The purpose of this paper is to examine how Thomas Hardy places his women characters as dominant, almost overpowering and to examine how these characters challenge theconventions of the society. Women in Hardys novel struggle to achieve self-fulfillment in the society deeply entrenched in the Victorian concept of male superiority and female submission. His deep sympathy lies in the emotional rendering of the suffering of the women characters of his novels. It is worthy to be mentioned that the time when he was writing, it was daring for a writer to empower women over men and to rebel against existing social, political and religious beliefs.
However, he succeeded to establish his points without seriously jeopardizing his position as a writer. In this paper,Tess of the DUrbervilles and Jude theObscure, two of Hardys influential novels are scrutinized on the basis of the Hardys treatment of women. Though he is a male writer, hemade it significant by being asupporter of women empowerment.
When his contemporary and other male critics express the need to declare a male author’s regard for women they may be indulging in academic locker-room bravado and homophobia. But Thomas Hardy supports women empowerment and he is anauthor who affirms feminist sensibility in his respective novels.
KEY WORDS:gender, new women, patriarchy, etc
Hardy dwelled in such a time when the England was undergoing a process of change. Though there are various dimensions of change that Hardy highlighted in his writings, this paper will basically deal with issues regarding women and the changes that took place in the lives of Victorianwomen. In Victorian society, many of the age-old beliefs were seen gradually crumbling under the weight of a new skeptical order. It underwent an extraordinary growth of population, rapid urbanization and industrialization. Hardy tried to captured the changing scenario of the Victorian period and germinate the seeds of women rights by creating characters such as Tess, Sue Bridehead, Elizabeth Jane, Bathsheba etc.
As Irving Howe said in his Thomas Hardy, Throughout his years as a novelist Hardy found steadily interesting the conceits and playfulness of women, the elaborate complex of stratagems in which the sexual relationship appears both as struggle and game. He liked the changefulness, sometimes even the caprice of female personality; he marveled at the seemingly innate capacity of young girls to glide into easy adaptation and tactical charm. And he had a strong appreciation of the manipulative and malicious powers that might be gathered beneath a surface of delight (103); he further clarifies that as a writer of novels Thomas Hardy was endowed with a precious gift: he liked women”(108).