Thomas Hardy a pessimist or a realist?

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles is a notable literary work by Thomas Hardy. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of Tess of the d'Urbervilles.


Would you call Hardy a pessimist? Justify your answer with reference to Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

Or, Discuss Hardy’s pessimistic view is evident in Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

Or, Would you call Thomas Hardy a pessimist or a realist? Give reasons for your answer in the light of Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

Or, Do you like to consider Hardy a pessimist? If so, argue.

Thomas Hardy‘s (1840-1928) “Tess of the D’Urbervilless,” published in 1891, is a novel that unmistakably reflects the author’s pessimistic view of life and society. Hardy employs various narrative elements throughout the story to highlight human existence’s inherent darkness and tragic nature. Below is a discussion of how Hardy’s pessimistic perspective is evident in the novel:

The Tragic Fate of Tess: The novel’s central theme is Tess’s tragic fate. From the beginning, Hardy portrays Tess as a victim of circumstances beyond her control. Her life is marked by suffering, hardship, and emotional turmoil. Despite her efforts to improve her situation, Tess’s path is ultimately filled with tragedy and despair. It emphasizes life’s cruel and unpredictable nature.

The Role of Fate and Chance: Throughout the novel, Hardy emphasizes the role of fate and chance in shaping human lives. Tess’s discovery of her noble lineage, which leads her to seek the D’Urbervilles family for assistance, is a turning point that sets the tragic events in motion. Hardy suggests that external forces beyond control determine life’s outcomes.

Societal Injustice and Hypocrisy: Hardy exposes the injustices and hypocrisy prevalent in Victorian society. Tess’s social status and gender make her vulnerable to exploitation and judgment by others. Angel’s double standards and Alec’s preying nature reinforce Hardy’s pessimistic view.

Despite having had affairs himself, Angel struggles to forgive Tess’s past. Angel says,

“Forgiveness does not apply to the case. You were one person; now you are another. My God—how can forgiveness meet such a grotesque—prestidigitation as that?”

It showcases a society where the disadvantaged suffer and the privileged escape consequences.

Nature’s Indifference to Human Suffering: Nature, a recurring scene in the novel, reflects Hardy’s belief in its indifference to human suffering. The descriptions of the natural world often juxtapose with the characters’ emotional turmoil. This suggests that human existence is a struggle in the universe’s grand scheme.

The Prevalence of Tragic Flaws: The characters in the novel are portrayed with flaws that contribute to their tragic fates. Tess’s inherent purity and naivety expose her to manipulation, while Angel’s idealism and stubbornness lead to his inability to forgive and understand Tess fully.

“Why didn’t you tell me there was danger in men-folk? Why didn’t you warn me?” – Tess to her mother after the encounter with Alec, Chapter 10.

These flaws and circumstances result in tragic outcomes, supporting Hardy’s pessimistic perspective on human nature.

Cyclical Nature of Tragedy: The novel depicts a cyclical pattern of tragedy, wherein characters seem destined to repeat their mistakes. The sins of the past continue to haunt the present, implying that human beings are trapped in a cycle of suffering and inevitability.

Lack of Redemption: Hardy’s pessimism is further evident in the lack of redemption for his characters. Even when they attempt to change their circumstances or seek forgiveness, their efforts are often futile. Tess’s struggles to escape her past and find happiness are repeatedly blocked. It leads to hopelessness and despair.

In conclusion, Thomas Hardy‘s “Tess of the D’Urbervilless” reflects the author’s pessimistic view of life and society. Through the tragic fate of Tess and the portrayal of societal injustices, Hardy emphasizes the inherent darkness and despair in human existence.