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Wuhan University, China (中国武汉大学 涂瑞志)
Wessex novels of Thomas Hardy contain a wealth of material so far as the woman characters and psychoanalytical contradiction are concerned. From their first publication, the works of Thomas Hardy have been explicitly and obsessively associated with matters of gender and psychoanalysis. He shows immense power in the characterization of the woman characters in his novels. Each of them neurotically strives for self-actualization or narcissistically lives in her own world, or androgynously overrides whose wooer’s personality even dignity. Indeed, it would be quiet right to call Hardy a specialist in women. Repeatedly, reviewers saw Hardy’s treatment of sexual desire as sentimental, violent, pagan, and bestial, Hardy’s female characters especially were seen as manifestations of an inborn, involuntary, unconscious, amorous, emotional and neurotic organism. Deep as is his understanding of the human nature as a whole, it is in the female personality that he is most learned. In sheer greatness they stand out to be represented as Tess, Eustacia, Sue and Elfride.
Tess Ddurbeyfield, Eustacia Vye, and Elfride Swancourt Sue Bridehead are heroines of Thomas Hardy’s novels Tess of the d’Urbervilles, The Return of the Native, A Pair of Blue Eyes and Jude the Obscure. In the novels, the heroines have been trying to uncoil their inner conflicts and overcome exterior obstacles, which prevents them from promoting their life and marriage style. Their neurotic desires are disintegrated into transient dreams, in which, miscellaneous desires and enthusiastic eagerness are constructed. In order to elbow their way to the bourgeoisie society, in spite of being insulted, devastated or rejected, even being seduced, they betrayed their Actual Self to Self-idealization. There is a driven and compulsive quality about their behavior. Being fostered among humble, insecure, and impoverished families, they have formed deferential, self-abased, narcissistic, erotic even morbid personalities, their disastrous endings present us that the neurotic claims of the human beings always linger between obedience and rebellion, rationality and emotion, consciousness and indifference, reality and dream.
In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Tess is mythologized and depicted as an innocent, irreproachable as well as a tantalizing angel. Upon whom, Thomas Hardy showers numerous sympathetic literary descriptions and pious worship. In whose view, Tess is a victim, not a murder; is a perfect soul, not a defect-carrying human being. In my thesis, I’m trying to convince the audience that Tess is not only a humble, passionate girl; but also an ambitious, seductive and vain-glorious maid. Being secularly and opportunistically driven, her dreams linger between reality and illusion. She idealizes her imaginary husband as an Angel romantic type but entrapped in a cruel directionless dilemma. She is deceived by Alec and her herself for times, till whose tragedy has astonishingly and unforgettably flagged as a “black flag”.
Throughout Hardy’s fictions, whether it be in so slight a creation as Lizzie Newberry in "The Distracted Preacher" (1879) or so thorough an exploration of the female psyche as that afforded in Eustacia Vye in The Return of the Native (1878), Hardy seems to have been fascinated by the one power 'respectable', middle-class women had in nineteenth-century Britain, the power to say "No" to a prospective suitor. Setting his fiction several generations before the date of composition, Hardy explored the relative powerlessness of such women, noting that society gave them one currency only: beauty. In The Return of the Native, Eustacia is introduced as an incarnation of beauty, a sensuous and free-spirited embodiment of a celestial spirit. Her elegance, mysteriousness, seclusiveness and amorousness have been formed a delightful contrast with the solemn, majestic stretch of land called Egdon Heath. Eustacia’s dreams manifest as follows: trying to escape from the bleak and desolated heath; being avid for a idealized husband, who should be handsome, knowledgeable as well as wealthy; eloping with her former lover Damon Wildeve after her dream of marriage is crashed. Her dreams are not to be realized—neither Wildeve nor the returning relative Clym Yaobright can bring her salvation.
In A Pair of Blue Eyes, “ Elfride Swantcourt was a girl whose emotions lay very near the surface.” 1Like Tess and Eustacia, Sue and Elfride’s life, hers has been a sheltered one. Spending alone with her father — a parson with high social pretensions, she meets and falls in love with an inexperienced youth, whose inferior birth prevents their marriage, which embeds burgeons of her inner conflicts and catalyzes her adolescent colorful dreams. This tender first love is overshadowed when Elfride is thrown into the company of the fascinating, though sexually immature, Henry Knight. United by a perilous adventure at a crucial moment, Elfride conceals her previous affection and a web of deceit follows as she tries to fulfill Knight’s ideal. Yet her moral cowardice inevitably leads to tragedy.
Meanwhile, Sue Bridehead is described as a saint, a pagan, a narcissist as well as a boyish and sexless maiden. She is modern in mind but masochist in character; and the division destroys her, making a shambles of her mind and a mere sterile discipline of her character...She is consumed by vanity, the vanity of the sufferer who takes his suffering as a mark of distinction and bears a cross heavier than even fate might demand. Sue cannot leave anything alone, neither her men nor herself: she needs always to be tampering and testing, communicating and quivering. Her life is full of contradictions: her vulnerabilities and insecurities that are quite beyond anything we’ve ever encountered. It's not a fear of sex and it's not a fear of love; it's a fear of losing independence. She loves Jude from the moment she meets him, but she uses this independence thing she feels she's got in order to call the shots. If she just let herself go, she would be a lot happier.
In each stage of their lives of the heroines, they had diversified dreams. In their childhood, their initial beauty and innocence twinkled in “the vale of Blackmore ”, “where tourists and landscape painters had usually avoided”; Egdon Heath, where proud Eustacia fervently awaits a clandestine meeting with her lover; and “the sea-swept outskirt of Lower Wessex”, where a misty and shady blue-eyed girl, Elfride Swancourt, is portrayed as vain and superficial deficiencies which lead her to vicissitudes and “proneness to inconstancy”. Being members of lower class, growing up in a unhealthy situation, they kept on searching for opportunities in order to idealize their dreams of girlhood; to ameliorate their early life; to capture and bewitch their lovers; yet they can’t get away from being trapped in neurosis, which is because of their being out of protection in childhood. That is to say, in order to grow healthily, they kept on searching for glory, searching for unity and searching for self-actualization. In the process of elaboration of their pain-taking dreams, they developed three strategies-- moving toward people; moving away from people and moving against people. Being one of the solutions, dream is the disguised expression of wish fulfillment and always manifested as reveries, fantasies and Somnambulism. Like neurotic symptoms, dreams are effects of compromises in the psyche between desires and prohibitions. As to dreams, no matter how iridescent, ambitious, ecstatic or idealized the dreams were, they faded inevitably into illusion in the end. The collapse of the dreams generates the dreamers’ distortion in personality, which includes melancholy, isolation, depression, tenaciousness, self-indulgence, hostility, desperation, narcissism and drastic actions, even to schizophrenia. Meanwhile, the unattained neurotic needs of the target heroines of my thesis crash together with their tragedies even disasters. In healthy development, people use parts of all these. But in unhealthy experiences of Thomas Hardy’s heroines’, they did all of them and fixated on them. To some extents, parental abuse, lack of respect and neglect led to their basic anxieties, fickleness, vacillation and hypocriticalness.