Freedom, Failure, and Fate: Reading the Web of Wessex

  • Deborah L. Collins


Almost from infancy, it seems, Hardy sensed a discrepancy between the voices of heart and mind in an unnatural division which at best bruised his perception that life might be worth the living and at worst nullified his desire to proceed with the futile process of growing up. The melancholy effects of stained glass and hymns rich in ancient poesy moved the child to weeping during services at Stinsford Church; but at home, lying on his back in the sun while contemplating his own uselessness and trying to reason out cosmic ambiguity, his intellect detached him from religious doctrine and the emotional theatrics ritually inspired in him. Most of Hardy’s adult impressions of the mind are embedded in poetry where hugely varied rhyme schemes, metrics, and verse forms provide contexts for his equally varied polyphonic trying out of fictions regarding the nature and ultimate intent of God. While we can certainly discover ample emotion in his verse and intellectual voicings in his fiction, it is in the novels that Hardy preponderantly listens to the heart. If he declares in poetry that consciousness is a great source of man’s suffering, he also demonstrates in fiction that maladies of the heart just as severely compromise man’s well-being.


Religious Doctrine Dark Pattern Unnatural Division Verse Form Diamond Trade 
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Notes and References

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    J. Hillis Miller, Thomas Hardy: Distance and Desire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970), p. xi.Google Scholar
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    Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, edited by Scott Elledge (London and New York: W. W. Norton, 1979), pp. 178–9.Google Scholar
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    Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd (Harmondsworth and New York: Penguin, 1983), p. 164.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Deborah L. Collins 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah L. Collins
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA

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