Contextualization (Th.H.) Copy

THOMAS HARDY (1840-1928)


  • Britain reaches heights of wealth and power during Queen Victoria’s reign;
  • Colonial expansion continues in Asia and Africa; India is the most valuable of all British colonies.


Social reforms:

  • Education becomes a universal right;
  • Improvement of health services;
  • The number of people who can vote doubles;
  • The cheap postal system is introduced.

Industrialisation continues and more factories are built;

England becomes the world’s workshop, and London becomes the world’s banker;

Population growth leads to overcrowded towns. Rural communities disappear due to increased urbanisation and traditional values disintegrate. Many children work in mines and factories, are treated harshly, and live in dreadful conditions.


The Victorian Age is defined by strong religious and moral principles, known as Victorian values:

  • Hard work;
  • Respectability;
  • Duty;
  • Charity.

Literary trend: REALISM

Principles of realism:

  • normal situations and ordinary characters are described in familiar settings
  • lower strata of society are emphasized
  • very little use of metaphors
  • literature strives to be true to reality and “hold up a mirror to life”.

Realistic novel traits (the novel is the best form of expression for realism, as it describes the world faithfully and doesn’t idealize it):

  • Major theme: the place of the individual in society, the aspiration of the main character for love or social position;
  • Long, dense, with complicated plots;
  • Physical descriptions of characters are realistic;
  • Lots of characters, most of them belong to the middle and lower classes;

Literary trend: NATURALISM

Principles of Naturalism:

  • It is an intensified form of realism that depicts a grim reality;
  • Nature is an indifferent force that acts on the lives of human beings;
  • Heredity and environment are the forces that affect and afflict individual lives;
  • The universe is indifferent and deterministic.

The naturalist character:

  • Characters reveal the “brute” within; they are often composed of strong and warring emotions;
  • The characters are inspired by the evolution theory; they are presented as human beings governed by instincts and passions;
  • The characters’ lives are governed by the forces of heredity and environment;
  • As they are “products” of nature, characters in naturalism should be observed without moralising about their nature.


Lived most of his life in the South-West of England, which is also the setting of many of his novels;

Worked as an architect in London, but moved to the countryside after he got married and started writing;

Wrote poetry, theatre, and prose. During the 20th century, he only published poetry.


  • “Far from the Maddening Crowd”
  • “Two on a Tower”
  • “Tess of the d’Ubervilles”
  • “Jude the Obscure”