Hardy Life at Its Worst

One of my favourite interests is literature. I managed to get hold of this course called “TTC – Classics of British Literature“. I have several courses of literature and this course is one of my favourites. The course is taught by Professor John Sutherland and as usual each lecture is 30 minutes long. The course contains around 48 lectures, so you will be spoilt for British culture and perhaps become a literature master.


Professor John Sutherland

I decided to look at lecture number “38 Hardy Life at Its Worst”. This lecture is on Thomas Hardy a great Victorian novelist and poet. He started out writing fiction, then moved on to more serious themes. He could not stand to ignore life’s harsh treatment of those who aspire to be something else.

Thomas Hardy, died in 1928, was considered a Great man of the novel.

But What kind of monument was Thomas Hardy? What did he leave behind?


Thomas Hardy

The lecture discuss the tug of war on Where Thomas would be buried. Eventually his heart went elsewhere, I think Wessex and his brain cremated at Woking.

Well lets look at why is this lecture about life at its worst?

The lecture gives us a brief overview of Thomas Hardy’s birth place Wessex. The region of Wessex was going through some great change and many was for the worst. Thomas Hardy never seemed to forget the difficulties of his childhood and this caused some divisions within himself.

What were those The divisions?

As stated before From 1860’s to 1890s he wrote fiction and novels. The later years, he wrote poetry.
Hardy wrote against morality and portrayed life at its toughest. One book was even banned by a bishop, I wonder what book that was?

One of Thomas Hardy’s book “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” described one of the women being raped. It was also known that readers criticised the book “Return of the native” as too grim. Thomas Hardy tailored the book to suit the audience needs.

Many of Thomas’s books including “Far from the madden crowd“, was criticised because people wanted more happier endings.

Eventually Thomas Hardy decided to write more on reality and moved away from fiction, during his later years.

The Lecture moves on to his life and looks at the relation of his life to his novels?
Hardy was born in the county of Dorset. He was born into political reform, Robert Peel the then Prime Minster began to reform of the corn laws. There was no more protectionism for British corn laws. Imports were now not so heavily taxed any more.

Such changes in rural farm life became an inspiration to Hardy’s book “The Mayor of Casterbridge“. It was heavily influenced by the decline of the farming industry around that time. The lecture moves on to study why Thomas Hardy was interested in science, especially Charles Darwin.

Thomas Hardy had no children in which due to later years upset him greatly. Thomas also had failed relationships. To make life more difficult for Thomas his best friend killed himself. Why is Thomas so pessimistic?

“Humans have an intelligent relation with nature, but there was always some struggle.”

The lecture moves on to one example of the hard life and how it is portrayed in another of Hardy’s book. The Theme of “Far From The Madden Crowd“, one of the characters Fanny dies destitute and unknown. However her death is not to be in vain as she resembles the Patron saint of loss causes.

Professor John Sutherland talks about how Thomas is interested in church architecture, but also mentions Thomas did not align himself to religion, but loved the design.

In 1898 Thomas moves off from fiction and wrote a poem for “the love of the church and its structure”, but still distanced himself from religious belief.

The lecture then talks a bit about another of Thomas Hardies book “Under the Greenwood Tree“.

Professor John then starts to read a Poem -> The Impercipient

THis lecture exams the friction between religion and Thomases belief

THAT from this bright believing band
An outcast I should be,
That faiths by which my comrades stand
Seem fantasies to me,
And mirage-mists their Shining Land,
Is a drear destiny.

Even though what is shown is just a small part of the poem, the lecture explains that the poem shows how difficult it is for Hardy to believe in faith due to what he has seen around him.

In 1862 Hardy now goes to London to try his fortune. He first Went to London as a architect and then moved on to writing. Hardys novels begins to show his pessimism. One of Hardy’s books “Jude the Obscure” exemplifies his use of tragedy.

The Discussion of book is about Jude and it starts in Wessex green which has become run down. Wessex shows the misery of peoples lives. Jude is an orphan and throughout the book we are shown the sad hard life of Incest, suicide and alcoholism.

Jude eventually becomes inspired by education and hope to be a great teacher one day. The lecture shows that Hardy sees things differently and warns us of the difficulties to come. Jude starts out well, he studies hard and dreams of university.

However Professor John states there are Obstacles to Jude’s dreams and fantasies.

One of the obstacles is the British class system
The other is that Sexual relationships causes Jude major problems

Prof John describes a passage of the book of Jude’s aspiration. His dreams and fantasies. Here the lecture describes how a maid puts end to Jude’s fantasies by trapping him into some marriage, but he still does not give up. Eventually Jude moves close to Oxford, but ends up in another relationship with someone outside his class, but Jude ends up drinking heavily and this causes them to part.

Jude eventually gives up his dream of education, and soon there is a tragic climax in the novel. One of Jude’s lovers Sue is pregnant, but she cannot find lodgings. Jude can take no more of life’s upsets.

The lecture read out Part of novel.

All of Jude’s three children murdered and his other child commits suicide. Jude’s lover Sue then has a miscarriage. All this is too much for Jude to bear. Jude dies due to alcoholism.

Another part of the Novel is read out describing Jude’s dead body.

The lecture shows the Irony of Jude’s funeral as it is done when there is a parade of Oxford students celebrating their last exam results. The lecture finishes up on Why do we like tragedy? How does Hardy create beauty out of suffering?

“We have to look at life as it really is, if we want to live life.”

If you enjoyed looking up on this lecture, you will be sure to enjoy the course. You will learn much from it.


One thought on “Hardy Life at Its Worst

  1. Pingback: An Introduction to Thomas Hardy | Words' Sanctuary

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