«Introduction..2 - 10 Chapter One: Evangelical Principles and Hardy’s Fiction.11 - 36 Chapter Two: Nature, the Law and Christian Ethics in The ...»
No warnings loom, nor whisperings To open out my limitings, And Nescience mutely muses: When a man falls he lies. (45 - 48) The absence of a response that would furnish the necessary knowledge the poet seeks in a sign leaves him to conclude that there is no life after death. Yet as is usual with Hardy, this assertion is subverted by the statement that it is “Nescience” or lack of knowledge which makes the statement: “When a man falls he lies.” There is an underlying hint that true knowledge may have led him to a different conclusion.
Ultimately Hardy resigns himself to the fact that his questions will remain unanswered. In “A Dream Question” Hardy refers to God as “the Inscrutable, the Hid,” acknowledging that God is unfathomable and that the meaning of life and death, suffering and pain will always be shrouded in mystery. Hardy’s art delineates his mental pilgrimage toward an enlightenment that he wished to achieve but which eluded him to the very end of his life.
In his book Dying to Know. Scientific Epistemology and Narrative in Victorian England, George Levine entitles his chapter on Thomas Hardy “I think therefore I’m doomed”.
This could perhaps be rephrased to read “I doubt, therefore I am doomed” to illustrate that Hardy’s fatalistic philosophy of life and the doomed characters and universe he creates in his novels can possibly be attributed to the influence exerted by Biblical principles on his Stotko 58 imagination. Hardy’s fiction and poetry appear to contain elements of Genesis and the Mosaic Law. His work also reflects the doubt that his agnostic leanings caused, which pertains to the supernatural and miraculous described in the gospels. Unlike his contemporaries Swinburne and Edmund Gosse, Hardy was unable to reject Biblical theology in its entirety. Unlike George Eliot and Mrs Humphrey Ward, he did not reinvent Christianity to suit the modern framework. Uniquely, he struggled to map out humanity’s search for happiness on earth. If the laws of the universe followed the pattern laid out in the Old Testament, and the Biblical plan for salvation from the curse on humankind and nature proved untrue, then it would follow that the universe and its inhabitants were doomed. Hardy’s deep pessimism is possibly the result of his interpretation of these fundamental Biblical issues.
The compassionate and sensitive way that Gaskell and Eliot treat their characters, contrasts sharply with Hardy’s treatment of his characters and illustrates how his “negative metaphysics” influenced him as a writer. Particularly Jude and Tess indicate that Hardy’s characters are subjected to pitiless universal laws of suffering and death. They are deprived of a free will and there is no possibility of redemption through mercy. The public outrage that Jude produced (Life 2: 39) reflected, amongst other things, the Victorian reading population’s resistance to the unsparing ruthlessness of the author. Even Hardy’s friend Swinburne was so affected by Jude that he wrote to Hardy “How cruel you are. Only the great and awful father of Pierette and L’Enfant Maudit was ever so merciless to his children” (Life. 2 :40).
Hardy himself describes Jude as “my poor puppet” (Life. 2: 41). It can be argued that the absence of hope, contentment or amelioration in Hardy’s novels marks him as a Maker of doom.
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