Thomas Hardy Stories

In this essay I have been asked to read and deconstruct 6 Thomas Hardy stories. These stories are called The Superstitious Mans Story, Tony Kytes the Arch-Deceiver, Old Mrs Chundle, Absent-Mindedness In A Parish Choir, The Sons Veto and finally Troys Sword Exercise. I will read and compare each story and see what similarities and differences each story shares. I will also focus on the themes, social, cultural and historical background.

The first aspect that I will be looking at is in the era and the way Thomas Hardy was bought up. Thomas Hardy was born in the village of Higher Bockhampton near Dorchester and he was born into a working class family although his mother was bought up in a middle class family. In this era it was considered extremely hard to go from working class to middle class and Hardy proved this was wrong. He lived in a small village with a population of around 50, so he grew up with his brothers and sister in a very rural isolated region.

As he was born into a working class family this meant that his family could not afford to send him to private school and pay for his teaching and because Compulsory schooling was unknown in the 1840s his mother taught him to read and write as she felt her eldest sun should have a better education that what she had. In the six stories I have read Hardy writes about the microcosm, which are small individual communities, which are very lonely and isolated an example of this, would be Absent-Mindedness In A Parish Choir which is set in a rural town called Longpuddle which is also mentioned in the Superstitious Mans story line 53.

In this time period women were treated very differently. They were not treated as equals and there duty was to stay at home and cook, clean and look after the children so when there husband comes home from work he would not have to do anything except for rest an example is in Superstitious Mans story where his wife would stay up and clean. Thomas Hardy had an interest in macabre (gruesome) this is thought to be because hanging was very common and he witnessed at least one in his lifetime. Religion made an enormous impact on Thomas Hardy life and this is reflected in his stories for example Old Mrs Chundle.

Hardy even considered becoming a parson but this never happened because he began to loose his faith. You could see his interest in fate and the Supernatural in short stories like Tony Kytes the Arch-Deceiver and example of this is when Tony says to Milly “It does seems as if fate has ordained that it should be you be you and I or nobody” there is also other example in The Withered Arm. During Hardys first marriage to Emma who was a middle class citizen meant that he lived in London for longer than what he would of liked. His stories about rural life significantly explains why he wrote about rural life so much.

I am know going to write a brief synopsis of each story I will begin with Superstitious Mans Story. This story was written by Hardy in 1984 “Superstitious Man’s Story”, is about a middle aged healthy man called William who goes to bed on Midsummer Eve like he would any other night. According to his wife Betty he went for a walk “he went out and closed the door behind himself” this came to surprise to betty as when he is unable to rest he often leaves the house to smoke his pipe this is stated on line 20 and 21. Once betty finished her ironing she retired to her chamber (bedroom).

As she walked into her chamber she was surprised to see William lying in his bed fast asleep. The next morning Betty confronted William and he declared he never left his bedroom after this the conversation had dropped, later on during the day Betty found that someone had seen him entering the church the night before and did not come back out of the parish church. Later on during the year William went to work on Mr Hardcomes meadow. On his lunch break he and John Chiles slept under a beautiful tree, John then woke and discovered that William had died in his sleep.

At this time William was seen at the riverside were his son had died in a horrific accident. The second story that I will be looking at will be “Tony Kytes, the Arch-Deceiver”. This is a hilarious story of an afternoon when Tony was driving home form his market in his wagon. A pretty girl called Unity Sallet who had a very fair face, for whom he was close to before he met his present fianci??. Unity asked for a lift home. They were riding along having a flirtatious conversation; to Tony’s horror he saw his fianci?? Milly.

Fearing her displeasure of seeing Unity and him riding together in the wagon Tony manages to persuade Unity to hide at the back of the wagon. He stops and picks his fianci?? up to give her a lift home. Extraordinarily, later in the journey Tony persuades Milly to do the same thing as Milly and hide in the back of the wagon as he sees another young lady, this time called Hannah he also gets in the wagon for a ride. Inevitably, at the end of the journey the three young ladies discover each other’s presence. After a brief presence of mayhem, Milly and Tony are alone again planning their wedding.

The third story that I will be looking at will be looking at has been entitled “Old Mrs Cundle”; this story is about a curate, This is a person who is allowed to conduct religious worship, a cleric who assists the rector who is the person in charge of the parish. He tries to get Mrs Chundle who is a deaf old women who is in her seventies to come to his service every Sunday morning as she has nothing else to do other than go to the market once every two weeks. She declines his offer explaining that she will not be able to here a word spoken.

He tells “Old Mrs Chundle” that he will arrange something if she promises to attend. She knows begins to cooperate and attends the service. When she gets there they have a sound tube running up inside the pulpit with its upper opening in a bell-mouth just beside the book-board. The result of this is that she can hear the service, but as a result of this the curate can smell her unpleasant onion breath. During the week after the service the old lady sends for the curate several times but he puts it off, as he doesn’t wish for her to attend his service any longer.

When he finally arrives at the cottage he is confronted by a young girl telling him that the old lady had died, this is because she ran uphill to his service that past week because she was late of her schedule. Old Mrs Chundle had left all her furniture and possessions to the curate in her will. The forth story that I will be looking at is entitled “The Son’s Veto”, the story was written in 1891 by Thomas Hardy and is about a son who rejects her mother and is embarrassed of her. The mother was born into a working class family and speaks with dialect (old English accent).

Although she was working class her son was middle class who was raised without a dad because he died at a young age. The mother finally meets her long lost lover from when she was young and slowly begins to fall in love with her again, he finally plucks up his courage to ask her to be his wife and she declines because she wanted to give up her happiness for her sun so she was always yearning for another life. His mother embarrassed the son as she came from he working class and she had to be put in a wheel chair.

The ending to this story is very tragic as she tragically dies at the end leaving her son without any parents. The fifth story that I shall be looking at is entitled “Troys Sword Exercise”, This story is about a handsome sergeant who is trying to woo a beautiful lady called Bathsheba on a mid summer evening, who is in very high spirit. Lady Bathsheba runs her own farm, as she has no lover. The soldier (sergeant) discovers that Bathsheba is fascinated by the information she has received of the sword exercise practiced by the soldiers at Casterbridge Barracks.

Troy then proceeds to offer to give her a private showing, and they then begin to arrange to meet at a convenient hollow in the middle of the ferns near her home, at eight o’clock. When they meet Troy hopes to win her heart with his charms he begin by trusting and swashing his sword around. He then tells Bathsheba that the sword is not sharp and to stand still as a statue he then begins whirl the sword around her in a proud way. He then spots a caterpillar on her bosom and he gently lifts it away with his sword killing it but not hurting her this impressed her allot “why it is magic!

By the end of the story they end up kissing but it was not enjoyed she felt she had “sinned a great sin”. The sixth and finale story that I will be looking at is called “Absent-Mindedness In A Parish Choir” it is about a band that plays in the church. The band is very popular and is on high demand through the Christmas week! On the Sunday after Christmas it was freezing cold and more than an inch an hour of frost lay. They were at church and there was no warmth what so ever, so Nicholas pudding who was the leader and played the second fiddle decided to bring a gallon of hot brandy and beer in the afternoon to church.

Later on in the afternoon the church began to become dark and along with the alcohol this made him become extremely sleepy and he finally drifted off to sleep; when he finally awoke he thought he was at a party instead of playing music for the prom. The band began to play their music and they started with “The devil among the Tailors” but as they continued to play they got no movement from the crowd, then the boy Levi got up and shouted “stop stop stop” But the band did not hear them. The squire with most of the lords finally stopped the band by shouting that it was an insulting, disgraceful.

But that week the squire sent for a barrel organ, which only plays 2 and 20 psalms, tunes. The band played no more. I’m now going look at the themes of the six stories I will start with the “Superstitious Man’s Story”. I believe that this story theme and genre is supernatural and tragic. I believe this due to the fact that the events leading to Williams’s death are very eerie and supernatural. And the fact that he dies at the same time as he was supposedly seen at Longpuddle spring where his son died four years ago. Philip Hookhorn stated that he saw William looking very pale and odd by the spring “William was looking very pale and odd”.

The second story I will look at will be Tony Kytes. I believe that this was a romantic comedy because the fact that he had gained the love of three women, which were all in his presence, but they did not find out of this in till the end of the story where they all confronted each other. The third story I looked at was Old Mrs Cundle, which I would also class as a tragic comedy because at the end of the story she tragically dies, but there is also humour in the story for example her bad breath, “but as a result of this the curate can smell her unpleasant onion breath’

The forth story I looked at was the Sons Veto which also is a tragic story because the mother of the son is not wanting to live her life and she unfortunately dies at the end. The fifth story I looked at was called Troys Sword, which is a romantic story about a man who tries to woo a beautiful woman called Bathsheba in which he at first succeeds but in the end I feel she thought he was a bit of a disappointment because The writer tells us that she felt she had sinned “she felt like one who sinned a great sin”.

The sixth and finale story I looked at was called Absentmindedness in a church parish which is also a comedy because the band ends up getting drunk on a gallon of warm brandy and beer and they fall asleep and when they awake they think there at a party not a prom. I’m now going to compare all six stories together and see which ones share similarities and see which stories are not compatible at all.

Again I will start with “superstitious Man’s Story” because this was such a tragic story I would compare it to the Sons Veto because in both stories there is death and that’s it there is no other genre in it. I believe that Hardy wrote about death allot because he was a deeply religious man and religion played a main role in there day-to-day life. Also the Sons Veto was set in the outskirts of London which would be classed as a large community compared to the small town called Longpuddle which is where the Superstitious Man’s Story.

So they are both opposites of each other I believe that he wrote about microcosm when he was living in London because he was yearning his country life back so when his wife died he moved back to a rural area and wrote a sad story about living in London you could compare this to how he felt whilst he was living in London. I am now going to look at Tony kytes and see what that story relates to. I believe that this story relates to Troys Sword exercise because they were both romantic comedies, which were both set in in rural areas, and there both about a man who can woo women and make them feel special in themselves.

I would also say that Absent Mindedness In A Parish Choir touches in with a bit of humour but I am more likely to relate that with Old Mrs Chundle Which is yet tragic yet funny, my main reason for this because they both relate to the church and parish allot and they play a main role in the theme of both stories. I feel Thomas Hardy likes to have a variety of characters in his story so it never gets boring there is always something going on. He builds his characters personality and description at the beginning of the story to the so we can develop and in depth view into there lives.

So most of these stories are written in 3rd person narrative because the narrator has a secret insight to all the characters, the narrator is like a god like figure because he/she is all knowing and all seeing this is another comparison that most of theses stories share with each other. It would be very easy to feel that the supernatural stories were real because in the 18th centaury groups of travellers used to sit around telling scary stories about strange goings on because in this era many people were very superstitious they believed in witches and other such things.