Women in Thomas Hardy's novels : an interpretative study : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in English at Massey University

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Massey University
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When one begins a study of the women in Hardy's novels one discovers critical views of great diversity. There are features of Hardy's work which received favourable comment then as now; his descriptions of nature for instance, and his rustic characters have appealed to most critics over the years. But his philosophical and social comment have drawn criticism ranging from the virulent to the scornful. In particular his attitude to and treatment of love and marriage relationships have been widely argued, and it is the women concerned who have been assessed in the most surprising and contradictory manner. The first critic of stature was Lionel Johnson¹Lionel Johnson, The Art of Thomas Hardy (1894). London, 1923, p.193. best known as a poet. In 1894 he wrote of Hardy's women: 'I cannot think that any of them is so powerfully conceived and drawn as are the best of the men;' but he adds that they provoke an 'amazed awe of their infinite ingenuities,' and quotes a remark of Swift's about the pleasure that a few words 'spoken plain by a parrot will give.' [FROM INTRODUCTION]
Women in literature, Sex role in literature, Hardy, Thomas, 1840-1928, Characters -- Women, Criticism and interpretation