Thomas Hardy’s best women

thomas-hardy

Women in Thomas Hardy’s best fictions are complicated, some are even hard to be understood. Reading their personalities challenge me and mixes my feelings. Hardy crafts these heroines so unique that they remain eternal in the minds of many literary lovers.

Below are five female heroines in Hardy’s novels who stuck in my brain:

Bathsheba Everdene

My most beloved female figure in all Hardy’s leading books. Independent, hard-working and persistent. These prove helpful when chasing after wealth. But her overly independence makes her learning choosing the right life partner the hardest ways. She refuses a marriage proposal from Gabriel Oak out of emancipation. She later plays the heart of William Boldwood, her aggressive admirer until the game turns ugly with the arrival of Sergeant Troy, the man she loves but can never move on from her former lover, Fanny Robin. Both men fight for Bathsheba Everdene’s love, leaving William Boldwood living in a prison after shooting Sergeant Troy. Only after the tragedy that she finally realizes the only man she completely can’t live without is Gabriel Oak.

Tess Durbeyfield

The favorite for many. One of the most enduring female figures in the classic literature. The struggles of Tess both in working life and romance are unbearable. Not only she has to work very hard to make ends meet she also has to face her fate as a victim of rape. Things get much depressed when Angel Clare, her husband leaves her on the first day of their wedding after finding out Tess is no longer a virgin. What happens to Tess disturbs my senses because almost of her entire life is all about torments. Her decision to kill Alec D’Urberville sets her free. This, too, makes me feel relieved for her act is understandable; that human patience can run out sooner or later.

Sue Bridehead

The most inconsistent, unpredictable female personage in Hardy’s books. Her union with Jude Fawley, the protagonist of the book, is unlikely wonderful. It is the matrimony of two different human beings on the surface; Sue the outspoken and Jude the soft-spoken one. Sue the wild person and Jude the quite one. But on the inside, both share similar personalities; avid reader, marriage adversary, deep thinker. Her critical thinking impresses me at first. How she handles rejection from public on her elopement with Jude wins my attention until she can no longer help it. That is when she 180 degrees turns into a completely different person than she is used to be. Not only she leaves Jude after all the things they go through but she also returns to Mr. Phillotson, her former husband, whom she detests after she meets Jude. She now becomes a disgusting person, at least for me.

Eustacia Vye

She is the perfect portrayal of Hardy’s view on spoiled, materialistic woman. She marries to Clym Yeobright after she finds out the fortune of the native of Egdon Heath. She hopes she can leave the place and depart for Paris yet this plan is against her husband’s wishes who wants to stay at the place and sets up a school. Eustacia is my kind of favorite antagonist because I can totally hate her. Beautiful face but ugly heart. She disrespects her mother-in-law, makes use of Clym’s good-heartedness for her benefits and worse, she is still in touch with her former boyfriend, Damon Wildeve.

Marty South

Although she is not the leading female figure in Hardy’s The Woodlanders, Marty South has a special place in my heart. She is so devoted to Giles Winterborne, the main man in this book, despite his love to his wife, Grace Melbury. She keeps loving him after he dies. She becomes the only person to take care of his graveyard after Grace become less frequently visits it as she is now with another man, Edgar Fitzpiers. What happens to Marty is very rare, touching but some may say her decisions is pathetic and useless. All in all her presence successfully stirs emotion as previous characters do.


The picture is taken from this.

So, where do the desolations in the works of Thomas Hardy come from?

I have written a lot about Thomas Hardy’s most well-known novels; their summaries, analysis, comments, joys, frustrations, and as far as I remember, none of his personal life has been included in this blog. Separating authors’ private lives with their works is inevitable though I want it to be untrue.

I have been wondering what makes Thomas Hardy’s novels are too hard to bear. I have been questioning how come the endings of his best books leave me with mixed feelings. Even the ending of ‘Far from The Madding Crowd’, which I think is his only happily-ever after-finale book among ‘Tess’, ‘Jude The Obscure’, ‘The Woodlanders’, ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ and ‘The Return of the Native’, doesn’t thrill me. It does relieve me but not excite me.

And today I reread the writer’s biography, particularly on his marriages. I have once read about it but missed some great points on his love life; that he and his first wife, Emma Lavinia Gifford, were happy in the first years of the marriage but later grew distant. Secondly, Hardy, though perhaps is spurred by his first childless marriage, began visiting some other women, one of whom was Florence Dugdale, his second wife, while he was still married to Emma.

However, his second marriage proved to have been bleak as well. Hardy, despite his aging period, became so glued at his study while Florence was in the shadows of Emma, whom ironically he ignored when she was still alive. After Emma died, Hardy regretted how much he neglected her and how bad her illness was. He had a wreath containing “From her lonely husband, with the Old Affection”.

I can’t imagine how miserable his life back then. The saying that goes “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” is quite suitable to describe his life after the death of Emma. Hardy can’t remedy the things that have been gone away. This is the most saddening of all.

Despite the rumors that Hardy was an unfaithful husband, I put another concern on how complicated Hardy’s personality is. On one side, he had affairs with some women, including Florence, but in another side, he neglected her, too. He preferred working to have lived his second marriage, taken care and loved Florence as his wife. May be his only friend was his jobs, his writings, his views about life in general.

I myself sense that his personal stories either directly or indirectly add dreary tone in many of his novels. Although they don’t explicitly tell readers about Emma, or Florence or his childless marriage but there’s a lot of things to wonder beyond that somber atmospheres.

In ‘Tess’, Hardy mostly brings out its most dramatic, bleakest sides. Not to mention is his standpoints on the faith, trust and an almost long-life regret by Angel Clare.

“The Mayor of Casterbridge” is attached with sadness because Micheal Henchard dies amid the ending of the book that is sealed with the marriage of Elizabeth Jane and Donald Farfrae.

And oh, “The Return of the Native”. Although it’s better that Clement Yeobright lives alone after the death of his unfaithful wife, Eustacia Vye, I can’t help feeling a bit gloomy after reading the book. The union of Thomasin Yeobright, Clement’s cousin, and Diggory Venn, doesn’t help me much.

All I remember about “The Woodlanders” is the unrequited of Marty South, a faithful, peasant girl who is in love with Giles Winterborne although he loves Grace Melbury. Marty South remains faithful to Giles, visits his graveyard while Grace returns to the arms of Edgar Fitzpiers.

While for ‘Jude the Obscure’, Hardy’s last completed novel, is way too much heartbreaking. Besides “Tess”, this book puts Hardy and Emma in heated arguments. The outcry from churches and public at that time is said to have made Hardy no longer  writing novels then devoted much of his time composing poems. For those who haven’t read the novel, “Jude” revolves around the love of Jude and his cousin, Sue Bridehead, which was controversial at that time. Furthermore, they eloped,  were against license marriage though they later got married due to people disapproval on their romance.

Again, while my opinions may be incorrect, I think it’s worth noting how Hardy’s life say something about his forlorn ideas seen in his major novels.

 

Five fictional characters whose personalities resemble my own

fictional characters

picture source: virtualvictorian.blogspot.com

One of the most surprising things that can happen when reading novels is knowing that one or several characters in the books have personalities that resemble my own. When this occurs, I have mixed feelings; sometimes I feel my weirdness is no longer special because there are even artificial people who behave or think like what I do. On the other hand, I feel that I’m not alone in embracing my oddity; that there are a lot of people who are just as unique, melancholy, overly sensitive, whatever kind of traits that label my personality.

So, these are the characters whom I find some parts of my overall personality are embedded in them:

  1. Jude Fawley

I discover most parts of my personality in this character; a deep thinker, an introvert, a loner, a hard worker, an overly sensitive person. One thing that we share in a common; we work hard on our goals no matter how often we get confused on whether we are pessimist or realists. Oh not to forget: we are both bookworms.

  1. Cynthia Kirkpatrick

She is one of the puzzled characters I have met so far; elegant, educated, very pretty,classy woman. No.. I’m not that physically charming or may not be as intelligent as her. What shocks me when I read about her is that she’s moody and is full of masks. One moment she can be so happy in front of her parents but in another moment she can be look so down in front of Molly Gibson, her stepsister. She seems calm, cool when she talks with Mr. Gibson, her stepfather, whom she respects highly but she looks disrespectful when she is with her mother. She wisely chooses her words when speaking in front of her stepfather or strangers but she does not watch her mouth when she has discussions with her mother.

And she’s so smart in hiding her problems. She won’t tell her matters unless she is forced to do so. Even if she does that, she is opened to certain people only. My similarity with her lies on our mood swing trait. Sometimes I can be extremely joyful then quickly be gloomy. But oftentimes, I can control emotion. On average, I’m a peaceful person.

  1. Molly Gibson

Molly is a very loveable character. She is innocent and super kind person who becomes the best confidante for almost all characters in the ‘Wives and Daughters’. I’m not that agreeable loveable like her but yes I’m a nice person. I see my tomboyishness in Molly. And her rebellious character is just like me. She dislikes ladylike conduct, fashion mode and table manner that are highly held by her stepmother. I have the same saying for this matter as well.

  1. Marty South

It’s too bad that Thomas Hardy does not put her as a major character in “The Woodlanders’ for I think her loyalty to Giles Winterborne is outstanding. Although I can’t foresee myself to be so faithful as Marty South when it comes to romance but I regard myself as a loyalist almost in all aspects of life. I have only John Steinbeck as my most favorite novelist, Juventus as the sole football club, Alessandro Del Piero as the one footballer that sticks in my heart and Westlife as the once-and-for-all musician in my music preference after all these years. And I’ll be way much more faithful when Alloh swt finds me and him one day, ameen..

  1. Tess Durbeyfield

Tess is the perfect person once could ever be in the Victorian era. Among the positive list of her characteristics; decent, patient, good-tempered, Tess properly suits with this trait: the love that I have to my family. And as hard as she works for her family, I do the same thing all for the sake of the ones that I unconditionally love until the very bit of my heart.

Marty South, ‘The Woodlanders’ minor character who leaves me with an indescribable satisfaction

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source: www.study-skills.ca

Had Thomas Hardy not ended ‘The Woodlanders’ with the fate of Marty South, I would be hugely disappointed. Marty South, though she plays a role in the broken relationship of between Edred Fitzpiers and Felice Charmond, is the only female character in the novel who upholds the meaning of faithfulness.

I am almost forced to accept the anti-climax of the book as what I read, up to the last two pages of the novel, is the reunion of Grace Melbury and Edred Fitzpiers. Unfortunately, their union is not the ultimate ending of the novel. This is the first time ever Thomas Hardy deceives me. In a good way. He ends the novel with the scene of Marty South visiting the graveyard of Giles Winterborne all by herself. After eight months going there together with Grace, Marty is alone. She learns the news that Grace returns to the arms of Edred, leaving Marty with full happiness because Giles solely belongs to her.

The reason on why I would curse Hardy had he finished the wonderful book by the reunion of Grace and Edred is because I don’t appreciate the major characters. I would like to define Grace as a wishy-washy person. At some points, somehow I would like to label her as a selfish lover. She lets her father controls her future. Even when she realizes she loves Giles after he is homeless, Grace does not do anything to save her love life. One moment that makes her name deserves applause is when she stands quiet while ignoring her unfaithful husband. I salute this kind of act for this successfully puts Edred into a great shame when he comes back to amend his sins. However, I completely do not understand her manners when she involves Giles in her departure to Exonbury in a bid to avoid meeting her husband. I call this as a stupidity because she knows pretty well that she and Giles are not allowed to meet by law although they love each other. When she knows that Giles opt to stay out of door for the sake of her safety and purity, Grace should go on her own way to her friends’ house in Exonbury. Rather, she keeps staying in Giles’ hut until she finds it too late that Giles dies, partly because of his staying outside the hut.

When Grace determines to repair her marriage with Edred I feel satisfied. For I think this only assures me that she is indeed not faithful. Or you may call her final decision as being realistic; that it is completely unfair to judge a person’s faithfulness based on his/her willingness not to get married after her beloved one passes away. But looking at Grace’s changing minds from the beginning until the end of the novel somehow frustrates me.

While for Edred.. despite his profesional skill and light-handedly manner, I, at the beginning, already dislikes him. His infidelity already emerges long before he marries Grace and meets Felice Charmond again. The way he pays back his mistakes by coming to Grace again is a good turning point anyway.

So, there remains two only loyal characters; Giles and Marty. Their sacrifice, though brings no happy ending, is what makes the novel really teaches us about true love. Giles finally dies for Grace, whom won’t ever be his wife by legal means. While Marty, who supports Giles in good and hard times, can finally find joy and remain faithful although her love is unrequited.

Even though the novel does not run in the way I want, I somehow feel satisfied. The presence of Marty South at the start and ending of the novel is a magic factor that makes the novel is different with Hardy’s novels. This is the kind of plot that makes me falls in love with Hardy even more. It feels like Hardy knows the best plot for his readers, that despite the sad ending, his readers can feel their minds and hearts are fully occupied with contentment.

‘The Woodlanders’ by Thomas Hardy

the woodlanders-picture source openlibrary.org

picture source: openlibrary.org

Marty South can’t help refusing an offer from barber Percomb to sell her beautiful hair. She desperately needs the money from Felice Charmond to cover medical cost of her ageing, ill father. After a few days of interval, she visits the barber’s workshop to get her hair cut and obtain the money. Felice Charmond, who only meets her once, falls in love with the hair and with her wealth she asks the barber to seek the girl. Now Charmond gets what she wants.

South earns little money by working to Mr. George Melbury, a respected man in Little Hintock. Melbury who has only a daughter, Grace Melbury, lives with his second wife Mrs Melbury. In his old days, he begins to get worried over the future of her sole daughter. He understands very well that he has betrothed Grace with Giles Winterborne to pay back his past great sin. He deeply regrets he has cheated Giles’ late father to get Grace’s deceased mother. Giles doesn’t know about this story. For, he adores Grace and looks forward on the day they tie the knot.

After Grace completes her study, Melbury realizes his initial purpose of uniting her daughter and Giles is a wrong idea. Although he knows Giles is a very good man, he is penniless. The thought of marrying Grace with someone rich comes up in his mind partly due to the fact that he has invested so much money in her expensive education. Grace is powerless against her persistent father on this matter. Although she likes Giles, she has no words to even decide her own future. Giles, on the other hands, gradually realizes that he and Grace slowly becomes apart despite the short distance between the two. When the Melbury family pays a visit to his home in a Christmas’ eve out of their pity, Giles doesn’t feel any sense of mercy at all.

Day by day, Grace somewhat obeys her father’s decision of canceling their engagement. She later tells Giles about this, a statement that she regrets later on as she instead starts loving Giles when he loses his house. When she wants to annul her previous decision it is too late. Giles has sent a notification that grants her wishes to Mr. Melbury and from that day on, they only remain good friends. During his hardship, Giles builds a hut and lives alone. It is Marty South who always stands by his side, helping him with his job. Her pure feeling unfortunately falls blind in Giles’ eyes for he only has his heart for Grace. Despite this, Marty South does not show her jealousy and remain kind to Grace.

When Giles is away from Little Hintock, Edred Fitzpiers, a young doctor, declares his affection to Grace. Although at first Grace opposes his offer, she accepts his marriage proposal after listening to her father’s reasoning. Definitely, for Mr. Melbury, Edred is worth way above Giles who is currently homeless and impoverished.

Their marriage lasts for only a few months when Edred’s infidelity is revealed. Felice Charmond is none other than Edred’s long lost to-be girlfriend. Destiny brings the two at the village. Prior to the reunion, Felice loses her husband who later inherits a mansion in the village. She has no children and spends most of her time by inhabiting the house and travelling overseas. Edred comes to Felice’s house to cure her sickness. That is when the old love starts blooming again.

After a series of the so-called regular health checkups, both can’t help admitting they fall in love again. They try not to listen to other people’ gossips but the rumor reaches the ears of the Melburys. When Felice tries to tame the gossip by going out of the town, Edred forces his way to meet her there. The reactions that come from the Melbury family, especially from Grace, are a bit surprising. She doesn’t question her husband. It is her father who is deeply disappointed. Not only he is sad over the quality of his own choice for Grace but also he curses himself for separating Grace from Giles.

As her daughter opts for silent treatment, Melbury chooses a more aggressive action. He almost kills Edred by intentionally dropping him from a horse they share together in a homecoming trip. At that time, Edred is so ill that he can’t rescue himself. As the rumour of the death of her husband is at large, Grace and Felice are somehow united. They set aside their shared love for Edred and instead put more focus on the safety of Edred. A few days have passed and no news about Edred is known. When Felice arrives home, she is shocked to have found Edred is at her house full of wounds. They then decide to flee from the village then take a very long journey. Edred sends a letter to Grace, saying that their marriage comes to an end.

As a matter of fact, the wrecked marriage comes as a chance for Grace to repair her love with Giles. For Melbury, it also serves as a second opportunity to mend his past mistake. He vows to legalize the divorce then prepares Giles as Grace’s second husband.

Giles is such a pure heart. When Melbury confesses on his truest intention of marrying him with Grace Giles isn’t mad at all. When he knows Melbury wants to fix their broken love he gladly welcomes the idea. Giles and Grace’s back-to-back romance is unfortunately short-lived. The existing law can’t legalize their divorce. Giles is so devastated after learning this news.

Grace and Giles then decide to be friends (for the second time). While Grace mourns over her disastrous marriage, Giles resumes his job despite the fact his health starts deteriorating. After some time, a shocking fact occurs. Edred sends a letter telling his sorry over his unfaithfulness. He even wishes he can return to the house in the Little Hintock. It is known that Edred has a fight with Felice that later separates the two. When Felice is about to catch him, her past lover shoots her to death.

A few hours prior to his homecoming, Grace decides to flee. She leaves a note saying that she will visit her friends in Exonbury. Instead, she comes at One-Chimney Hut belonging to Giles then asks for a drive. When they are in the middle of the journey, heavy rain starts pouring down. They are forced to get back to the Giles’ house and she remains there for a few days later. Giles chooses to stay out of the house while Grace occupies it all alone. This condition lasts for several days until Grace hears a cough she believes it comes from Giles. When she discovers him in a cold night, it is too late. Giles’s condition is already fatal. Grace calls her husband to examine Giles but not long after Edred’s treatment, Giles passes away. A few months of gloomy mood circulates in the Melbury house and of course Marty South. Regularly, Grace and Marty visits Giles’s graveyard and put flowers there. On the other hand, Edred, who realizes the love between Grace and Giles, determines to pursue medical career somewhere else. Although he is far from the Little Hintock, Edred always looks forward to fix his marriage. As such, he writes some letters asking for Grace’s agreement to join him in his current place. After several attempts, Grace, who at first sticks her heart to Giles, eventually approves his offer.

After eight months of Giles’ death, Marty now finds herself being all alone coming to his graveyard. She learns that Grace is with someone else and now is the time Marty can finally have Giles for herself…