On Thomas Hardy’s Religious Sense in His Works
文章来源: 文章作者: 发布时间:2008-11-25 08:44 字体: [ ]  进入论坛

On Thomas Hardy’s Religious Sense in His Works


   Abstract: Religion has a profound influence on the works of European and American writers. .From a series works of Thomas Hardy, clearly we can see the influence of The Bible on him .Nevertheless, though Hardy failed to eliminate the limitation of Tragic predestination and religious tradition ,  By the case study analyzing on the works of Thomas Hardy ,this paper makes an research on the distinguished religious sense of  Thomas Hardy as well as its cause of formation.


   Chapter1.Background of Thomas Hardy

   Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) is one of the greatest English poet and novelist between the  18th Century and the 20thcentury(Victorian period).Hardy is famous for his depictions of the imaginary county "Wessex”. Hardy is a cross-century literary giant. Success has masked the Wessex novels left a profound impression. Hardy's work reflected his stoical pessimism and sense of tragedy in human life.(women especially),and of deep changes of social economy, politics, ethics and custom after the invasion of capitalism into the English countryside and towns. They exposed the hypocrisies of the capitalistic ethics, law and religion, which inherited the excellent tradition of realistic criticism as well as exploited a road for English literature in the 20th century. Hardy kept cracking tragedies of Greek and Shakespeare with all his life, and was influenced by the skepticism of neoteric scientific ideology, so that his opinion towards life was pessimistic and fated, and he thought that no matter what kind of degree human

   ciety had developed, human being were unable to get rid of the tricks of the fate. This kind of ideology became a big window for Hardy's writing, and in his works, coincidences were everywhere, nature’s tinge suffused around, environment served as a foil to the roles, and the roles' characters were mixed up  with the environment. These were ingenuities exerted by the writer, in addition, Hardy had worked as an architect in his early time,so his works were written with a style that could be relished again and again. The scenarioes, characters and sceneries of Hardy's works were so fine, perfect, compact and harmonic that few writers could compete with him.

   Chapter 2 Thomas Hardy's Religious Beliefs


   Like so many other major Victorian authors, on his early stage, Thomas Hardy had an important Evangelical phase that left a deep impress on his thought. Examining the text of a sermon clearly marked by "Evangelical style and theology" that the eighteen-year-old Hardy wrote, we can concludes that it provides convincing evidence of Hardy’s already being sympathetic to Evangelicalism by October 1858, his taking sufficiently seriously his so-called “dream” of ordination to practice writing a sermon, and, most significantly, his having a personal faith that was both ardent and orthodox”. This new evidence proves important because it requires rewriting the history of the novelist's religious belief or beliefs.

   Thomas Hardy used to be an architect’s apprentice in Dorchester. At this stage, Hardy studied intensively on the Bible and further inquired into Anglican doctrine on pedobaptism.

   1.2Detailed Research

   Although one his oldest friends, Henry Bastow, an ardent Baptist who emigrated to Australia, long ago claimed that in Hardy had been an Evangelical, scholars have generally dismissed his remarks, largely on the basis of the autobiography. [Www.LunWenNet.Com]"The Hardy of Life and Work" presents his "youthful faith as gentlemanly and unimpassioned, more social that religious, and fundamentally different from the Evangelical — indeed evangelistic — zeal embodied in the sermon. This Hardy presumably never underwent a classic Victorian loss of faith because he never had a sustained, personal faith to lose”. The new evidence paints a very different picture.

   Citing Timothy Hand's 1989 "notable book on Hardy and Christianity," Dalziel lists the novelist's lifelong connections to the orthodox Christianity he was soon to abandon:

   (1)His family's associations with the established church ;

   (2)His lifelong love of church music and the language of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer;

   (3)His continued attending religious services ;

   (4)His poetry's occasional expression longing for belief (e.g. "The Oxen").;

   (5)His conviction that the Church was — and should remain — the social, ethical, and educational center of a community.

   Despite these lifelong connections with the Church of England — connections much firmer and more numerous than most Victorian authors who lost their belief — "Hardy repeatedly articulated both his conviction that the Cause of Things must be unconscious, 'neither moral nor immoral, but unmoral,' and his hope that this Unconscious Will was evolving into consciousness would ultimately become sympathetic”. Nonetheless, Dalziel argues that however far Hardy moved from his Evangelical sermon of 1858, its three main points remain the "central preoccupations" of his life: the emphasis "on the law as curse, on suffering, and on the saving force of love" . She therefore argues that Hardy the atheist remained "profoundly Christian" in many ways.

   However, there are some question remains .if one retains some of the cultural, emotional, and even ethical attitudes of Christianity, as so many Victorian non-believers did, but does not have any faith in a personal god, much less in the divinity of Christ and salvation through him, can these attitudes still be considered Christian? Wouldn't it be less tendentious and a lot more convincing simply to state that Thomas Hardy might have wished he could have remained a Christian, but that he didn't, or that he always retained many ideas and attitudes associated with Christianity (and, of course, with other religions as well) but not the fundamental beliefs that grounded them. Such a characterization of Hardy would seem more true to the Victorian frame of mind that would overemphasizing Hardy's Christian-ness. For me the point remains not that, like so many other Victorians, he retained habits of mind associated with Christianity after he abandoned it but that he abandoned it for a belief in some Unconscious Wi


   Chapter2 Case Study (1): Take Jude the obscure as an example

   2.1 About the novel

  Jude the Obscure was initially published in abridged form in Harper New Monthly under the title Hearts Insurgent between 1894 and 1895, and later published in full in the 1895 edition of Hardy’s works. To say the very least it was poorly received. Perhaps due to such fierce criticism it was Hardy who  last novel before he took to writing only poetry and drama. It is the story of various illicit unions that form themselves around the central character of Jude Fawley, the village mason. He is encouraged by Phillotson, a schoolmaster, to apply for Christminster (representing Oxford University), but as in every part of his life he is tormented by rejection. In this novel, Bridehead (married unhappily to Phillotson) and other chanters have an illicit relationship. However, her contradictory desires prevent their long-term contentedness since she seeks freedom to the cost of love. We learn of the death of Sue and Jude’s children at the hands of Jude’s only child by Arabella since the latter believes none of them

   have the right to live. The novel concerns Jude’s ambition as it is thwarted repeatedly by the squalid nature of a life ruined by poverty and the indecision of others. Like The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D’rbervilles and others the novel ends with the protagonist miserable death that represents only the indecency of fate that causes suffering even or perhaps especially in the pure of heart.[Www_LunWenNet_Com]

   2.2 Religious sense in Jude the Obscure

   In Jude the Obscure, Hardy shows his views on religion and commitment to the Church which were said to have declined in the latter years of his life. (Ingham, xxvii) Throughout the book Hardy displays his feeling that religion is something that people use in order to satisfy themselves by giving their lives' meaning. One instance in which Hardy clearly displays this is when he writes, "It had been the yearning of his heart to find something to cling to." (Ingham, 94) In order to bring out this point Hardy chooses to create Jude as an orphan and has him come from obscure origins. By doing this, he creates a character who is looking for something to give him an identity. As a result of his relationship with Mr. Phillotson (who leaves for Christminster in order to become ordained), he finds religion and feels that he can use it to help him gain an identity. Hardy feels that people should shy away from their old ways of thinking and begin to forma new one.

   In this novel,Jude,is a kind-hearted sentimental young man who fell guilty on every hurt of creatures even a earthworm. Ironically,every such a religious man like Jude failed to get the bless from God. Here, Hardy is telling a truth to readers :God is indifferent with human beings..

   Chapter3 Case Study (2): Take The Return of the Native as an example

   3.1About the Novel

   As one of the master pieces of Tomas Hardy, The Return of the Native(1878) is a story of extremes, of all-consuming passions and fierce ambitions, played out in the vast and overwhelming setting of Egdon Heath. It is a tragedy of ordinary lives: a family quarrel, romantic entanglements and the desire to escape are the elements which are brought together with a life-shattering intensity. Here, all life is a struggle for existence and the working of an apparently malign fate drives the story with a tragic inevitability. A foreboding atmosphere dominates most of the novel, and superstition and pagan rites contribute to the sense of the powerful forces which seem hostile to humanity, yet in control of human destiny.

   Like all of Hardy’s work, The Return of the Native is passionate and controversial, with themes and sympathies beyond what a good Victorian would ever admit. A modern and honest novel of chance and choice, faith and infidelities, this dark story asks what is free will and what is fate? What is the true nature of nature, and how do we fit together? Can we fit together?

   A tragedy set in the barren land of Edgon Heath. Our heroine, Eustacia, is proud, passionate, cruel, fickle, avaricious, and desperate. She burns every life she touches, never able to find the mad love and exotic world she dreams of. Our supposed hero, Clym, is modest, steady, plain, moral, and dutiful. He is satisfied returning from Paris to the simple comfort of home.

   When they come together, the Heath will come apart. Originally released as five books, in classic tragic form, a sixth, tacking on a ‘happy ending’, was added by editor and public pressure

   3.2About the Religious Sense in The Return of the Native

    Thomas Hardy's characters in The Return of the Native live in a world governed by a harsh and indifferent ironic God. Hardy sees the reigning power of the universe as being essentially unjust and morally blind, as in his poem "Hap." Instead of rewarding the good and punishing the evil, this entity presides over a universe in which suffering abounds in the form of a perverse irony. Irony is defined in the Oxford Dictionary of Current English as "a situation that appears opposite to what one expects" (480), and the critic Mary Caroline Richards elaborates by stating that "irony is the issue of an action which is intended to produce one effect (good for the agent) and ends by producing its contrary (disaster for the agent)" (Part One 272). Hardy uses this definition of irony in his works, but M. H. Abrams further delineates his style in A Glossary of Literary Terms by classifying his texts in the category of cosmic irony, wherein "a deity, or else fate, is represented as though deliberately manipulating even

   so as to lead the protagonist to false hopes, only to frustrate or mock them" (137). The ironic deity or guiding principle in Hardy's texts acts as "the mockery of potentiality, intention, and promise by unfulfillment" (Richards, Part Two, 28). Richards argues that Hardy follows various laws set up by the universe that act as the source for human ironies.

   It is the nature of Life to dangle pretty prospects before our eyes--inner and outer--and then to snatch them away ; secondly, the indifference of the Will to justice; thirdly, the universe manifests not only indifferent but cruelty; fourthly,inner potentiality and practical possibility are all out of step; and finally,a gross lack of correspondence between man's nature and the materials of his life results. (34-35)

   In Hardy's fiction and poetry, the "indisputable henchmen of this force [the ironic deity] against man's felicity are Change and Chance" (Richards, Part Two, 25). Hardy's characters live in a world governed by these twin powers, whose influence all too often is for evil, not for good.

   Throughout The Return of the Native, bad things always happen to good people. There is a tragic heroine, Eustacia, is stifled by her environment in the heath and marries Clym Yeobright as an escape, despite his mother's disapproval. Her former lover, Damon Wildeve, spitefully marries Clym's cousin Thomasin in revenge for Eustacia's rejections of his charms. None of these characters is evil, but much misfortune befalls them before the book concludes. There seems to be no justice for the good or mercy for the mistaken. The critic Albert Elliot describes Hardy as having "no desire to explain experience; he wishes only to present it" (12). Although Hardy is often considered a pessimist as a result of his negative view about the possibility for hopefulness in life, he believed that he was merely "treating matters of life just as they were" (Elliot 13). In attempting to represent reality as he saw it, he wrote novels whose plots were heavily influenced by factors of chance and change, often leading to a negative

   nclusion. Hardy did not enjoy witnessing the suffering in the world around him, and "felt sympathy for almost all of his characters; the 'villain' has almost no place in his works" (Richards, Part Two,24) because to him all of humanity is guided by an outside agency and so have little responsibility for the painful outcomes that occur. There is a "tight linking of incidents toward doom" (Elliot 62) and, although The Return of the Native concludes with the happier Sixth Book, the overall tone of the text is an ironic and tragic one. In The Return of the Native, Hardy proves a dismal view of life in which coincidence and accident conspire to produce the worst of circumstance due to the indifference of the Will to issues of equity and justice. Examples of the workings of this agency abound in The Return of the Native, but I have selected two major episodes from the novel to demonstrate the workings of chance and change upon Hardy's characters. The first is the adventures of Mrs. Yeobright's guineas, and the s
   nd her journey across the heath to reunite with her son.

   A key episode in the novel that hinges upon the element of chance begins with Mrs. Yeobright's decision to send a gift of guineas. Her son, Clym, is marrying Eustacia against her wishes, and she hopes that, by offering this gift, she and her son can repair their relationship. The other half of the money is to go to her niece, Thomasin, who has recently married Damon Wildeve, Eustacia's former lover. Unfortunately, Mrs. Yeobright selects as her messenger the inept Christian Cantle, the village simpleton. This ill-considered decision has major ramifications, and ultimately deepens the rift between herself and her son instead of bridging it. Instead of hurrying to the wedding party, Christian attends a raffle with his fellow heath men and happens to win. To the simple man, this occurrence is evidence of newly discovered, infallible luck. He declares: "To think that I should have been born so lucky as this, and not have found it out until now!" (Hardy 175). The naive fellow is so sure of his mastery over chanc

   e t

   hat he agrees to gamble with Damon Wildeve using Mrs. Yeobright's guineas. However, nobody can antipate the actions of Hardy's ironic deity; here, its henchmen Chance and Change work against Christian's supposed "luck." He loses the guineas intended for Thomasin and recklessly continues the game, betting Clym's share in a desperate bid to regain his earlier "luck." He moans, "'I don't care--I don't care!' . . . 'The devil will toss me into the flame on his three-pronged fork for this night's work, I know! But perhaps I shall win yet" (Hardy 179). Instead of withdrawing after losing only Thomasin's money to her husband, the chance of Christian's earlier win at the raffle which goaded him into enter the game prods him to believe that he may yet prevail. The element of coincidence at work in this scene is clear to the reader as the two men are playing with dice, symbols of chance and luck. Accord ing to the laws of probability, each man has an equal chance of winning with each fresh roll of the die, but chanc

   e f
   avours Damon and he wins all of Mrs. Yeobright's precious guineas.

   After Christian has sorrowfully left, Diggory Venn, a former suitor of Thomasin and Damon Wildeve's rival, reveals that he has been observing the dice game from a nearby hiding place. He has overhead the gamblers, and had watched the drama unfold. He challenges Wildeve to extend his winning streak, and the two men play. At first, "The game fluctuated, now in favor of one, now in the favour of the other, without any great advantage on either side" (Hardy 182). However, Lady Luck soon deserts Wildeve. He eventually loses all the coins to Diggory Venn. Venn is unaware that they were to be divided between Clym and Thomasin, and so presents all the guineas to Thomasin. As she did not know the amount of the gift, she does not think to question the precise number of guineas. Through this convoluted chain of events Mrs. Yeobright's hopes for reconciliation are dashed. An examination of the evening's proceedings reveals multiple incidents of change, chance and coincidence. For instance, on all of the great heath, D


   ory Venn happens upon the two men quietly playing their game. When their lamp runs out, there are convenient glow worms nearby to light the game. As Christian won the earlier raffle and asked if he could keep the winning dice, he provided the materials for his downfall. Christian success in winning the raffle at all is perhaps the greatest example of chance. Thomas Hardy's characters are manipulated though links of unfortunate events towards the worst possible outcome. Even when chance appears to favor someone, such as Christian winning the raffle prize, it really is a two-fold cruelty on the part of the universe. The prize is a woman's dress, which the bashfully, socially inept man has no use for as no woman will have him, and his naive belief in his luck causes him to fail at carrying out Mrs. Yeobright's instructions.

   The second set of proceedings that I shall examine for the influence of chance and change is set into motion by Christian Cantle's failure to deliver Mrs. Yeobright's wedding gift of guineas to her son or to tell her of his mistake. This situation drives mother and son father apart as she believes Clym received the gift but made no gesture of thanks. Eventually, she decides once more to attempt a reconciliation with her son and his new wife, and again Hardy's philosophy of how change and chance conspire to cause human suffering comes into play. The day Mrs. Yeobright chooses to make her journey is unseasonably warm, resulting in a difficult expedition:

   In cool, fresh weather Mrs. Yeobright would have found no inconvenience in walking to Alderworth, but the present torrid attack made the journey a heavy undertaking for a woman past middle age. (Hardy 215)

   As she approaches her son's home, she sees a furze-cutter up ahead on the path and reflects that "'His walk is almost exactly as my husband's used to be'" (Hardy 217). In a burst of understanding, she discovers Clym's current state. Since he has been married, incessant studying has caused him to become partially blind, and to bring in an income he has turned to the physical labour of furze cutting. Her beloved, well-educated son who was formerly a prosperous businessman is now an incapacitated common laborer. A difference of minutes could have delayed her discovery and disappointment but to be true to Hardy's vision of life, she must witness her son and see him enter his home.

   After resting outside his house (just long enough for her tired son to fall deeply asleep), she sees a man enter her son's house. It is Damon Wildeve, Eustacia's former lover, and when Mrs.Yeobright knocks on the door she interrupts their discussion. Afraid of incurring her mother-in-law's wrath, Eustacia decides to withdraw to the back of the house with Damon, assuming her sleeping husband will wake and allow his mother to enter. As they left, "they could hear Clym moving in the other room, as if disturbed by the knocking, and he uttered the word 'Mother'" (Hardy 222). However, the 'conjuncture' that Clym will awake and let in his mother, as Hardy labels it in his chapter title, is incorrect, and Mrs. Yeobright sorrowfully leaves her son's house. Having seen him enter and Eustacia look from a window at her, she is convinced that her son's new wife has poisoned her son's mind against her and comments, "'If they only showed signs of meeting my advances half way how well it might have been done!'" (Hardy 224
   The readers know that Mrs. Yeobright's belief is unfounded--although Eustacia did make the faulty assumption that Clym would answer the door, she did not act with malicious forethought. However, Hardy's powerful chance denies Mrs. Yeobright and Clym a reunion, and the distraught mother begins the long and hot journey home. She randomly encounters a young village boy on the heath and confides to him that she is "'a broken-hearted woman cast off by her son'" (Hardy 225). Mrs. Yeobright soon collapses on the heath from exhaustion, the heat, and disappointment.

   Meanwhile, Clym wakes with no knowledge of what has occurred. While Eustacia is sorry and apprehensive of Clym's anger when she realizes that she has unwittingly turned away his mother, she decides not to tell him of his mother's visit. Once again, irony intrudes when Clym decides that he ought to attempt a reconciliation with his mother. If he had only made this decision a day earlier, then the entire incident could have been avoided. Mrs. Yeobright would not have undergone her trial in the eat or experienced what she thought was a rejection at the hands of her son and his merciless new wife. As Clym journeys to his mother's home, he discovers her prostrate body on the heath. Although he does prevent her from dying alone, she has been bitten by an adder and expires during the night without regaining full consciousness and being reunited with Clym. Even worse, her young companion arrives on the scene to inform Clym of his mother's last words.
   After Mrs. Yeobright's death, Clym becomes ill as "Despair had been added to his original grief by the unfortunate disclosure of the boy who had received the last words of Mrs. Yeobright (Hardy 239). Clym's ramblings dramatically illustrate his tortured state of mind:

   “'I cannot help feeling I did my best to kill her… My conduct to her was too hideous--I made no advances; and she could not bring herself to forgive me. Now she is dead! If I had only shown myself willing to make it up to her sooner”. (Hardy 239)

   Clym blames himself for her death and their failure at reconciliation. To Eustacia, who knows herself truly guilty for not letting in Mrs. Yeobright and therefore avoiding her death and facilitating a reconciliation, listening to Clym's self-denouncing speeches are agony. After monologues such as these, "There escaped from Eustacia one of those shivering sighs which used to shake her like a pestilent blast" (Hardy 239), but she cannot bring herself to tell the truth. Elliott describes Hardy's female heroines by saying, "They are undecided about telling it [their secret], and usually wait until confession only leads to disaster" (96). Eustacia's death and downfall could still have been avoided if she had immediately confessed to Clym after he woke on the day of his mother's visit and begged forgiveness. However, she stays proud and silent and Clym discovers the truth on his own, causing an irreparable breach between them due to her deceit.
   All these events are guided by chance and chance to the worst possible outcome-death, and no reconciliation. If Mrs. Yeobright were not as elderly--if Clym had not fallen into such a deep sleep-if Wildeve had not come to the house--then the tragedy could have been avoided. However, all of these events did occur, proving to the reader that human "potentialities for happiness, satisfactions, [and] Good are seldom fully exercised" (Richards, Part Two, 270) by the universe's guiding force. The "shocking discrepancy between what happens and what should happen if Right prevailed in the world" (Richards, Part Two, 274) is brutally prevailed in Hardy's texts. When Clym discovers the part Eustacia played in his mother's demise, the two have a horrific fight and she eventually decides to fly to Paris, where she has always hoped to live, with her old lover Damon Wildeve. They will each abandon their spouses and live together. Their flight, however, is interrupted by a horrific storm and Eustacia plunges into the weir

   , w
   hether by suicide or accident. Damon and Clym leap into the water to save her, but both Damon and Eustacia perish


   The Will is "blind and distributes good or bad without regard to merit" (Chapman 146) in Hardy's novels. Eustacia and Wildeve, Clym and Thomasin are all good people without evil intent. It is through misunderstanding and unfortunate coincidence that events drive Eustacia to her death and Wildeve to follow her. Clym's promising life has completely changed direction at the conclusion of the text, and he is now a roaming preacher on the heath. Of the principle characters in the book, only Diggory Venn and Thomasin find happiness. But because of some incredible coincidence, events could have unfolded in a completely different manner. Hardy would insist that his vision is true to life because the higher power does indeed influence humanity's life for the worse, using its agents of chance, change and coincidence. Unlike many other novels, The Return of the Native shows the workings of higher deity but does not offer the "assurance of a continuing restored stability or an explanation of why things are as they are

   " (
   Chapman 153). Other Victorian authors often preferred to end their novels with a happy coincidence, restoring right to the world and humanity's faith in providential justice. Hardy did not see that justice in the world around him, and so it is absent in this text. The ironic contradiction between what is and what ought to be reverberates The Return of the Native, marbling the characters' lives with 'if only's'. Various instruments of fate influence his characters' lives as he believed influenced all of humanity's, and this tragic novel lends great insight into Hardy's philosophy of the workings of our own world.

   Chapter4 Conclusion

   Therefore, a perspective can be concluded: the unique religious sense influenced Thomas Hardy’s work heavily. Check out the literary experience of Thomas Hardy, the author was changed to the suspicion from firmly believing on God, and turned in the irony and satire in the end. The hardness and bitterness of common people make Hardy realized that the common people can never be rescued by the “Almighty God’, not to say of getting rid of the miserable real life they have. As a result, Hardy put all his desire and will not to current life but the future lone, Not to God but to human beings. And in the late years, Hardy also shows a rebellion on God. He Declared that God not help him to complete his career, he would not make his dream come true unless by his own sweat-taking struggles.   


   [1]Shou-hua Qi,Voice in Tragic Harmony: Essays on Thomas Hardy’s Fiction and Poetry [M]Shanghai :Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press,2001

   [2]Dale Kramer, The Cambridge companion to Thomas Hardy [M] Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press,2000

   [3] Hardy. Thomas: Jude the obscure [M]. The Foreign Language Press, 1994.

   [3] Hardy. Thomas: e [M]. The Foreign Language Press, 1994.

   [4]Northrop Frye , Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays [M] .Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973.


   [6]张玲,晶体美之所在:哈代小说数面观[J]外国文学评论,1995, (2).

   [7]托马斯•哈代, 还乡,张谷若译[Z ] 北京:人民文学出社,1984

   [8]李迎丰.无名的裘德:一个分裂的文本[J].国外文学, 2000, (3).