Concept of Suffering in the Novels of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Thomas Hardy
Keywords:Suffering, Sacrifice, Faith, Predestination, God, Man Made Laws, Amelioration,
Thomas Hardy set his regional novels in the semi-fictional region of Wessex and Harriet Beecher wrote her novels set in New England. Hardy and Stowe portray life in a realistic manner, striving to arrive at a proper understanding of the meaning of life. The fact that they were diametrically opposite in their beliefs further enthused me. This paper juxtaposes their works to attempt a comparative study of their concept of suffering and analyzes how differences in beliefs alter a person’s attitude towards life and its unpredictable occurrences. Thomas Hardy and Harriet Beecher Stowe based their plots and characters from real incidents which they witnessed. Both Stowe and Hardy believe that vanity and caprice of an individual is often the cause of suffering in one’s life. Stowe and Hardy highlight the fact that man-made laws and customs are often the cause of untold sufferings to the members of a community. Both call for a more sympathetic approach when judging individuals on the standards of these laws and call for a more rational perspective when judging oneself or others against man-made customs and beliefs. This can mitigate sufferings to a great extent. Stowe and Hardy attribute divinity and sublimity in natures that have the capacity to suffer. This is truer of individuals who are ready to embracing sufferings for the welfare of others. These are individuals who are dignified in the face of sufferings and prefer embracing it rather than escape the sufferings. While Stowe believes in a benevolent God taking active interest in the lives of men, Hardy celebrates the spirit of man as he faces the sufferings of life in a spirit of fortitude and perseverance.
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