I read Tess of the d’Urbervilles many years ago, which was my only experience with Thomas Hardy. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read more, but since I am on a 19th century English literature craze and a friend on Good Reads gave it 5 stars I decided to wade in.
The story grabs you from the beginning as a poor farmer, traveling on a country road with his wife and baby girl, stops at a fair and drinks himself into a drunken fit of insanity and sells his wife and child to a sailor for $5. The multi-layered consequences of this action create a very intriguing story.
This man, Henchard, may be the most narcissistic, jealous character in all literature. His desire to control the people in his life caused immense needless suffering, but much of it was to himself. The desire to control was the first great sin of Satan in the pre-existence, and I am not sure it is not the worst one of our mortal sojourn.
Henchard was sympathetic at times, because he saw what he was doing and sometimes tried to repent but didn’t ever really learn from the chaos he perpetually created. He wanted to be forgiven and loved again after his change of heart and frankly, I thought he was given another chance too many times. He seemed to make the same mistakes over and over. Because I grew up with an alcoholic father I understood this trait in someone with a drinking problem. I wondered if Hardy understood it also.
Henchard frightened me and so does Hardy’s writing. I like happyish endings and I feared the worst in some of Henchford’s actions. The story has many interesting turns that kept me constantly captivated and I felt at peace with the ending. I highly recommend this book.
A&E did an excellent production of this movie available on Netflix. It follows the story line very nicely.