The new woman punished: Thomas Hardy's heroines and happiness in Victorian England
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It is the task of every literary critic to determine the author's intent and the reasons for his intent with his writings when analyzing a work. Thomas Hardy deals with women in many harsh manners in his novels. His harshness stems from a lifetime of being controlled by self-asserting women, and he takes his revenge on such women in his novels. The excuse of personal experience only takes the understanding of his literature so far. Like many other authors of his period, Hardy used his writing ability to comment on the state of society. With the "new" woman coming to the forefront in Victorian England, he found it necessary to compare the values and lifestyles of traditional women with those of the new order. Invariably, the traditional, proper Victorian woman showed that she held superiority to the new woman. In the five novels discussed in this paper, seven women stand trial in front of Hardy. Three survive their plots and show the triumph of tradition versus self-assertion. The four who do not enjoy happy endings cannot handle the consequences of their independent actions. The women of Far From the Madding Crowd, The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and Jude The Obscure all provide encouragement and warnings to Victorian women. Hardy tells them that they must embrace their mothers' and grandmothers' values, or face terrible repercussions. Women cannot be independent and still have a suitable relationship with a man, though several of his heroines tried.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves35-36).
Potter, Kerri L (1999). The new woman punished: Thomas Hardy's heroines and happiness in Victorian England. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from