I declined to finish Montezuma’s Castle and Other Weird Stories because it is, simply, racist and essentializing crap. Even for 1899, when it was publI declined to finish Montezuma’s Castle and Other Weird Stories because it is, simply, racist and essentializing crap. Even for 1899, when it was published. For a set of “weird” or horror tales, the reader does not even get the catharsis of seeing the thieving and/or murderous villains get their just deserts. I believe this is because Cory does not understand that his villains are villains, but believes they are heroes. One potent example will suffice.
In the completely despicable and blessedly short story “The Voodoo Idol”, the protagonist, an American named Jones, languishes from a regrettably non-lethal gunshot wound in a hotel room in Haiti, a group of “natives” having tried to kill him. Jones explains to the American consul, who we understand is assisting Jones to escape Haiti intact, how he came to be in this terrifying position.
He stole some shit that wasn’t his. From people he describes this way:
“[A]s savage and bloodthirsty as any Central African tribe. Most of the inhabitants [of Haiti] are descendants of negroes brought from the Gold Coast many years ago. They have reverted to their original wild state, keeping up many of the ancient customs. Mixing as they have with the Indians of the interior, the present race is even worse than their ancestors. From Toussant l'Overture in 1804, when he first ruled, to Hyppolite Florvil and Salomon, the island has been the scene of continuous insurrection, intrigue, and murder.”
This retrograde group of people, nevertheless had created an idol that captivated Jones when he saw it. And he felt perfectly justified in stealing it simply because he wanted it.
There’s a moment toward the end of the story when Jones awakens to find a “native” assassin peering at him from an open patio door. The man has a knife in his hands and, for a split second I believed perhaps Jones was going to get some sort of comeuppance for his thievery and bitter racism. But instead Jones kills the man and escapes to America the Beautiful. The End.
Part of me wishes to enumerate all that is culturally and historically inaccurate about this story, to pick apart the foul illogic upon which Cory’s racism rests. A more significant part of me does not want to dignify it with reasoned criticism. I am, for once, glad that my taste in musty old writing is obscure. Hopefully this wretched book will continue to fade into obscurity. ...more
George MacDonald Fraser wrote the excellent introduction to this edition of the collected Brigadier Gerard stories, in which he observed what a differGeorge MacDonald Fraser wrote the excellent introduction to this edition of the collected Brigadier Gerard stories, in which he observed what a different sort of character is Gerard from Conan Doyle’s more famous creation, who need not be named. Gerard is French, not English; an interesting choice for a good Victorian imperialist such as Conan Doyle. And Gerard’s stories are set earlier; the conceit is that he is an old man telling tales about his time as a Hussar in Napoleon’s army. Gerard is as arrogant as his literary “brother”, but sweeter as well, chivalrous, loyal, romantic, brave and incredibly, comically dense.
Gerard’s obliviousness is one of the primary charms of the character and chief amusements of these collected stories. He constantly mistakes the derision of others for approbation. Anything that does not conform with his own high opinion of himself gets contorted by his perception so that he remains the hero, not just of his own, but of everyone’s story.
[SPOILER ALERT] In one hilarious instance, Gerard is meant to be performing undercover recognizance and ends up participating merrily in a fox hunt with English soldiers. He gets so carried away with the pursuit that he speeds ahead of everyone, even the dogs, and slices the fox in two with his sword. Gerard clearly misunderstands the whole endeavor and imagines he has “won” the hunt. Moreover, when he sees the English soldiers erupt in histrionic shouting, he perceives this as enthusiastic congratulations instead of the enraged decrying it was.
This, incidentally, was probably my very favorite moment in the entire set of stories. As he outpaces the dogs, feeling quite self-congratulatory indeed, he shouts at the fox: “Aha, we have you now then, assassin!” He has so completely given himself to the hunt that he has forgotten his recognizance mission (only for the moment) and single-mindedly focused on his new “foe” whom he is about to dispatch tidily. And that is quite characteristic of Gerard. Comically myopic, absurdly confident of his every move, of his own rightness, and – for all his ridiculousness - actually quite a good soldier and sport. He is dog-like, in the best sense of that comparison. You like Gerard even while you laugh at him. And you can always trust him to be himself.
I am not much for adventure stories, generally preferring a good mystery, but the Brigadier Gerard stories are vividly detailed and very very funny. I am also growing increasingly interested in the Napoleonic era as a predecessor to the “world” conflicts at the beginning of the 20th century, and it is intriguing to read an Englishman’s sympathetic take on a Frenchman during this period. In any event, these stories deserve to be better known than they are. And, for my money and time, I’d much rather spend an afternoon hanging out with Gerard than with that other fellow concocted by Conan Doyle. ...more
Published in 1869, Monsieur Lecoq predates A Study in Scarlet by 18 years and is acknowledged as an influence on Arthur Conan Doyle specifically, butPublished in 1869, Monsieur Lecoq predates A Study in Scarlet by 18 years and is acknowledged as an influence on Arthur Conan Doyle specifically, but also on the development of detective fiction in general. This entertaining novel has two parts. The first begins with a crime and follows the Parisian detective, Monsieur Lecoq, as he tries to unravel its intricacies. The second begins decades earlier, tracing the somewhat melodramatic affairs of some country folks and landed aristocracy whose turmoils eventually lead to the crime committed at the beginning of the first book. In other words, the entire novel in two parts ends where it begins. Although I enjoyed the first part with its focus on crime detection immensely more than the second melodramatic part, taken as a whole it has a very satisfying narrative construction. Gaboriau had a distinct flair for character and plot construction. I would happily read another Monsieur Lecoq adventure....more
I wanted to love The Warden having read that it is among Trollope's best. I don't know if this is a reasonable usage of the word, but for me it createI wanted to love The Warden having read that it is among Trollope's best. I don't know if this is a reasonable usage of the word, but for me it created a kind of chronological dissonance. Encountering something that was created in a different time period for an audience not oneself and based upon worldviews, attitudes or opinions people no longer hold, can be challenging. Whether it's film or literature, social norms will seem outdated, sexism or racism - for example - will often be casual and assumed. There can be a lot to wade through to get to the story.
Perhaps it is my interest in history that has given me a relatively large amount of patience for this kind of dissonance. If it does not bear directly on a plot point I am supposed to buy, I can generally look at it a little clinically, distantly or sociologically; evaluating it for what it tells me about the period in question. I watch modern advertising in much the same fashion, feeling much the same disgust for it as I do some of these old attitudes and values. But it's easy to keep my distance.
My limited experience with Trollope had led me to put him in a small but important personal category of Victorian-era authors who seem to have their eye on the values of the next century: Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, Henry James, Charles Dickens. Essentially, this category contains Victorian authors who themselves were critical of the Victorian status quo and who often propounded attitudes that seem more modern, are more relatable from this distance of over a century. Perhaps Trollope still belongs in this category, but a certain obnoxious classism emerged in The Warden that took me by surprise.
George Orwell felt similarly - and I should have heeded his warning when making my book choice. He observed of Trollope in The Warden: "A time-honoured abuse, he held, is frequently less bad than its remedy. He builds Archdeacon Grantley up into a thoroughly odious character, and is well aware of his odiousness, but he still prefers him to John Bold, and the book contains a scarcely veiled attack on Charles Dickens, whose reforming zeal he found it hard to sympathise with."
John Bold, who Trollope does indeed seem to disdain a bit, is a reformer who champions the rights of poor dependents in the face of possible exploitation or economic abuse by the wealthy Anglican church. Like all Trollope characters, Bold is complicated and certainly not painted as a villain, but I believe Trollope meant his readers to find Bold foolish and misguided. Apparently for Trollope, as for his truly foul character Archdeacon Grantley, the church (and by extension old wealth) has a right to whatever money it can fleece without being held to account...because the powerful are inherently good and this is the way it's gone for centuries. And, while we're at it, the poor can do without even the resources they are owed, because they're poor and don't feel privation so sorely. You know, they're used to it.
If something resembling this attitude were not, just this moment, enjoying a hateful renaissance in the country in which I live, it might have annoyed me a little less. ...more
Punctuated by a couple moments of high drama, this is a quiet and simple story about a man reconnecting with humanity after years of self-imposed isolPunctuated by a couple moments of high drama, this is a quiet and simple story about a man reconnecting with humanity after years of self-imposed isolation. Perhaps it's because I'm also knee deep in the plot-driven and atrociously-written A Game of Thrones, but the development and trueness of Eliot's characters struck me as finely tuned as well as refreshing. I also have an abiding interest for 19th-century British fiction which, specifically or tangentially, handles the ramifications of the industrial revolution on average people, especially rural and small town people. Thomas Hardy has always been one of my go-to guys for that topic, but my increasing familiarity with George Eliot has convinced me this was also a theme important in her work and thought. This is a lovely little book. Be forewarned if you are in that camp of folks who count it a dirty word, but it is also sentimental....more
I really wanted to love this book. I toured the Old Manse in Concord, MA this past summer and began learning more about Massachusetts' transcendentaliI really wanted to love this book. I toured the Old Manse in Concord, MA this past summer and began learning more about Massachusetts' transcendentalists and friends, finding their philosophies and biographies intriguing. I also was aware of Hawthorne's reputation as a literary "relative" of Edgar Allen Poe. But with the exception of his fantastic and more essay-like entries ("The Old Manse" and "Fire Worship"), few of Hawthorne's tales rise above heavy-handed allegory. The ones that do (famously "Young Goodman Brown" and "Rappaccini's Daughter") still share with the allegories a condescending chauvinism and rigid religiosity that is no less annoying for being unsurprising. In a time period where one might expect to find chauvinism and religiosity, it does not always come across so abrasively as it does in Hawthorne's most obnoxious stories, for my money "The Celestial Rail-road" and "The New Adam and Eve". ...more
To reiterate the feelings of most readers of this adventure novel, Long John Silver is one of the great characters of western literature. In writing hTo reiterate the feelings of most readers of this adventure novel, Long John Silver is one of the great characters of western literature. In writing him, Stevenson created what would become the paradigm of "pirate" but, more interestingly, he also introduced a morally ambiguous, charming, ruthless opportunist on par with Iago in terms of all time great villains. This novel was great fun to read, from beginning to end....more
War and Peace has been considered a classic in world literature for 150 years and it famously transcended genres in an inventive and widely influentiaWar and Peace has been considered a classic in world literature for 150 years and it famously transcended genres in an inventive and widely influential manner. It has been read, adored and/or loathed by millions. Unsurprisingly, I won’t be adding anything original to the body of extant criticism about this novel, but I nevertheless feel like recording some of my thoughts and personal responses as a reader. I suppose that in itself is some indication of the emotional and intellectual potency this book still carries.
A lot of commentary, contemporary and in the intervening years since its 1869 publication, focuses on the form of the work, trying to define what in fact this giant book is: a novel or history or some third (or fourth) thing. Tolstoy himself was unwilling to pin it down, which I think should possibly serve as an object lesson to us all. It is both and neither at once. It contains fictional characters experiencing historic events and historic people uttering fictional sentences. The work has a narrative arc, a cast of thousands, subplots and pacing that are novelistic (even cinematic) in character. But it also contains minutely detailed reconstructions of battles from the Napoleonic Wars, meditations on military strategy and the nature of violence, and philosophical treatises on the nature of historical inquiry, historical knowledge, and man’s place within history.
For my taste and personal Bildung as a reader and history nerd, Tolstoy’s thoughts on historical philosophy were most enjoyable and startling. Though he peppers the whole book with his philosophical, indeed historiographical observances, it is in the second Epilogue that he really lays everything out. I believe I am exaggerating only mildly when I assert that in this Epilogue he prefigures most of the main strains, fluctuations and epistemological problems presented by historiographical thought in the last 150 years. That is, in one tidy set of chapters crowning this already unbelievably ambitious and detailed work, Tolstoy foresaw the basic ebb and flow of western theories of history for the next century and a half.
He did not use historiographical jargon, but in his musings one can trace criticisms of structuralism, of the “Great Man” theory, of materialism, of Eurocentrism, of theories of power, and various kinds of determinism. Tolstoy asked himself the same giant questions historians (and many, many thinkers) ask themselves. What or who is the driver of history?
It seems to me that War and Peace in its entirety is Tolstoy’s best answer to that question. He (along with an army of social historians who would not gain widespread prominence for almost 50 years) rejects the idea that “Great Men” power historical change. His constant panning between domestic scenes and war scenes, between fictionalized action and historically-rendered action, between the micro and the macro of human events, demonstrates clearly his utter rejection of any ultimate importance of the actions of leaders, geniuses or any other Great Men. In fact, he explicitly states that of all people those who appear to exercise the most control over major events, those ostensibly at the center of history, are often the most bound, almost fated, to make the decisions they do and end up exercising much less willful control over any single situation.
However, Tolstoy also rejects the idea that the masses determine history. He considers the form of the power “the people” possess, and whether they do or do not give it, more or less willingly, to leaders who do or do not exercise it according to their will. Through his interrogation of this idea, we see what a whimsical idea it is to even discuss “the people” as one whole, let alone to imagine we can discern their will in a uniformly meaningful way or how it affects (or does not affect) those in power. Likewise, and through similarly reasoned arguments derived from logical consideration of written history, Tolstoy discounts God as the prime mover of historical causality. Moreover, in a way that presages Derrida’s deconstructionism, Tolstoy quite dismantles many historians’ common assumptions about power and historical change by using their own concepts and logic to question their arguments. In most cases, he seems to be unearthing mere tautologies and circles of thought.
Like any really dexterous mind, ultimately he arrives at the unsatisfying but invariably true conclusion that there is no single answer. History is driven by the constant, fluid, traceable but unpredictable interaction of the people with their leaders, of the micro and macro, of accident and purposefulness. History encompasses all things and, like War and Peace, is not any one thing…except compelling. ...more
I am tempted to describe Cranford as a "local color" novella for its quiet but consistent delineation of people and place. Plot is a secondary concernI am tempted to describe Cranford as a "local color" novella for its quiet but consistent delineation of people and place. Plot is a secondary concern to character and setting here. As such, the novella has an extremely low key sensibility about it, which I appreciate when done well. Gaskell does it well. An additional perk is that the fictional Cranford (ostensibly based on the real Knutsford, which Gaskell knew well) is primarily populated by women, a quirk explained early on in the narrative. This allows a mid-19th-century female author to, unusually, pay attention to women's interactions with each other that do not in every case revolve around men. Interestingly, most of these female characters are middle aged or even elderly and so - even more unusual for a 19th-century female-authored work - romance and marriage-seeking are not the primary concerns of the story. (I'm looking at you, Jane Austen.) Cranford has a very warm heart beating at its center. Ultimately it seems to me to be about women taking care of each other; about the exigencies, ups and downs, costs and rewards, of female friendship; about forging bonds of familial closeness where no blood ties exist. It has certainly encouraged me to search out more of Gaskell's work....more
Revolution and the Word was published 26 years ago, which would usually render a work of history out-dated, but Cathy Davidson's analysis of the AmeriRevolution and the Word was published 26 years ago, which would usually render a work of history out-dated, but Cathy Davidson's analysis of the American novel before about 1820 still provides an entertaining and thought-provoking read this quarter-of-a-century later. This may be due to how relatively unknown most American novels from this time period are to today's reading public, myself included. Our "canon" tends to start with mid-19th-century authors, such as Hawthorne, Whitman or Melville. But Davidson is dealing with authors from 40 to 70 years earlier, who now need more than family names to identify them to us; authors like Susanna Haswell Rowson, Charles Brockden Brown and Tabitha Tenney. In many cases, the authors of early American novels were obscure in their own time, preferring to publish anonymously or under pseudonyms. In short, this is not a part of our literary heritage we now spend much time with; the authors are unfamiliar to us, the plots seem hackneyed and the emotional cores of these books come across as melodramatic. But not in Cathy Davidson's deft hands. She revivifies this literature, the authors who wrote it and, perhaps most interestingly, the readers who devoured it.
Late 18th-century attitudes toward that new literary form, the novel, as well as print technology of the age, were profoundly different from attitudes and technology that followed even 50 years in the future. This is the first point Davidson makes clear. Most novelists of this period never published more than one or two books and fewer still ever made any money for their efforts, let alone supported themselves by writing. Printers, who also figured as the primary book distributors of the age, likewise made very little money off of their industry and, in fact, frequently went belly up. Early national America was a liminal place and time in which many traditions and processes were changing, including class structure and the economy. The arts, including novel writing, were moving from reliance on elite patronage to reliance on sales. This at first made it difficult for writers and printers to earn a living, but it also put the creation of novels, as well as the consuming of them, increasingly into the hands of previously disenfranchised or ignored groups of non-elite people. For Davidson's purposes the two most relevant of these groups were poor people and women.
In her careful study, Davidson discusses three types of fiction that were particularly popular in early America: the sentimental, picaresque and gothic novels. Over and over again, the features that really separate these novels from other kinds of contemporary literature were their interest in the experiences of women and the indigent. In addition, these groups were reading more and more and, generally lacking access to an elite education that would allow them to peruse political tracts or philosophy, they were reading novels. This young genre was heavily contested by threatened brokers of the status quo (elites of all types) which helps explain the proliferation of anonymous publications and the regular use of pseudonyms. Readers and writers of novels - especially when women - could expect to have all sorts of accusations launched at them, from idleness to moral depravity. As Davidson herself notes, facing such loud social opposition and such logistical/technological limits on production, it seems almost miraculous that the form thrived as it did to mature in the 19th century.
I recommend Revolution and the Word as a very engaging and informative read to anyone interested in the development of the novel, in early American society and culture and in women's history. However, I think I enjoyed most witnessing Davidson's keen empathy for early American readers and the novels they loved. She recreates possible readings of a number of period novels and, in doing so, shakes the dust off these books, rescues their characters from over-saccharine sentimentality and allows you to see how they spoke to readers of the age and became real to them. It is much harder to dismiss these early novels as fluffy melodrama when you consider how closely early readers identified with their characters, and what these books meant as objects to people who could afford to buy very few over a lifetime. They were cherished and read over and over again by owners who inscribed their names in the pages, who marked passages that held special meaning or who were moved to write their own poetry in the margins. These novels mattered very much to their readers and Davidson has convinced me, at least, that they deserve our attention as well.
I think of Anthony Trollope like Thomas Hardy, but with a sense of humor. He definitely belongs to that category of Victorian writer who was wildly crI think of Anthony Trollope like Thomas Hardy, but with a sense of humor. He definitely belongs to that category of Victorian writer who was wildly critical of class and gender hypocrisy of the period. Trollope tended to set all of his novels in the same fictional England; protagonists in one novel resurface as bit players in another novel. The plots weave in and out of each other. Taken as a whole, his fiction is amazingly intricate. And even taken one-by-one, they deserve a lot of artistic attention...if the social issues they speak about have little relevance to us now.
Trollope drew really three-dimensional characters and, something very rare for a male writer of his time period, this includes his female characters. None of Trollope's characters are straight heroes or villains; they all by turns make decisions against their better judgment, feel regret, paint or sorrow, consciously act against dominant social mores, forgive each other or do not, occasionally do brave or large-hearted things, tell the truth and lie - they behave just as real people do and are, consequently, likable and irritating, depending on the decisions they have just made in the novel. They are a fine remedy for stereotypes.
The Duke's Children is an interesting portrait of a man who does not know how to demonstrate his considerable love for his children. Like most men of the period, especially wealthy ones, he kept his children at arm's length out of some sense of propriety, of what is best for them and of what is appropriate for himself to be engaged in, i.e., this is a period when men were not supposed to be overly concerned with "domestic" matters, a purview under which their own children would fall until adulthood. The novel opens with the death of the duke's wife. His three children are adults or nearly so, but they are practical strangers to him just as they are entering into ages when they will make decisions to affect the rest of their lives, like career choices and marriage partners. Moreover, they have come of age in a time period when class and gender expectations of behavior were beginning to change. So this novel really tells the story of an older man coming to terms with the changing world around him via the decisions of his children, of which he tends to disapprove. It's not fascinating, but it is entertaining and has a lot of heart. While Trollope here has not given you any characters as memorable as Augustus Melmotte from his The Way We Live Now, he has offered a number of very likable ones and it is still a pleasure to read about them....more
Published in 1872, this book bears all the hallmarks of compelling children's fiction, from The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley to Abarat by Clive BaPublished in 1872, this book bears all the hallmarks of compelling children's fiction, from The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley to Abarat by Clive Barker (and like so many others). It has a young person for a protagonist, Irene the titular princess. She is alone - that is, her parents are, through malevolent circumstance, absent from the story. The protagonist enters a mysterious realm visible only to her and gains secret knowledge there from a secret protector/protectress, in Irene's case from her luminescent great-great grandmother who dwells at the top of a magic staircase and only appears when Irene has faith in her. Over the course of the story, the protagonist matures emotionally and achieves a self-sufficient confidence based on her experiences defeating the "bad guys" of the piece (the goblins, here) and believing in her protectress despite the disbelief of others.
The Princess and the Goblin is less original than Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and moralizes a bit more than Barrie's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but it deserves to be remembered and read more often than it seems to be. Sally Adair Rigsbee* aptly compared MacDonald's story with C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in that both books feature a young female protagonist who finds a hidden realm and whose faith in this realm, in the face of the incredulousness of others, saves it and enriches her. MacDonald's moralizing is subtler and less Christocentric than Lewis', which appeals to me personally. MacDonald's hidden realm that he crafts for Irene speaks more to a creative, non-specific and verdant spirituality that it does to specifically Christian spirituality, as Narnia clearly does. Although in any event, they are both "fantasy" places that help the protagonist, through her adventures relating to these hidden realms, to develop strength of character and inner purpose.
MacDonald also got "meta" in The Princess and the Goblin, breaking the third-person narration to address the reader directly. He even imagines the reader's response and has side conversations with this hypothetical reader. He warns some future would-be illustrator against attempting to depict a certain difficult scene. Frequently, he references his own position as author and justifies his authorial choices. I found this aspect of the book exceedingly appealing, for while it implies that the author seeks to exercise some specific control over the way his readers experience the work, it inherently assumes the reality that readers will read as they wish and understand according to their own abilities. Which is, after all, the lesson he imparts regarding Irene. A true princess uses her own judgment, regardless of the influences under which she finds herself.
*In "Fantasy Places and Imaginative Belief: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Princess and the Goblin," Children's Literature Association Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 1, Spring 1983 (10-11).
I would feel like a doofus spending too much time writing a review of a classic work of literature, about which scholars have composed dissertations fI would feel like a doofus spending too much time writing a review of a classic work of literature, about which scholars have composed dissertations for over a century, but I loved this book too much not to shamelessly use this forum to help me digest it.
I will underscore with a cursory mention a few oft-noted aspects of the novel: the elegance and philosophical sagacity with which Hardy writes; the pointed critique he offers of Victorian social, especially sexual, mores; the empathy and depth with which he portrays his female protagonist. I noted these same components in the first novel of Hardy's that I read, Jude the Obscure (I seem to be working my way backward through his body of work).
Something I hadn't initially noted in Jude - something I only just realized retrospectively in light of Tess - is the care and detail Hardy puts into describing the quotidian of 19th-century English vocations. In Jude, it is Jude Fawley's occupation as a mason. In Tess, our protagonist holds a number of rural and agricultural jobs that Hardy depicts with even greater relative attention. Tess works, for example, tending birds, as a dairy maid, and at the much heavier tasks involved in turnip-growing and processing grain. The action of the novel primarily occurs during these out-of-doors occupations and, indeed, Tess' relationship with nature and "the elements" comprises a major component of her personality for Hardy. In this way, though an individuated character of depth, Tess serves also as a symbol for traditional rural life in England at the cusp of full industrialization. Throughout the novel, Hardy depicts this tension between traditional country life and steady modernization, which saw an inversion of the old relationship between human and machine. Previously, machines were tools used by humans according to human natural rhythms and requirements, whereas with industrialization, humans became tools to serve a machine's requirements according to its rhythms.
In one scene, Tess must help feed a threshing machine. Hardy writes:
"The old men on the rising straw-rick talked of the past days when they had been accustomed to thresh with flails on the oaken barn-floor; when everything, even to winnowing, was effected by hand-labour, which, to their thinking, though slow, produced better results. Those, too, on the corn-rick talked a little; but the perspiring ones at the machine, including Tess, could not lighten their duties by the exchange of many words...for Tess there was no respite; for as the drum never stopped, the man who fed it could not stop, and she, who had to supply the man with untied sheaves, could not stop either..." (345-5)*
Just as Tess of the d'Urbervilles is a critique of repressive Victorian social codes and a sympathetic plea for the "fallen" woman, so, too, it is a lament for the passing of a way of life that was tied to nature and worked with its cycles and tendencies rather than against them. Indeed, Hardy links the natural world to a freer attitude toward sex. Tess, in having sex without being married, "had been made to break an accepted social law, but no law known to the environment in which she fancied herself such an anomaly." (101) It is the social law that is out of accord with nature, not Tess.
Whether discussing sexual mores or agricultural practices, Hardy mourns for the unnecessary discord humans create between themselves and nature. In doing so, he keenly observes the web in which we have caught ourselves, the strands of which are comprised of our own dual aspect - as children of nature and as would-be masters of it.
*In the 1964 Signet Classic paperback version....more