Critical Essays Hardy's Writing Style and Use of Quotations


Critics have often noted the faults in Hardy's style, and perhaps this is to be expected in a writer who was largely self-educated. Such writers can express themselves in striking and original ways, but their lack of formal education sometimes causes them to fall into awkwardness and excess. Shakespeare was, by Hardy's own admission, the greatest literary influence on him, but certainly not in the area of style. Several instances of lapses in Hardy's style might be pointed out, but one will serve to illustrate what is meant. Phillotson says to Arabella when they meet many years after she has been a student of his, "I should hardly recognize in your present portly self the slim school child no doubt you were then." It is inconceivable that anyone would talk in this way, not even the schoolmaster Phillotson. In Hardy's defense it should be said, however, that there are passages in the novel in which his style serves him quite well.

In the novel Hardy uses a great many quotations from his reading: at the head of each part, in the narrative, and in the conversations and thoughts of the characters. Many of these are from either the Bible or Shakespeare, but they range over the whole of English literature as well. His practice here is typical of what he did in other novels. The sources of most of the quotations are given or are obvious; the others are identified in the appendices to the book by Carl Weber listed in the bibliography.