My Favourite Novelist
Of many novelists who have interested me because of their deep insight into human nature, the graphic descriptions they have provided in their works about life, and the striking true-to-life characterization. Thomas Hardy has appealed to me the most. In fact, his novels, several of them real masterpieces have impressed me so much that I read and re-read them even long after I went through them for the first time in my college days. Each time I read them I find something new and even more appealing than before. In my opinion, Thomas Hardy remains unmatched till today, long after the peak of his fame. His novels of various lengths, including the shorter ones, will, I think never get stale like Shakespeare’s plays. Hardy’s novels retain their freshness of approach and their topicality so that they might as well have been written last year or the year before. He was in essence a novelist of human suffering and of situations created by fate.
The great admiration I have for Hardy is, I think, shared by millions of people. In this connection I would like to recall the letter sent to him by over 100 of his young admirers during the last phase of his career-on his 81st birthday, to be more precise. The letter said in part: “In your novels and poems you have given us a tragic vision of life which is informed by your knowledge of the character and relieved by the charity of your humor and sweetened by your sympathy with human suffering and endurance. We have learned from you that the proud heart can subdue the hardest fate, even in submitting to it. In all that you have written, you have shown the spirit of man, nourished by tradition and sustained by pride, persisting through defeat.”
Hardy was true of life, believed in coincidence and human hardship for his themes but was realistic, not a visionary. He based his novels on real life situations, but there is no doubt that he was essentially a pessimist, rarely does a note of optimism run through his works. But when we come to think of it, life is indeed a curious and hard combination of odd situations, not full of fun and frolic. Thomas Hardy had himself suffered for many years and witnessed many tragic developments like most other novelists, he earnestly described what he was. He was truly a countryman and the area be covered was a part of rural England, though he altered the names of localities to avoid close identification. Some of his famous novels are; “Tess of the D’ Urbervilles, “The Mayor of Caster Bridge”, “Far from the Madding Crowd”, “A Pair of Blue Eyes”, “Under the Green Wood Tree”, “Jude the Obscure”, and ” The Woodlanders”. Among his short stories “The Ironic of Life” has impressed me most, each story in this collection highlights some strange but ironic and tragic coincidence leading to situations which make the reader shake his head in dismay and often bring tears in his eyes. And yet the reader never gets the impression that the situation so realistically portrayed is artificial, and not likely to happen in real life. Hardy’s novels indicate an acute consciousness of class, and it is believed by his critics and reviewers that in at least some of his works there is a distinct touch of autobiography. For most years of his life, he lived in rural surroundings and became acquainted with the vigours as well as the gains of a farmer’s life and work. No wonder he dealt in many of his novels with “local hearts and heads”. Whenever private tragedy plunged him into a period of gloom and despair, he sat down to write out the story, of course with additional material based on what he had heard or read.
A remarkable quality of Hardy’s work is to keep up the interest of anyone who reads them. In spite of the occasional digressions and incursions into the world of philosophy, calm reflections on the ways of the world the breaks in the narrative to discuss the similarity of situations, there is deep, live interest and hard and dull moment. Hardy was apparently a serious and earnest writer rather than a profound or original thinker. But he never imitated any writer, and his method of presentation was unique and fresh, never state or traditional. Most of his characters and strong-willed countrymen and countrywomen, occasionally disciplined by the compulsion of agricultural life. At times he also introduces visitors from urban areas, and some of them play an important part in certain novels, but the background is mostly rustic and the dialogue, by and large, is couched in terms that are related to farming and village life. The touches of humor are also rustic, reflected in the innocent expression of some of the characters for instance, “Tess” survives its faults splendidly; it is the tragedy of a heroic girl. Many of Hardy’s novels are novels of character, some of the environment. In others, he responds to the tension of his times. But in all cases the deeply emotional expressions, the mastery over the English language, the variety of themes and expression, the appeal to the heart and the mind, the emotive situations resulting from mere chance, the art of avoiding superfluous words-all these and much more make Thomas Hardy a great and gifted craftsman of novels of high quality and immense appeal, unmatched in many ways.