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"Compare George Eliot's treatment of religion in Middlemarch with Thomas Hardy's in Tess of the d'Urbervilles".

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Introduction

"Compare George Eliot's treatment of religion in Middlemarch with Thomas Hardy's in Tess of the d'Urbervilles" As what now seems to be the throwback of a bygone era, religion was a massive issue at the time both of the novels I am looking at were written. There was much controversy surrounding the great 'catholic question' as well as many other doubts that were beginning to eat away at what was once such a dominant force. Religion in both Middlemarch and Tess is reflective of its situation at the time. But in both novels religion is treated very differently, used in diverse ways, in both the advancement of plot, but also where the authors own views on religion are concerned. In order to convey their views religion is not just used in its own form, but it is also represented through the characters, and in turn the characters are actually embodied by the religious route they choose, and the religion they follow. As a way of advancing plot lines religion is also employed, through deciding the fate of characters, or in terms of the whole society at the time. Both novels authors had specific views on the subject, and these are apparent when reading the novels, as they use them almost ...read more.

Middle

The religion at the time was Evangelicalism, a form of religion, which allowed people to sin, and as long as they repented they would not be doomed to the fearful kingdom of Hell. This however did not seem to be nearly enough for Eliot, who talks negatively of the lack of lenience shown towards any sensuous indulgence by the church, 'the Vincys had the readiness to enjoy, the rejection of all anxiety, and the belief in life as a merry lot, which made a house exceptional in most county towns at that time, when Evangelicalism had cast a certain suspicion as of a plague-infection over the few amusements which had survived in the provinces.' Her use of religion is also used to depict how the different characters see it. It is typical of Bulstrode, who was once a steadfast non-conformist that he is now a member of the established Anglican Church. Farebrother's liberal, humane approach to religion makes him a favourite character in the book. He and the Garths have been called a "moral centre" of the novel as they are shown to be clear about their principles, their limitations and are modest and warm-hearted. ...read more.

Conclusion

Such lack of sympathy makes us look critically at institutions that profess to be for human good but that have little to do with human needs or feelings. So we see how the two separate incidences canvas the growing disease of not only Hardy, but from a society in change, where religion is no longer on the untouchable pedestal it once was. It is still an indomitable force nonetheless, but it is beginning to come under scrutiny. It is also a criticism of Hardy that religion has been ruined by the people who wield it, such as Alec using it for purely selfish reasons making a mockery out of it, and also the local parson being overly strict with the laws and not showing any human compassion. Both authors have a strict stance on religion, and both utilise it to a large effect in their novels. Hardy seems far more damning of religion than Eliot, who although faltering in her faith still tries to upkeep some of the faith that is slowly being waned by the scientists and critics at the time. In neither book does it dominate though, something that shows it is no longer the all important force it once was even then. ...read more.

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