Minor works: some psychological explorations and experiments

  • Rosemary Sumner


Hardy’s minor works and short stories are relevant to this examination of the psychological insight shown in his major works, since some of them illustrate, sometimes in a rather stark way, his continuing interest, throughout his career as a novelist, in psychological complexities. His frequent focusing on unusual or abnormal states of mind, his awareness that he is probing into areas more usually explored by the medical profession, and his occasional sceptical concern about possible therapeutic experiments all serve to highlight particularly clearly his interest in and awareness of psychological theory. The short stories, especially when they focus on a single psychological oddity, illustrate this interest in a singleminded way, which does not necessarily make a good story but does clarify an element in Hardy’s writing which is also centrally and significantly present in the major novels. In the latter the psychological interest is embedded in the multiple and diverse “seemings” , in the short stories and minor works it tends to stand out as a separate element because of the starkness and simplicity with which it is treated. The exploratory quality which is important in much of Hardy’s major work is also to be found running through his minor fiction. The most outstanding and influential aspect of this is probably his recognition of the importance of sexuality in the psychological make-up of the individual and the bearing of this on human relationships. Here, too, he continues to write with candour in a society which was hostile to such outspokenness; even in these minor works we have glimpses of those qualities which make him a


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© Rosemary Sumner 1981

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  • Rosemary Sumner

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