Older people and ageing in the fiction of Thomas Hardy : a thesis submitted for the degree of Master of Arts, Department of English and Media Studies, Division of Humanities, Massey University, New Zealand
In recent years interest in literary gerontology, the study of older people and ageing in literary
works, has grown. Interest has focussed on whether old people are portrayed negatively or
positively in writing and the other arts, and whether the study of old people in literary works
can help gerontologists in their understanding of ageing.
The present thesis explores the issues of older people and ageing in the fiction of Thomas
Hardy concentrating particularly on four novels: Jude the Obscure, The Mayor of
Casterbridge, The Woodlanders and Two on a Tower, although reference is made to other
works. The working hypothesis is that ‘Older people and ageing play a central and hitherto
undersestimated role in the vital themes considered in Hardy’s fiction’. Hardy was chosen
because very little has been written about the subject in his work and because he is such a
shrewd observer of character and a perceptive social critic.
I conclude that older people and ageing do play a substantial part in the Hardy fiction canon.
The major themes are: a close consideration of social issues expressed through the words and
actions of older people; the significance of psychological adaptations to ageing in his
characters; the investigation of relationships between people of disparate ages; and the use of
the symbolism of antiquity represented in buildings, institutions, archaeology and nature to
amplify the changes brought about by modernity. The subject is worthy of further and more