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Thread: Thomas Hardy's attitude towards his heroines

  1. #16
    Lover of all things epic
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    I started off not liking Eustacia, but then I read Wuthering Heights and I think Catherine is worse... I think the female characters are victims of society, both internal to the novel and in the way in which they are written. You can't really compare them to the male characters because of the vast social difference between them, although I would agree that the female characters do sometimes seem to be portrayed in a less sympathetic way. I don't think i'd go as far as to say that they were awful, though - I think their complexities and emotions are actually a reflection of that complexity in life today. They're not 2-D characters who can be categorized easily, and that's part of why I enjoy Hardy's novels so much.
    "Haunt me, take any form. Only, do not leave me in this abyss where I cannot find you."

  2. #17
    Hippie toni's Avatar
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    I like tess. She is such a passionate woman. And you'd think Hardy is a woman for writing such a character.

  3. #18
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    Crowd and Mayor

    The two books I've read by Hardy are Far From The Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge. The former I absolutely adored, it made an indelible mark on me, and is one of my favourite novels to this day despite my not having read it for over a decade. The latter I liked, but not nearly so much. I think one of the keys to what made the former so superior is the characterisation of Bathsheba Everdene, a female character who he brings so spectacularly to life, which no female character in "Mayor" comes close to. Bathsheba has manifest flaws, and indeed characteristic "feminine weakness", but I have yet to come accross a more acutely painted female character in 19th century literature. Hardy brings out her humanity wonderfully, utterly transcending the endemic misogyny of the time. Reading it as a teenager I came very near to falling in love with this character, despite the lack of sexuality in any description of her!

  4. #19
    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dilipbarad View Post
    One of the things I will try to show in my work is that human nature is very complex, and individuals do not always behave consistently, nor can they be reduced to simple terms. So, rather than being 'strong or weak', many of Hardy’s women characters (and the men too, for that matter) are a mixture of strength and weakness.
    For example, of Bathsheba in Far from the Madding Crowd has amazing courage in taking on the running of the farm, dealing with her male employees, and entering the all-male territory of the corn exchange.
    But she shows weakness in yielding to the tawdry glamour of Sergeant Troy, and immaturity in sending the valentine to Farmer Boldwood with so little thought of the possible consequences.
    Tess is less obviously a strong character than Bathsheba, but she has her own kind of strength. She ''baptizes'' her dying baby and confronts the parson with her concern for its eternal welfare. She suffers Angel's rejection of her, and the grueling work at Flintcomb-Ash, without a word of complaint. And in a different way the killing of Alec demands strength of mind and will: a really weak woman could not have done it.

    Tess is certainly a ''victim'' - but surely she is also a ''heroine''. If a hero or heroine is someone we can admire, even someone who enlarges our conception of what humanity is capable of, then one could argue that Tess has these qualities.
    I certainly agree with both of your posts on Hardy's women characters. You have said it very well. I agree that Tess was heroic. Bathsheba was a very strong, and at the same time, a very weak character. Remember that she was very young, and therefore did foolish things at various time. She sometimes followed her heart and not her head. She did, in contrast show great strength at other times, such as running a business, when it was not the usual thing for women to do, let alone a very young one. What I am about to say should be helpful to all of the people who have posted. There are many good biographies and much information online about Thomas Hardy. A little exploration will provide much insight into his complex life, which readily reflections on his literature. Many of his characters are based on real people and many of his plots are actual incidents or local stories. He took the raw material and made it his own, developing his ideas of women and men and the complexity of their relationships. At yet another level he made his books a platform to speak out about his own beliefs and ideologies. Mostly his novels do not end happily ever after, due to the fact that they are based on "reality" and end as real life would. In fact I read somewhere that originally "Far From the Madding Crowd" did not originally have a happy ending. Many times the publishers influenced the choices authors had unlike the modern day we live in - less restricted. They were much more restained at that time in history. Perhaps one needs life experiences to fully understand Hardy's works. If you have never felt rejection, confusion, frustration in your personal life you may not be able to fully appreciate and relate to Hardy's harsh reality. A friend of mine told me he had read some novels too early in life to fully appreciate them. Later he reread these novels and he could better relate. It helps to know of Hardy's life and his own frustrations and experiences, that most definitely influenced his work. You can never separate the author from his work!
    Last edited by Janine; 11-02-2006 at 03:12 PM.

  5. #20
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    I think Hardy writes brilliantly spirited women, who may have weaknesses but they have a great deal of spirit. His male characters cannot spiritually match up to the women, which I love.

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