Reading “The Three Strangers”, “The Distracted Preacher” and “The Fiddle of the Reels” in the past week has refreshed my mind not only because I quenched my thirst for reading his lesser known works but also they are so amusing. Having read his most widely-known stories, particularly “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” and “Jude the Obscure”, which are completely depressive, enjoying the three short stories have introduced me to the comic trait of the Victorian writer.
I have sensed his absurdity when I read “The Mayor of Casterbridge”. The idea of selling a wife and a child by Micheal Henchard, despite his intoxicated condition, sounds so silly and stupid. Although his foolishness becomes the door of so many things ahead as the novel progresses, it is the results of this act — sadness, regret, family rift — that speak about the tone of the book. So, whenever I recall about the novel, melancholy and sentimental are most appropriate words for it, not funny or trivial. Henceforth, I don’t put “The Mayor of Casterbridge” as a humorous book but the three stories definitely are.
“The Three Strangers” is a very simple story about the daily life of a shepherd family who gathers with his friends while enjoying the sound of violin and dancing. In the middle of the story, there comes three strangers with the second one becomes the most eye catcher because of his bass voice, greedy-like attitude according to the shepherd’s wife.
I can fancy how comical the situation at that time is as the innocent villagers are so deceived by the smart talker second stranger that they don’t even have any slightest idea that he is the wanted thief. On the other hand, they easily point their fingers at the third stranger given his plain, quiet trait. The fact that the third stranger immediately runs once he listens at the second stranger’s songs has added their suspicion.
The moral of the story: don’t quickly judge people by its cover!
“The Distracted Preacher” gets me thinking about Hardy’s crazy side for he presents a story of an ill-matched lovers; Mr. Robert Stockdale, a well-educated and religious person, and a widow, liquor smuggler Mrs. Lizzy Newberry. What firstly kicks off as romantic story gradually forces the characters to choose to either proceed on their love or go their own ways as the smuggling gets more serious. When this happens, the entertaining part of the book stops but that’s how they all should be; virtues must not be defeated by malignity for the sake of love.
“The Fiddler of the Reels” is a very stupid story of a young, fragile Car’line who is so moved by the magical sound from a violin by Wat ‘Mop’ Ollamoor. I feel the story is a bit absurd for how come a girl change the course of her life just because of the melody? Anyhow, Car’line, I may say, is tricked by the fiddler twice; the first one costs her lover, Ned Hipcroft, while the last one takes her daughter away from her. How poisonous the music coming from the fiddler’s hand can be.