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Mikeharvey



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 3351


Location: Lancashire

PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 11:31 am    Post subject: Thomas Hardy  Reply with quote

The landscape and wild life of Wessex dominate the novels and short stories of Thomas Hardy but nowhere, I think, more impressively than in THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE (1878).  From its superb opening description of Egdon Heath at dusk the reader, throughout the book,  is always aware of the heath’s presence, its changing aspect, its weather and its effect on the lives of the people who lead their lives there. The book’s chief characters, Eustacia Vye, Clym Yeobright, Mrs Yeobright, Damon Wildeve, Thomasina Yeobright and Diggory Venn are forever traipsing across the heath on one quest or another, and three characters meet their deaths there.   This was the first Hardy novel I read years ago and I had forgotten how powerful and gripping it was.  From its opening scenes of a bonfire on Rainbarrow – a place to which the narrative returns in its final paragraphs –Hardy’s control of the story, basically a love story,  and the lives of its characters, haunted by fate, co-incidence and accident is engrossing.  Alongside the main protaganists are a motley
crowd of subsidiary Hardy rustics who enliven the sory with their frequently funny conversations.  At the novel’s centre is the beautiful Eustacia whose dissatisfaction with her Wessex life, and her attempts to rise above it through an unsatisfactory marriage,  are the mainspring of the action. The first character we meet is amiable Diggory, the reddleman, who is the thread linking all the characters.  As always after reading one of Hardy’s greatest novels I was left with the impression of helpless characters at the mercy of an indifferent Universe.   Only those who accept their lives and don’t fight against circumstance seem to arrive at a happy ending.  A deeply satisfying read.                              


Diggory Venn - the Reddleman


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Jen M



Joined: 24 Nov 2008
Posts: 596


Location: Middlesex, UK

PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Mike

It is a long time since I read The Return of the Native but I do love this aspect of Hardy's writing.  I have had a good number of holidays in Dorset and many of the places I have visited or travelled through remind me of Hardy's novels, although I can't always remember which one.  I studied Tess of the d'Urbervilles for A Level and remember Tess traipsing here and there throughout the Wessex countryside, the weather often reflecting her circumstances.

As I have said elsewhere on the board, I have downloaded the complete Thomas Hardy to my Kindle and have started to work through the novels I haven't yet read, then I will come back to some of those that I have.



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Green Jay



Joined: 13 Jan 2009
Posts: 1605


Location: West Sussex

PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 4:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jen M wrote:
Hi Mike

It is a long time since I read The Return of the Native but I do love this aspect of Hardy's writing.  I have had a good number of holidays in Dorset and many of the places I have visited or travelled through remind me of Hardy's novels, although I can't always remember which one.  I studied Tess of the d'Urbervilles for A Level and remember Tess traipsing here and there throughout the Wessex countryside, the weather often reflecting her circumstances.



I've stayed in that area quite a few times as well. It is an extraordinary landscape, lots of different types in a fairly small area (a very small area if you don't come from a small country like Britain!) I remember finding a particularly bleak bit when we got lost in the winter dusk as some main roads had been closed. We were following very winding narrow lanes and tracks hoping to end up somewhere recognisable. It was near to the Weymouth coast and the built-up suburban area there (not v. Hardyesque!) but felt very cut-off. We had the luxury of being in a car, not just on foot as his characters often were. I really need a "Hardy converter kit", to know which real places are which in his books. I know I have been through the area - ? the River Piddle and tributaries - which were the lush dairy farms  in Tess.

I think I too studied Tess for A level, certainly for some formal exam...


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chris-l



Joined: 27 Nov 2008
Posts: 731



PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 4:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Most of my Hardy books contain a map showing the geography of 'Wessex', but for more information, if you Google 'Thomas Hardy place names', several useful sites come up.

The only Hardy I studied in a formal setting was 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' and I am pretty sure that that was for 'O' Level, which was a very, very long while ago, 1963 to be quite precise! We had read 'Under the Greenwood Tree' in class before that, probably in the 3rd Form, which these days would be, I think, year 9. It seems to me, for pupils in a largely rural area, the world of Hardy was a lot more recognisable back then than it could possibly be today: certainly, I recall that members of the class were able to explain some of the agricultural nuances to the teacher. Just as an aside, the same was true of some of the details in 'Animal Farm', another of my 'O ' level books : I clearly recall our explaining to a puzzled teacher what a 'poop-hole' was. Orwell, of course, had been a poultry farmer and knew about such things.



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