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Like Dickens, William Makespeace Thackeray (1811-1863) started his professional career as a journalist then as a contributor to periodicals. His family education and his social experience provided him with a thorough understanding of the civilisation of his epoch (Blamires 305). Thackery‟s Vanity Fair (1847-1848) is a masterpiece of fiction and one of the greatest novels of the Victorian period. This novel is a denunciation of the corruption of the aristocracy and the middle class who sell titles and use dishonest means to reach their aims. It is also a criticism of the „double standard‟ attitude of the middle class who are “servile to those above, tyrannical to those beneath” (Prawer 237). Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) mixed between his career as a Tory politician and as a committed novelist. The best that can be said about his literary career is that it epitomised the desire of Victorians to make of their novels a means by which to criticise society and to enlarge „social theories‟ (Ford 100). Then, it is clear that in his trilogy: Coningsby (1844), Sybil (1845) and Tancred (1847), Disraeli had a specific social and political role to play. Coningsby deals with purely political themes. Sybil treats social themes such as the gap between the rich and the poor and the miseries of exploited and ill-housed workers. The author used Tancred in order to defend the cause of his political party.

Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1866) was influenced by her experience of life in the cotton-spinning town of Manchester. This gave her the chance to have a deep observation of the life and the behaviour of the working people. Many of Gaskell‟s novels contributed to the „condition-of England-question‟, and the struggle of the working people to get what they consider to be their rights (Coote 474). In the first published novel Mary Barton (1848),Gaskell gives us a truthful portrayal of working class life in large industrial town in the forties with a “satirical intent” (Attia 124). In North and South (1855), she shows the paradoxes between rural and industrial England, this novel is of a great importance and can be considered as a social document. One of the brightest literary figures of this period is Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), who in his novel The Way We Live Now (1875) exposes the corruption of commercial England and mourns the disappearance of old values. In addition, Trollope wages a violent attack on the idleness of aristocracy and on the „cash nexus‟ relationship (Coote 487).

George Eliot (1819-1880) was among the first Victorian intellectuals to express religious doubt and to seek for new worldly religions in order to survive in their godless age.

Her early reading of sceptical philosophers, determinist thinkers and biblical criticism shook her religious beliefs and drove her towards agnosticism (ibid 520). In addition to her readings, Eliot established a friendly relationship with the great thinkers of her age like, John Stuart Mill, Harriet Martineau, Herbert Spencer and G.H. Lewes with whom she made extra-marital relationship. These contacts, indeed, helped to shape the course of her literary life. The Mill on the Floss (1860) is a novel in which Eliot advices her audience to examine carefully the world, in order to find a moral consolation or a „religion of humanity.‟ Middlemarch (1871is a novel, which treats the problem of endowed and idealistic Victorian woman who wants to realise something in her life, but her dreams meets disillusionment and frustration. In this novel, Eliot tells her readers that in the absence of God only through the establishment of good human relationship can one find solace. All in all, the novels of George Eliot are didactic and have a moral purpose such as: the condemnation of „social ills‟ and the rigid morality of Victorian society. Eliot‟s novels put much emphasis on the possibility of redemption not through Christian salvation, but through worldly religions (Attia 123-124).

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was another Victorian author worthy of attention. He was born in Dorset into an upper working class family. Hardy is known for his pastoral novels and the majority of them are set in „Wessex‟, that is the South West of England. At the beginning, Hardy worked as an architect for church restoration, but when his novel Far from the Madding Crowd met success, he left architecture and devoted his time to writing. Thanks to the success of the succeeding novels, Hardy established his reputation as the greatest and the most read novelist of the Victorian era. Like George Eliot, Hardy lost his faith in religion because of his reading of Darwin‟s Origin of Species, J.S. Mill‟s On Liberty, Herbert Spencer‟s First Principles and Arthur Schopenhauer‟s The World as Will and Representation.

Unlike Eliot whose conversion to agnosticism was accompanied with „moral optimism‟, Hardy‟s agnosticism was often characterised by deep pessimism and „resignation‟ (Gilmour 89). One thing worth mentioning is that Hardy broke with the Victorian belief in the optimism and progress and went so far as to explore the tragic character of human life. For him human life is under the determination of forces beyond individual control. These forces are represented by the outer pressures of society and the inner constraints of human character.

The willingness to unfold the powers that drive the lives of his characters, led Hardy towards a realistic examination of love and sexuality. “The darkening tendency of [Hardy‟s] writing” (Parker 24), hurt his readers and put in danger his reputation as a writer (Poupard 214). Even thought many readers do not regard Hardy as a „social novelist‟, the majority of his novels deals with social issues such as; „working class education‟, „agricultural conditions‟, „the marriage laws‟. Hardy believes that bringing „reform‟ to these „areas‟ is going to better „human condition‟ (Barnard 133).

The first novel to be written by Hardy was The Poor Man and the Lady in 1867; it was a satire of class distinctions, but for many reasons it was never published and the manuscript had been lost forever. Desperate Remedies (1871) deals with class conflict and Under the Greenwood Tree (1872) is a pastoral comedy, which shows Hardy‟s feeling of sympathy towards people of the countryside. A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873) treats youthful love and class difference; it also expresses the Darwinian assumption that man lives in an uncaring universe. As it is mentioned above, the publication of Far from the Madding Crowd in 1874 brought a sudden financial and literary success to Hardy. In this work, Hardy wanted to contribute to Wordsworth‟s belief that life in the countryside is as fertile as land for the fundamental „passions of the heart‟ to reach maturity (Pollard 320).The story is about fate and the role it plays in shaping the course of human life. It also depicts the conflict between individuals with each other and between individuals with circumstances. The Hand of Ethelberta (1876) shows the tension between rural Dorset and urban England. The Return of the Native (1878) shows the struggle between man and the nature of the universe. The Trumpet Major (1880) reveals Hardy‟s interest in the Napoleonic Wars, class difference and the exploration of romantic love and the reality of marriage. A Laodicean (1881) shows the impact of railway and telegraph on rural England. In Two on a Tower (1882), Hardy sought “„to set the emotional history of two infinitesimal lives against the stupendous background of the stellar universe‟” (Pollard 322). The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) establishes the theme of crime and punishment.The plot is built upon fate and tragic coincidences. In Chapter 17, Hardy wrote, “character is fate” (88), that is, fate is the decisive element in the direction of characters‟ lives. Here, Henchard the hero, because of the flaws of his personality, is driven toward misery and destruction. In The Woodlanders (1887), the author treats the doctrine of “Unfulfilled Intention” (Coote 562) and the theme of thwarted love and class division. The next novel was Tess of D’Urbervilles or „A Pure Woman‟ was published in 1891. In this novel, Hardy deals not only with the working of fate, but also with social conventions and what they dictate to individuals. Here, the author criticises the Christian view “that a girl who has an illegitimate child, though she may be pitied, cannot be forgiven” (Pollard 324).

Hardy‟s last and finest novel, Jude the Obscure (1895) is the story of Jude Fawley, an orphan and poor, idealist and romantic in a godless world governed by the law of „the survival of the fittest‟. As a boy, Jude‟s heart is aching with love for a university life Chrisminister (Oxford), but he finds himself trapped into marrying the Darwinian Arabella. After a series of quarrels, the couple separates and each one of them leads a different way. When Jude travels to Chrisminister in order to fulfil childhood dreams, he meets his cousin Sue, „The Intellectual New Women‟, whom he loves and idealises. After discovering that Jude is bound to another woman, Sue marries the old man Phillotson, the former teacher of young Jude, as a revenge.

When Jude and Sue get divorce, they decide to live together, but without a conventional marriage. The couple and their children with them lead their life in miserable conditions. In addition, the appearance of the Schopenhauerian and the premature Little Father Time, Jude‟s son with Arabella, deepens the sense of despair when this boy hangs his brothers and himself as psychological and physical response to the misery of existence. The novel closes with Sue‟s resignation and return to her legal husband Phillotson, and Jude‟s forced and unconscious escape to Arabella and then his tragic death. Unlike other novels by Hardy, Jude the Obscure treats life from different aspects, be it a Victorian life or a universal one. Among the most important themes discussed by this novel: the marriage question and the New Women, the will and resignation, aspirations and class prejudice, fate and the flaws of personality and the conflict between the ideal and the social, which will be the subject of discussion of the following chapter.

Conclusion Through the component parts of this chapter, I have given the reader the chance to have a thorough understanding of the main aspects and values of the Victorian society. In so doing, this chapter helps the readers to contextualise Thomas Hardy‟s Jude the Obscure and to have a background of the topic of my discussion.

Chapter Two: The Struggle between Idealism and Society Introduction Thomas Hardy‟s Jude the obscure depicts the strife of the two characters Jude and Sue in order to make their own ways in the Victorian society. Jude endeavours to go beyond his class by aspiring to an intellectual life in Chrisminster. However, society does not allow such an idealist to cross its barriers and does its best to thwart the implementation of those ideals.

In addition, Jude‟s attempt to impose his romanticism in a Darwinian society sharpens the conflict between what he perceives to be right and fair and what society maintains to be common and accepted. Moreover, Sue‟s ambition towards intellectualism and selfimprovement leads her to reject conventional marriage, but no matter how she tries to impose her ideals, the Victorian society has already established some moral codes to silence women.

Concerning the social side, Arabella is the only character who understands that to ensure one‟s survival it is required from an individual to conform to society‟s norms. Finally, the emergence of Little Father Time changes the mood of the novel and contributes to the defeat of idealism and the rise of pessimism as a response to the miseries of existence. This chapter attempts to discuss the New Women‟s ideals versus the conventional marriage and it will also focus on the contrast between Romanticism and Darwinism, this will be followed by a discussion of the conflict between academic aspirations and social obstacles. Another focus is on the defeat of idealism the case of Sue and Jude followed by the rise of pessimism of Little Father Time.

A. Idealism versus Social Reality

1. New Woman’s Ideals versus Conventional Marriage The breakthrough of the feminist movement toward the end of Queen Victoria‟s reign paved the way to the Victorian women to gain not only a respectable position in society, but also to aspire to a higher ambitions such as the questioning of the compatibility of the conventional marriage with women‟s ideal of self-improvement. However, the desire of Victorian women to materialise their ideals provoked the wrath of society and led to a sharp conflict between the two antagonistic sides. The coining of the term „New Woman‟ epitomises the highest position the Victorian women reached and the new challenges they accepted because of the untouchability of some of the Victorian ethos they dared to criticise.

In fin de siècle literature the „New Woman‟s ideals was one of the most discussed topics especially, by feminist writers and those who sympathised with the women plight such as Thomas Hardy. Although, Hardy was not a committed feminist, he, “as an established novelist,... championed the struggle of the strong [and] intelligent... woman to achieve selfhood and social freedom” (Harvey 34).

In Jude the Obscure, Hardy creates of Sue Bridehead a character representing the strife of the „New Woman‟ to reach freedom and self-improvement. In order to keep her moral and intellectual integrity, Sue strives throughout the novel to oppose the conventional marriage and the sexual submission to man. In the Postscript to Jude the Obscure, Hardy describes Sue as “the woman of the feminist movement-the slight, pale „bachelor‟ girl- the intellectualized, emancipated bundle of nerves that modern conditions were producing”(ix-x).

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