Comparative Study of George Eliot and Thomas Hardy

3621 Words15 Pages
Module code: EX314 December 2007 Comparative study of the portrayal of nature in George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss and Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native Nature; it is a subject of interest and prevalence within much of literature. It represents the pure, the fruitful, and that which is fundamental. It presents us with our roots and beckons our intrigue to know how the natural world itself came about. The former sentence expresses attributes with which nineteenth-century writing concerns itself, particularly in the cases of Eliot and Hardy. Purity, fruitfulness and fundamentality could be said to be notions that both Eliot and Hardy appreciate. With this in mind, this study seeks to examine the ways in which these two nineteenth-century writers portray nature, its qualities and its power. More specifically, one text from each writer will be of particular interest to us: Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss and Hardy’s The Return of the Native. In all, we use these texts presently as a means to explore the literary reaction to industrialism and in essence, the changing relationship between man and nature. In creating their work, these authors share an employment of nature as a sustained and omnipresent force. With regards to Eliot, Graham Handley passes his judgement on the 1860 text: ‘it is part of George Eliot’s narrative art that from the first chapter onwards we are never allowed to forget the river and its influence.’[1] ‘The river’, at its core, is the embodiment of nature in the novel. There is little attention paid to the landscape when we consider the narrative weight that Eliot awards to the Floss: ‘A wide plain, where the broadening Floss hurries on between its banks to the sea, and the loving tide, rushing to meet it, checks it passage with an
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