Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2013

Thesis Advisor(s)

Eleni Coundouriotis

Honors Major



Literature in English, British Isles


A surface reading of any of Thomas Hardy's novels of the fictional world of Wessex- the south-England county based on the real-life counties of Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Berkshire, and Hampshire- invites readers to revel in the silly quandaries of the villagers, farmers, malsterers, and labourers that populate this idyllic, pastoral world with quaint phrases, delectable dialects, and jovial camraderies. Even when Hardy’s vision is deeply tragic, he maintains an interest in a colorful, and sometimes even comic, cast of bucolic people. A closer reading of Hardy, however, challenges readers to chart the changing course of agricultural labour in mid to late nineteenth century Britain. Though many of Hardy's novels demonstrate the contrast in opportunities, attitudes, and atmosphere of the mid to late nineteenth century rural Englander, an analysis of his first major success, Far from the Madding Crowd, and his scandalous depiction of a "pure woman," Tess of the D'Urbervilles, presents an intriguing comparison of changing times and characters. This project serves as an analysis of the agrarian figure in these novels, focusing on Hardy's portrayal of the changing identity of the countryman in response to the altering agricultural landscape, class structure, and gender expectations of mid to late nineteenth century Britain, and seeks to encourage an analytical reading of Hardy, an understanding of the rural Englander of his time, and an appreciation for the artistic and compelling way he describes the privileges and plights of Wessex's myriad personalities.