Thomas Hardy's Style of Writing

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      Poetic style. Hardy is primarily a poet, and nowhere does he have more claims for his recognition as a poet in his fiction than in the imaginative use of style. Here the poet is at his best. His poetic genius coupled with the power of employing imaginative words and phrases has made poetry of his prose. The themes which Hardy employs in his novels are again essentially poetic, as the element of sorrow has always been a spur to the imagination.

      Subjectivity. As a poet, Hardy is subjective, and this quality of subjectivity is abundantly found in the style of Hardy. He feels: “The secret of living style lies in not having too much style—in being a little careless, or seeming to be, here and there.” Here Hardy's instinct is perhaps correct, for an excess of care in the use of style would check the writer from expressing his best self. As such Duffin calls this style of Hardy as “essentially of the philosophic type.” As Lord David Cecil puts it, “You could never mistake a paragraph by Hardy for a paragraph by anybody else. The distinguishing elements in his personality—his integrity, his naivete, his dignity, his strangeness—are present in the turn of his phrases, and to smooth his sentences out into a polished level of perfection would involve obliterating the mark of Hardy's signature.”.

      Style to suit situation. The style of Hardy varies from place to place to suit the mode of the author. He may be clumsy and coarse yet he is imaginative and a poet in the expression of his views; at times he is colourful and at others he uses a naked and bold style yet full of altitudian grandeur. His style answers to the various and shifting moods and natures of his characters. With passionate and loving character it is always a colourful style; with pastoral folk it is purely native and dialectical. It is also of different types as the changing situation—humorous, soft, stirring, tragic, satirical—present themselves upon the screen.

      Dynamic style. A notable thing with Hardy is that like his philosophy his style is not static but dynamic. It has been improving in novel after novel. In the first two novels Far From the Madding Crowd and The Woodlanders it is predominantly pastoral; in Tess of the D'Urbervilles and The Return of the Native there is a leaning towards the tragic though coupled with pastoral but in The Mayor of Casterbridge and Jude the Obscure the earlier note is entirely discarded and is replaced by the tragic wedded with an amount of cynicism. The remark of Duffin is apt; “It may be said of Hardy, as Dryden said of Shakespeare in a slightly different connection, that he is always great when some great occasion is presented to him,” and these great occasions are to be found either in the opening or in the closing chapters of his books especially of his novels The Mayor of Casterbridge, The Return of the Native and Tess.

      Rhythmic prose. But above all, the fact remains that Hardy is a poet and this poetic gift of imaginativeness is seen even in the choice of his words and phrases, in the exactitude of his similes and quotations and in the adroit skill of the movement of the rhythms. He knows the skill of “one-word expression as Eustacia's eyes are “pagan” or Henchard's garden is silent,dewy and full of perfume” or such imaginative phrases as “boisterous tosses of the foam”. “The image always presents itself before Hardy's inward eye” before it is put to pen. “If a vehicle passes a window, Hardy is in the room and knows what effect its passing has on the light.” The rhythm of his prose may be rugged and harsh but the very harshness and ruggedness in it, when timely repeated, become rhythmic.

      Defects of style. But his imagination is not always for the good. The excess of it has brought its disadvantages too which are obvious and hard to be denied. He is primarily wanting in the logical construction of his phrases and sentences. The poet sometimes ousts the intellectual in him with the consequent loss of craftsmanship which are the distinguishing qualities of all great novelists like Gustave Flaubert of Maupassant. Further his style becomes rambling. For a single and direct expression he will waste, like. Ruskin a number of words and with no effect. He will shun an expression like “apparently just beneath his feet” for an indirect expression like “visually just past his toes and under his feet”. Bathsheba is not merely shy but, “not a point in the milkmaid was of the deepest rose colour.” Sometimes he takes the strange liberty of a poet, that of coining new words or interpreting words in his own way; there is “domicile” for house or “habiliments” for clothes but he crosses limits when he coins such an expression as “habilimental taste” to say “the choice of dress.” Very often, as Lord David Cecil remarks, “he cannot manage the ordinary syntax and grammar of the English language.”

      Conclusion. What place does Hardy occupy then in the galaxy of the great stylists? Hardy owes some debt to some of the great stylists whom he studied in order to improve his style. He names such prose writers as Defoe,. Addison, Burke, Gibbon, Lamb and others; but surely the reader will be disappointed if he tries to discover in him a trace of any of these writers. For him style was but merely a means to an end. His style, therefore, is not without its faults and consequently not great. Duffin also remarks that Hardy was not a born master of style like Thackeray nor a made one like Stevenson. Like some good orators he require ‘a stimulant before eloquence is forthcoming’ and to this end even Lord David Cecil observes: “Hardy writes clumsily but he writes creatively.

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