Thomas Hardy Thread

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I find it hard to believe we don't have a Thomas Hardy thread, so, as I'm re-reading some Hardy presently, and as have enjoyed his work for well over 30 years, here is a thread, wherein comments on the great writer and his works are welcome.

I recently read The Mayor of Casterbridge, and enjoyed it's maudlin drama tremendously again.
I'm thinking of picking up another from my shelf. I'm vacillating between choosing Far from the Madding Crowd, and Return of the Native.
 
I just came across this chart on the interweb, which is rather fun:

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I would have said Tess of the D'Urbervilles for the most misery. But I haven't read Jude the Obscure.
Tess is indeed pretty bleak... but Jude knocks it into a cocked hat.

I've only read the seven most famous Wessex novels. I'm less interested in the non-Wessex stuff I think, though I should probably try some of them at some point. I think I've decided on Return of the Native as my next read. Native has only grinding poverty, unhappy lovers, tragic death and suicide, so it's one of his cheerier ones. ;)
 
Is the start of Return of the Native, as we follow Diggory Venn, the reddleman, slowly crossing Egdon Heath towards Miss Yeobright's cottage the most evocative in 19th century literature?
 
I keep meaning to reread Mayor of Casterbridge, but the last time I exhausted myself suppressing the urge to cry "Don't be such a feckin idiot!" at Michael Henchard. I can cope with that level of doomedness in Tolkien or the Eddas, but the 19thC is a bit too recent.

I had a big Hardy splurge when I was at university, before I found any kind of social life there. Maybe I found reading about more miserable lives than mine comforting.
 
I had to read The Mayor of Casterbridge at school, and it pushed me towards the comparatively merry world of George Orwell.

I think my problem with Hardy is that his misery feels artificial. I can understand that if you cross the secret police they torture you. I can't understand that if you act with hubris by drunkenly selling your wife, the fates will wait until you're reformed and successful, and then rig chance so that your life gradually falls apart. That just feels like a pose.
 
I had to read The Mayor of Casterbridge at school, and it pushed me towards the comparatively merry world of George Orwell.

I think my problem with Hardy is that his misery feels artificial. I can understand that if you cross the secret police they torture you. I can't understand that if you act with hubris by drunkenly selling your wife, the fates will wait until you're reformed and successful, and then rig chance so that your life gradually falls apart. That just feels like a pose.
Fair enough. I don’t get that feeling at all myself though. I accept the occurrences in Victorian novels tend to melodrama, and forgive them, as they offer a canvas for expressing truisms about human nature, despite using plot devices that may be extreme or coincidental. I feel this is in keeping with the traditions of the ancient classics or Shakespeare. Coincidences and unlikely events are commonplace in the likes of Trollope, Dickens or Balzac, too, but for me that’s part of their charm and adds to their dramatic weight. But I know Hardy splits opinion. I yearn for the wildness and bleak beauty of his Wessex as well, and find that delivers so much, I perhaps accept more bleakness from him than others.
 
I finished Return of the Native a while ago. I enjoyed it, and it has Hardy’s typical ‘Shakespearean’ plotting, but I felt it was less well paced that MoC.
 
I had to read The Mayor of Casterbridge at school, and it pushed me towards the comparatively merry world of George Orwell.

I think my problem with Hardy is that his misery feels artificial. I can understand that if you cross the secret police they torture you. I can't understand that if you act with hubris by drunkenly selling your wife, the fates will wait until you're reformed and successful, and then rig chance so that your life gradually falls apart. That just feels like a pose.
I was really impressed by The Mayor of Casterbridge, but some time later, when I thought I'd read it again, early on there was a description of a bird's song as "trite" or something like that. That struck me as what I think used to be called "bloody-minded" writing, just kind of willfully gloomy. I do understand that Hardy's narrator probably means that to Henchard and perhaps his soon-to-be-dishonored wife the birdsong might seem annoying because they're in a rotten mood. But still!
 
I was really impressed by The Mayor of Casterbridge, but some time later, when I thought I'd read it again, early on there was a description of a bird's song as "trite" or something like that. That struck me as what I think used to be called "bloody-minded" writing, just kind of willfully gloomy. I do understand that Hardy's narrator probably means that to Henchard and perhaps his soon-to-be-dishonored wife the birdsong might seem annoying because they're in a rotten mood. But still!

I read this particular book in college and, per the assignment , read it cover to cover. There wasn't one likable character in that turgidly morose little novel. I could not stand this book, at all. :(
 
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Love that chart but... the Major of Casterbridge?

I'm sadly Hardy-deficient (as I am with mainstream fiction in general) but I read Madding eons ago and have read Native twice. And those rank as relatively peaceful and cheerful compared to the Mayor, Tess, and Jude in the Pile. Seems like I have a lot of mayhem to look forward to!
 

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