One of the best novels in World Literature.
by Rana Mukherjee
When I was in college, I happened to be a great fan of Thomas Hardy, The Pessimist! In fact, Hardy was the first truly great writer whom I met during my literary navigation around the world of books. So, I decided to read out Hardy first. I started with Return of the Native (a forced choice, may be, to start with), then Jude, the Obscure, Under the greenwood Tree, Tess, Far from the Madding Crowd...And every time, I encountered a recurring pattern of Nihilistic world view, or to be more specific, a window through which only darkness's visible. Be it his Pessimism or his disdainful philosophy of life, HE always disturbed my thought during thoughtful restlessness. The contemporary Victorian Socio-religio-economical turmoil left a mark on his lexicon.
But for his style and choice of expression, he had been the best among his contemporaries. His novels, for me, are best described as poetry split into paragraphs. Economy of words, beautifully arranged syntax, lack of forced grammatical indulgence - all captured a silky smooth style of rustic speech pattern. I loved them all.
But for Tess, particularly, I have my reservation. Hardy's heroines are always a thing of beauty and Tess is not an exception. But the story around her are rather too melodramatic to be true. All the protagonists in Hardyesque universe suffer like Classical tragic characters. By this, they also achieve the monumental magnitude which Tess surely lacks. Passive suffering of women in Victorian social model does fit in. They had suffered, no doubt, like Eustacia or Sue, but not before their valiant attempt to undo their predetermined Fate. They were defeated just because Fate was too powerful an adversary for lesser mortals. Tess, the sweet candy woman, never showed that potential and can only be bracketed with Emma or Jane as her closest companions.