Analysis of Thomas Hardy's Women Characters Dissertation or Thesis by write123

Analysis of Thomas Hardy's Women Characters
A thesis paper analyzing the female characters in Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" and "Jude the Obscure" in the light of feminist criticism.
# 105765 | 19,400 words | 33 sources | MLA | 2008 | US
Published on Jul 17, 2008 in History (British) , Literature (English) , Women Studies (Feminism) , Women Studies (Culture)

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The novels of Thomas Hardy have created intense critical debate and discussion in recent years, especially in terms of post-structuralist and feminist readings and interpretations of the texts. A central focus of this critical and theoretical literary discourse is the apparent ambivalence and ambiguity that many scholars perceive in the works with regard to his attitude towards women and their place in society. This apparent ambiguity in Hardy's presentation of women forms the underlying and central trajectory of thought in this paper and an attempt is made to relate these critical views to the two main texts under discussion; as well as presenting an overall view of the feminist stance as it pertains to the interpretation of the selected texts. A further and equally important dimension of this study is the exploration of the view that Hardy's perception towards women was influenced by the conservative society and times in which he lived. This paper also explores to what extent the writer questioned and opposed the patriarchal views that were dominant in Victorian society at the time. The central core of the present analysis of Hardy's novels is therefore focused on feminist interpretations and critiques of the works in question. More specifically, the feminist critique is involved with the post structuralist and postmodern deconstruction of western society and the interrogation of the constructs and master narratives that inform or create various social attitudes and perceptions of gender. This is an aspect that is developed in the theory section of the present study and is expanded on further in the analysis of the novels. A central fulcrum around which the discussion in this paper revolves is the apparent ambiguities and contradictions in Hardy's works, when seen from a feminist perspective. This paper also attempts to reconcile these two seemingly opposing views of the works to some extent. Another central element in this analysis of Hardy's novels is the focus on the politics of sex and the cultural and social norms and values that played an important part in the view of women and gender discrimination in Victorian society. There is little doubt that Victorian society had a very narrow view of the potential and individuality of women. There are many feminist views, concepts and theoretical constructs that are also incorporated into the analysis of the texts. For example, the importance of the theory that society "politicizes" the female body and the way that the female body is objectified and becomes an "object of desire" rather then a living person. However, throughout this analysis a balance is maintained between the theoretical views and analytical tools that are used by feminist critics and an analysis of the text itself. In other words, the theoretical views are measured against the actual text.

1. Introduction
1.2. Thomas hardy and Victorian society: a brief background.
2. Feminist theory and Hardy
2.1. Modern theoretical trajectories and feminism
2.1. 1. A note on post - structuralism and postmodernism
2.2. Feminist theory and literary criticism
2.3. The Social and cultural context
2. 4. The Male Gaze
3. Tess of the d'Urbervilles
3.1. The problem of Hardy as a feminist novel
3.2. Overview
3.3. Tess and traditional feminist interpretations
3.4. Tess of the D'Urbervilles and sexual politics
3.5. Sexual construction
3.6. The development of Tess and the fight against the 'male gaze'
4. Jude the Obscure
4.1. Introduction and overview
4.2. Brief summary of the novel
4.3. The male world divided from nature
4.4. Arabella
4.5. Sue
5. Conclusion and Assessment
6. Bibliography

From the Paper:

"The most imperative aspect that Mitchell notes is that feminist interpretations are extremely important in an understanding of these works due to the fact that female characters and issues surrounding sexuality and gender form such an important part of almost all of Hardy's novels and cannot be ignored in terms of modern analysis. This may seem like a rather obvious point but in many of Hardy's works the focus is on the female characters as a reflection of and comment on society and the cultural milieu of the novels.
"Sexuality and its ramifications in terms of characters like Tess in Tess of the D'Urbervilles is also an important aspect of contemporary feminist critique that applies to the novels. This is an aspect that is especially important in an analysis of the novels.
"One of the most important early feminist critics of the work of Thomas Hardy is Mary Jacobus (1975). Her work has been focused on the psychological dimensions and representations of Sue Bridehead and the nature of her emancipation, in Jude the Obscure. (Harvey 183)."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Allingham D. The Social Role and Treatment of Women in Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge <>
  • Ardis, Ann L. New Women, New Novels: Feminism and Early Modernism. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1990. Questia. 16 Sept. 2007 <>.
  • Bib M. Tess: A Withered Petal--Hardy's Feminist Thinking in Tess of the
  • D'Urbervilles. September 10, 2007. <>
  • Craik, Roger. "Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles." Explicator 53.1 (1994): 41-43. Questia. 16 Sept. 2007 <>.

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