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THOMAS HARDY'S READING IN SCHOPENHAUER: "TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES"

MARY ANN GAUTHIER KELLY, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

This study reveals the depth of Hardy's interest in Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Idea and in Hartmann's The Philosophy of the Unconscious. These works helped to shape significantly, in his later years, Hardy's already pessimistic outlook. Schopenhauer and Hartmann influenced four particular areas of Hardy's thought, including his views about the faulty nature of man's perception, his recognition of man's endless struggle to attain happiness, his observation of man's endless struggle to attain happiness, his observation of man's recurring doubts about a deity, and his inclination to believe that man's final escape from suffering was achievable only through death. This analysis stresses, further, the ways in which Hardy's reading in Schopenhauer and Hartmann helped form the deterministic impression of existence presented in Tess of the D'Urbervilles. The first chapter describes Hardy's philosophical predisposition as it is revealed in the early novels written before Tess. The second chapter traces, through Hardy's notes, his reading in Schopenhauer from 1883-1912 and dates particular transitions in Hardy's thought which indicate that he was progressively more inclined to accept particular areas of Schopenhauer's, and to a lesser extent Hartmann's, philosphy. The third and fourth chapters examine closely the stages of composition and the final revisions in Hardy's writing of Tess and point out the areas in which, and the periods during which, Hardy's composition of the novel seems to be closely related to his increased understanding and appreciation of Schopenhauer and Hartmann. The last two chapters create what might be called a Schopenhauerian interpretation of Tess. In the light of The World as Will and Idea, the novel not only becomes a dramatization of the working of Schopenhauer's blind, irrational, and immutable Universal Will to live, but it also creates a clear impression of this dictum that, in this world, "Determinism stands firm." Because Hardy was assimilating Schopenhauer's godless and fatalistic philosophy from 1883-1912, Tess of the D'Urbervilles demonstrates Hardy's darkest philosophical inclinations.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

KELLY, MARY ANN GAUTHIER, "THOMAS HARDY'S READING IN SCHOPENHAUER: "TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES"" (1980). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI8101219.
https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI8101219

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