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How does Hardy highlight the conflict between social convention and natural humanity in his novel, Tess of the dUrbervilles?

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Introduction

Lucy Anderson How does Hardy highlight the conflict between social convention and natural humanity in his novel, Tess of the d?Urbervilles? Tess of the d?Urbervilles is a classic nineteenth century novel that explores the conflict between social convention and natural humanity. Social conventions are the unwritten rules, regulations and expectations of society; whereas natural humanity is about taking each individual situation separately and acting humanely with compassion and sympathy. Social convention may encourage one to look disapprovingly on a guest who is inappropriately dressed at a wedding, whereas natural humanity would look at the individual?s circumstances, perhaps recognise that her or she is unable to afford expensive clothes and would just be glad that the guest came. In this essay I will be exploring the conflict between social convention and natural humanity in Hardy?s novel Tess of the D?Urbervilles, focusing specifically on Hardy?s protest against the industrialisation of England at the time. Hardy?s contemporaries found the novel and its messages shocking and it was banned at first. Hardy then published an ?apology? as a preface to the novel which was ?sent out in all sincerity of purpose? so as not to offend the reader, but to tell them of the need for the book and of the importance of the issues he addresses. This is why Hardy could not be more explicit when writing Tess of the d?Urbervilles, particularly the sexual scene with Alec in the forest. ...read more.

Middle

Hardy is suggesting that Tess? lesser state is still one of immense beauty and that beauty can be found in the simplest people and environment. The day break elevates her era further as there are not many people who are still beautiful when the revel light hits them. Although it is not directly stated in this extract, it is clear from the description that at this point in the novel Tess is at her happiest. Her feelings for her husband-to-be, Angel Clare, are surfacing and she is falling in love while surrounded by other dairy workers who thrive in the natural setting. Her marriage to Angel looks like it is to be perfect and eternal, Tess? previous encounter with Alec, however, comes back to haunt her. The landscape here is very fragile and could be destroyed very easily, like Tess? happiness and the environment of England. In contrast, the second extract I have chosen describes life at Flintcomb Ash, an industrialised farm where nature has no foothold to be able to assert itself. The very name of the farm, connoting hard, abrasive flint and the dirty, burned ash of a furnace, evokes a harsh and unsympathetic environment. Society?s idea of ?progress? is shown here through the malignant environment, battling against and conquering nature. Throughout the whole extract everything is described as being rushed and unsustainable by humans. ...read more.

Conclusion

obviously than anywhere else in the novel as it is what he truly feels about industrialisation and the removal of traditional methods. Significantly, Flintcomb Ash, which represents industrialisation, is where Tess suffers the most in the novel. She is rejected by her true love, Angel, and continually pursued by Alec, for whom she has no feelings other than dread. Hardy?s intentions when writing this novel were to protest about the impact of social conventions at the expense of natural humanity. Hardy made the point that man-made, industrialised forces were imposing on God?s perfect, natural land and everything linked with nature. He also made people aware, especially his upper class readership, that they had no right to treat people of lower classes with disrespect and prejudice. Hardy uses the example of Tess being overpowered by Alec and then condemned by society to make this point. Hardy makes these protests less directly than a modern reader might expect to reduce the offence and anger it would inevitably cause to the upper classes, his very readers. Through the analysis of these two extracts, it is obvious that Hardy was shocked and angered by the ever more threatening industrialisation of farming and the ruination of the beautiful, natural and calm landscape in which he lived. He shows this through the contrast between the pain and suffering that is felt by both Tess and the natural environment when she is at Flintcomb Ash, and her happiness and fulfilment whilst at Talbothay?s Dairy. ...read more.

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