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Hardy’s View on Nature

Author ChenTianRan
Tutor LiMeiHua
School Xiamen University
Course Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords Natural Ecological Crisis Ecocriticism Novels of "Characters and Environment" Ecological Consciousness Nonanthropocentrism
Type Master's thesis
Year 2008
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Thomas Hardy was a well-known writer in the Victorian period of England in the 19th century, and he was honored as the last greatest writer and poet of the Victorian period. Hardy was prolific and during the eighty-eight years of his life he published fourteen novels, four volumes of short stories, eight volumes of verse and an ’epic-drama’, The Dynasts.The 14 "Wessex Novels", which he wrote between 1871 and 1895, represent Hardy’s creative talents and artistic accomplishments and establish his unique position in Victorian fiction. Up till now, the writings of Hardy have already been interpreted from a wide variety of critical perspectives. Some researchers pay their attention to the thematic significance of Hardy’s Wessex novels, some analyze the psychoanalytical treatment of the characters and indicate modernism of Hardy’s works, and some examine feminism in his novels, while other critics have showed his ties to Darwinism. Yet this paper, in the exploration of Hardy’s two Wessex novels—Far from the Madding Crowd and The Return of the Native, employs a new critical approach, eco-criticism, which is particularly appropriate to an examination of literature in the context of globally environmental predicament.This thesis consists of five parts. The introduction comes first, which presents the critical situation of our earth and analyzes the cause and solution of ecological crisis with the aim to find out the ideological and cultural rootstock of ecological crisis. Only when people’s environmental consciousness has been promoted can ecological crisis finally be solved. Chapter One introduces the appearance of ecological literature and ecological criticism by giving a survey of the new critical theory through its general definition, ideological origin, academic background, main tasks and its significance. Then this chapter focuses on the analysis of Hardy’s literary creation and his ecological thoughts. Up till now many critics and scholars both at home and abroad have researched on his novels from different perspectives but very few have interpreted his novels from ecological perspective. In fact the Novels of "Character and Environment" are endowed with deep ecological thought by Hardy. Then this chapterswitches to Hardy’s life experiences, the origin of ecological thought and the influenceof the Industrial Revolution on him, pointing out that Hardy is a writer with ecologicalconsciousness. Chapter Two is devoted to an ecocritical interpretation of Hardy’sdepiction of the natural environment in his two novels: Far from the Madding Crowdand The Return of the Native. The two works display Hardy’s deep-felt concern aboutthe natural system. In Far from the Madding Crowd, Hardy offers the peaceful reposeof an idyllic view of rustic England in poetic languages and excellent descriptive art.Here people live at a place called Weatherbury in Wessex area where people areembedded in the stable local ecosystem and depend on nature for harvest andhappiness. In this novel, nature is always interwoven with people’s actions and the twoform an organic whole. Only in the great nature can people enjoy peace and harmony.While Hardy offers realistic description of the pastoral setting in Far from theMadding Crowd, in The Return of the Native, his representation of the naturalimages—the heath, storm, all kinds of plants and animals, is tainted with symbolism.Hardy’s use of symbolism profoundly portrays the personalities and inner world of hischaracters, reflecting the author’s deep thinking of the relation between nature, life andsociety, namely, the natural world holds similarity to our human world and nature is aliving existence of human equality. Chapter Three explores the relation between peopleand nature reflected in Hardy’s novels, which embodies Hardy’s notion of"nonanthropocentrism". Nature is an organic part of the whole ecosystem in whichman is not superior to nature but eaqual to it. Nature is not the slave to mankind, andmankind is not the center of the world. In the two novels, the fates of Hardy’scharacters to a large extent are decided by their relation with nature—people who arealienated from nature receive punishment and those who are close to nature find theirfinal happiness.In a word, people are closely related to nature and their life depend onnature, so human beings should respect nature and return to it. The conclusion comeslast, which summarizes the ecological consciousness implied in Hardy’s works. Globalecological crisis is threatening us all the time, so it is greatly important for readers to reanalyze Hardy’s works through the perspective of ecocriticism in literary research and environmental protection. In the ecological civilization today, Hardy makes us believe that the existence of human beings and nature are interrelated and provides us with useful enlightenment on how to handle the relationship between human and nature. In this way, this paper attempts to use Hardy’s works to arouse readers’ ecological consciousness, which will contribute to the urgent environmental protection.

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