Hardy’s Tragic Vision
Thomas Hardy has developed his own form of tragedy. He, simultaneously, is against Aristotle and Shakespeare with regard to write a tragedy. He does not follow the rules of tragedy as defined by Aristotle nor does he follow Shakespeare. Aristotelian tragedy is a template for every writer, who wants to be a tragedian but Hardy ignores it. His approach is pessimistic; therefore, he is excessively different from common writers of tragedy. He mixed the modern and ancient form of tragedies. His tragedies are realistic but he portrays the pathos of humans. How a person respond to his fate is the topic of his novels. Most of the characters of hardy are not tragic but sympathetic. Typically, Hardy’s novels are full of artificial coincidences, which ruin the real taste of tragedy. He is considered a tragedian but he is vastly different from many writers.
Thomas Hardy’s novels are flooded with pessimism. Like Greece writers, his tragedies are also based on fate and coincidences. Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero is that; he must have hamartia due to which he should suffer but Hardy does not consider it a good rule of tragedy. In his tragedies, characters are not responsible for their destruction but it is fate and chances, which are answerable for the downfall of the protagonist. Thomas Hardy’ vision is that men are puppets in the hands of God and thus everything is dependent on luck.Hardy’s tragedy can be concluded in these ingredients; events, chances, coincidences and fate. If these elements are combined then it can be termed as Hardian Tragedy.Aristotle has defined the rule of hamartia so that the feelings of pit and fear can be aroused but Hardy’s tragic heroes are dependent on circumstances, therefore, they can get mere sympathy from the readers. Hardy was not a misanthrope but according to him onus of every action can be placed on fate, chances and circumstances. Chances and fate dominate the freewill of characters in Hardy’s novels. Thus, unlike common writers, Hardy’s characters have less tragic flaws. In contrast to Hardy’s vision, example of Shakespeare is in front of us; his characters are fully responsible for their crimes but it is not the case with Hardy. He molded the form of tragedy as per his own visualization. His characters does not fight only with society but also with their fate. Usually, their fight ends in failure. They cannot win from their fortune and ultimately meet their destruction. Aristotelian concept of tragedy was ignored by Thomas Hardy, as his characters are powerless in front of luck. Every time, fate dominates the freewill and the character is compelled to take such steps, which leads him to his annihilation.Most of the time, characters are innocent and suffers without any fault of their own. Due to lack of tragic flaw, Hardy’s tragedies does not shake the faith of people as required by Aristotle. We consider Hardy’s characters as sympathetic persons, who are miserable because of their powerlessness. Hence, if the character is not responsible for his destruction then it cannot arise the feeling of pity and fear.
Another important element of Hardy’s tragedy is his choice of characters. Hardy’s characters are neither kings nor upper class people. Lower class has been portrayed by him. Tess is clear example of it, as she is a standard woman of a communal society. Hardy’s characters belong to lower class. Another example is of Euctacia, who is also from lower class in “Return of the Native”. It is also another important ingredient of tragedy, mentioned by Aristotle, which has been ignored by Thomas Hardy.
Another modification, in tragedy, by Thomas Hardy is ending of novels. It is harsh to say that ending of the Hardy’s novels is fatal. He does not do justice with tragedy. Most of the time, his characters meet death and their death is miserable as there is no lessen in it. Only sympathy is not enough for tragedy in the eyes of Aristotle. A tragedy must shake faith and Hardy’s novels do not fulfil this requirement. His ending is not justified as compared to successful writers of her era like George Eliot, therefore, also from this point of view; he is different from other tragedians.
Hardy’s work defines his vision of tragedy. For instance, “The Return of Native” is successful tragedy of Thomas Hardy, which defines his tragic vision. He has painted characters from rural life and tried to show that they have no control on their actions, therefore, they are not responsible for any wrongdoings. Clym Yeobright, the protagonist of the novel, suffers because of chances and coincidences. Same is the case with Euctacia; she is also dominated by her fate; although she has moral flaws yet they are not enough for justification of her catastrophe. Many of the events of this novel are ironical as they are different from what is expected. Hardy has created chances not to do something good for his characters but every time they have negative impact on the plot and characters. For instance, in the same novel, when Mrs. Yeobright reaches at the door of his son’s house for reconciliation; Demon Wildive at the same time reaches there and simultaneously, Clym, in sleep, uttered the word “mother”; Euctacia, expects that Clym has awaken from sleep and will open the door for his mother but he did not do it. Feeling aggrieved, Mrs. Yeobright returns to her home and on the way, a ladder bites her, which causes death on the spot. The whole scene is dependent on fate and chances and characters can hardly be blamed, as they are not directly responsible for the unexpected occurrences.
To conclude, Hardy has his own vision regarding tragedy. He is pessimist and defined life as misery, therefore, his tragic view is different from common writers. Although, he did not follow Shakespeare or Aristotle’s rules, in writing tragedies, yet he is successful in imitating life. He is successful in depicting human pathos. He is popular in creating new form of tragedy. He defines what he sees with pessimistic approach and he is master in it.We cannot say that his tragedies are defected but it is his style of writing tragedies, which make him a successful tragedian of Victorian period.