Women as Subjects: Romances and Fantasies
The novels of Hardy’s middle period, from Far from the Madding Crowd to Two on a Tower, contain only two of the group gathered together under the title of ‘Romances and Fantasies’ in the Wessex Edition (Two on a Tower itself and The Trumpet-Major). Nevertheless the description in some ways fits all the novels of this period, since they are all concerned with the difference between subjective consciousness and objective reality. They are romances, plotted around a central love story, but they are also fantasies, exploring the extravagant dreams and unfulfilled desires of their protagonists. They continue to present women as objects of male fascination, dwelling on their visual charms as the screen on which erotic fantasy can play. But from Bathsheba Everdene onwards Hardy’s heroines are not content simply to remain passive. They actively enjoy exploiting their charms, increasing the element of mystery which they recognise to be part of their fascination, exercising power and control over their male victims. Ethelberta Petherwin uses her beauty unashamedly to climb the social ladder, while Paula Power positively toys with her suitors.
KeywordsMale Victim Sweet Vision Sexual Excitement Lonely Existence Male Observer
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