The research for and writing of this thesis began with my interest in prior scholars’ comments on Hardy’s tragic view of life and past studies in which his views of nature as well as the character flaws of his tragic figures are discussed. Upon examination, it can be seen that Hardy’s tragic vision is closely connected with Victorian society. Hence, we probe into the historical background and social conventions, including the institution of marriage, the influence of the surrounding environment, class structure, industrialization, urbanization, and gender bias. It becomes clear that Hardy’s tragic vision can be understood from three angles: marriage, environment, and fate.
The aspects explored in marriage include traditional marriage conventions, wife selling, and double standard gender roles. This writer’s view is that traditional marriage goes against human nature and its defects are what lead to sham marriages. Next, wife selling was not an uncommon occurrence in the Victorian society, the root cause being the double standard gender roles that existed in that society, its unfair divorce laws and the increase in trans-Atlantic population exchange. Concerning the environment, among the components of the Victorian morality, the strict social norms and codes of conduct contributed to the practice of self-denial and a self-defeating disposition, with the result that people repressed their feelings and acted against their own nature. The socio-economic environment of the industrial revolution worsened social class gaps. Finally, the religious environment was unfavorable to the common people, and suspicion and distrust towards organized religion was obvious. As expressed in my fourth chapter, Hardy’s tragic outlook encompasses the idea of the laws of nature, coincidence, repetition and fate. Nature is seen as indifferent and treacherous. Again, the recurrence of certain events forces people to go through the same bitter experience over and over again. In addition, Mother Nature’s cruelty and indifference can affect the fate of a character, thereby causing a change from good to bad fortune. Finally, his tragic vision echoes Aristotle’s ideas of tragedy. The last chapter concludes that Hardy’s tragic vision is a mode of experience. Tragedy permeates historical episodes, emotional memories, and cultural discourse, since all of society is interwoven. Hardy’s tragic vision resorts to rationality and reveals some aspects of truth. His tragic vision is decided by his awareness and questioning when encountering an event in which the emotional and spiritual development is what matters. That is why his tragic figures show strong ethically commendable behaviors. On the other hand, Hardy’s pessimism can be interpreted as arising from his sensitivity to people’s suffering against the uncaring force of destiny.