Hardy's Tragic Vision

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HARDY’S TRAGIC VISION OF LIFE/ HARDY’S PHILOSOPHY Hardy and tragedy is a long story. The author is famous for his pessimistic vision of life, for his novels imbued with cosmic irony, his poems full of nostalgic feelings, the dreary existences and tragic destinies depicted in Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. The latter works even rely on an Aristotelian definition of tragedy. The author of Tess suggests that when the story ends, it means that “the President of the Immortals (in Æschylean phrase) had ended his sport with Tess” (384). In his preface to Jude the Obscure, Hardy explains his choice in depicting the protagonist’s sad fate through his marriage, his love story and his disillusions: [...] it seemed a good foundation for the fable of a tragedy, told for its own sake as a presentation of particulars containing a good deal that was universal, and not without a hope that certain cathartic, Aristotelian qualities might be found therein. (Hardy 1996, viii) Hardy is primarily a storyteller and should be viewed more as a chronicler of moods and deeds than as a philosopher. Yet a novel such as Far from the Madding Crowd, which raises many questions about society, religion, morals, and the contrast between a good life and its rewards, is bound to make the reader curious about the author who brings them up. Hardy lived in an age of transition. The industrial revolution was in the process of destroying the agricultural life, and the subsequent shifting of population caused a disintegration of rural customs and traditions that had meant security, stability, and dignity for the people. It was a period when fundamental beliefs — religious, social, scientific, and political — were shaken to their core and brought in their stead the "ache of modernism." The new philosophies failed to satisfy the emotional needs of many people. As a young man, Hardy read
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