribution of wealth in the society so many evils arise. Some people
are very rich others are very poor in as much as poor people are
forced to adopt illegal methods of earning their livelihood. Smuggling
is one of the vices that 19th Century England had to face. Some of
the main characters are shown to be actively involved in smuggling. In
Hardy’s stories women are usually more important than men. Happiness
is an occasional episode for them in the long drama of pain of their
lives. The women characters in The Wessex tales always are the ones
who suffer the most. They are treated like toys by men and are valued
for their beauty and not for their characters. They are totally
dependent on men and have to listen to even their son’s when they are
faced some important decisions of their lives. Hardy puts together all
these ideas in skilful way for the readers and this makes The Wessex
tales gripping and interesting.
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