The Figure of the Child in the Novels of Thomas Hardy
Pearce, Jessica Louise
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This study looks at the figure of the child in the novels of Thomas Hardy. It argues that Hardy, in his various presentations of the child, draws on mythologies generated by the figure of the child in the nineteenth century. The introduction describes the existence and proliferation of these mythologies during the time in which Hardy was writing. It summarizes representations of the child in history, science and literature, and reviews existing critical literature on the topic. The study comprises six chapters. The first looks at babies and young children, the second at Jude the Obscure, the third at Tess of the D’Urbervilles, the fourth at pregnant women and the fifth at the child within the family unit. The final chapter uses close reading to provide a re-evaluation of two of Hardy’s ‘minor’ novels. Each chapter draws on specific historical contexts to reveal different aspects of the child myth. The study as a whole looks at the different ways in which Hardy uses the myth. At times he participates in it, or appears to, while at others he exposes it, or employs it to expose class and gender divisions in nineteenth century society. Ultimately, Hardy acknowledges the power of the child myth in literature and in society, while simultaneously recognising it as a fallacy that is both inaccurate and dangerous.
PhD in English