Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) is one of the most famed authors of Victorian England. When we speak with references to Victorian England we actually make implications about England during the 19th century in broad terms. English fiction reached its peak during the 19th century with a number of prominent storytellers who illustrated the social, economic and historic features of England in their timeless books. Thomas Hardy is one of them indispensably. In most of the stories by Thomas Hardy we come across themes of love, betrayal, sins, retribution and the inescapable roles played by fate in human life-a perception called "fatalism" in philosophic terms. Another focal point of Thomas Hardy's novels is the fact that most of his books are based on the lifestyle of English countryside's people.
In Thomas Hardy's much acclaimed novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Tess is found entangled with a love affair which puts her in a messy situation psycho-physically dividing her between two men Angel and Alec. Alec did a favor to Tess by placing her in a job at a farm inside the village where Tess used to live. However, as the story proceeds it clears up that Alec had an irresistible leaning towards Tess. He always tried to seduce Tess but Tess never made any response to the lustful gestures of Alec. Tess was all the time a virtuous girl. But one night Alec took an evil advantage of Tess's solitude in the woods and molested her. Tess came back home after this disastrous occurrence.
Tess soon got pregnant following the sexual assault on her by Alec and gave birth to a child but the child died shortly. After this tragedy Tess passes a strenuous year of sufferings and remorse. Later on she finds a job as a milkmaid at a dairy farm. A man called Angel approaches Tess with romance in his mind. Tess and Angel soon fall in love with each other and Angel proposes to marry Tess. Tess agreed but her conscience was burning her with repentance reminding her about what Alec had done to her.
After getting married to Angel Tess decided to tell Angel about her past traumatic event with Alec. Angel too unfolded his past love affair with another woman in London which Tess took in an easy and good mood but Angel got hurt when he came to know about Tess's mishap with Alec. Angel could not tolerate the fact that his wife was physically involved with another man. Angel shortly left England for Brazil leaving Tess totally alone.
At that painful segment of her life Alec reappeared in the story. He said to Tess he had been reformed and repentant to Tess for the wrong things he had done to her. Tess and Alec reconciled and decided to live together. On the other hand, Angel figured out his fault and came back to England to look for Tess. He found her and wanted to get her back in his life. Tess got disheveled, puzzled and shocked. Out of fury she stabbed Alec to death indicting him for all the sufferings she had to undergo. Tess was arrested within a few days. The novel reaches its pathetic end through Tess's execution on charges of killing Alec.
The Return of the Native is another best-known novel by Thomas Hardy. Like almost all other fictional works by Thomas Hardy, it also tells a tragic love story. Love is always followed by deception, happiness is always followed by dismay, faith is always followed by infidelity and vices are always followed by fatal consequences is his novels. Involvement of nature with mankind is another remarkable point in Thomas Hardy's stories.
Clym Yeobright, the protagonist of The Return of the Native, returned from Paris leaving behind his diamond business there to Egdon Heath, a small village in England where his family lived. He returned to Egdon Heath because he loved the place and he wanted to pass the rest of his life with his mother Mrs. Yeobright and later on he picked up a job at a local school. While living in Egdon Heath, Clym Yeobright fell in love with Eustacia Vye, a pretty girl of that place. As he approached his mother with a proposal to marry Eustacia Vye, his mother initially did not consent to it. Eustacia Vye, according to Mrs. Yeobright, did not like Egdon Heath.
She had very high dreams in her mind about living in big cities like Paris or London. On the other hand, Clym Yeobright did not want to move away from Egdon Heath, from the English countryside. However, Clym Yeobright did not pay heed to his mother's advice and married Eustacia Vye. A great tragedy slammed Clym at that time. His mother died of snakebite. That was a severe blow to Clym's life. It made him gradually collapse both on physical and mental fronts. Even he started losing his eyesight.
Clym's mother had intended to get him married to his cousin Thomasin Yeobright. Thomasin was a plain-hearted girl and did not have any high-flying ambitions. Like Clym, she was also in love with Egdon Heath. The birds, trees, meadows of Egdon Heath charmed her all the time. So, she would have been a better match for Clym. But Clym was immersed in love with Eustacia which is why he did not care for thinking about all these matters. Thomasin was later on married to Damon Wildeve, a very tricky and immoral fellow who developed a clandestine affair with Eustacia giving her assurance about taking her to Paris.
In this way he instigated Eustacia Vye to act faithlessly with her husband Clym. Diggory Venn, a benevolent and mysterious character of the novel saw Eustacia a number of times having secret trysts with Damon Wildeve and he could presume what they were about to do. He shared his concern with Clym, but Clym was too upset with his mother's unnatural death to pay heed to Diggory Venn's warnings. Moreover, he envisioned his relationship with his wife Eustacia from an ideal standpoint. He had a trust that Eustacia would never abandon him. But he was wrong.
Eustacia Vye decided to run away with her extramarital lover Damon Wildeve but unfortunately they both drowned in the river. This is how Eustacia paid the price for cheating on her husband and the same thing happened to Damon Wildeve for derailing Eustacia Vye. Diggory Venn married Thomasin following the death of Damon Wildeve. On the other hand, Clym Yeobright, who was absolutely shattered by losing his mother and his wife, became a priest at the end of the story. He decided to look for solace through theological services.
Clym committed the mistakes that most of the tragic heroes make. He could have avoided his marital disaster if he listened to his mother and married Thomasin. He could have restrained Eustacia from escaping with Damon Wildeve if he listened to the cautionary words of Diggory Venn. The blunders committed by Clym Yeobright remind us of an aphorism by Francis Bacon, "To love and to be wise is impossible." Love blindfolds people. Love at times takes away people's power to visualize things from a rational point of view.
Clym Yeobright was victimized by ill-fate as well. Perhaps he could have evaded all the tragedies of his life if he did not leave Paris. But he came back to Egdon Heath just because of his selfless love for his birthplace and for his mother. He had no idea about the disasters he would confront in Egdon Heath. We cannot foresee our upcoming days. We have no power to jump over predestined catastrophes. Another noteworthy point of the novel is that there is a special thing called divine justice which does not allow any act of sin to go unpunished. The pathetic deaths of Damon Wildeve and Eustacia Vye are evidences of this message.
The writer is a literary analyst for The Asian Age
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