A Tale of ‘Tragical Possibilities’: Music and the Birth of Consciousness in The Return of the Native
In a note made in The Life on 22 April 1878 Hardy acknowledges his debt to the Dutch landscape artist Meindert Hobbema for the idea of using man-made features to infuse human emotion into the baldest external scenes of nature.1 In the painterly description of the road dissecting Egdon Heath, which employs such techniques as chiaroscuro and alterations in perspective and viewpoint, Hardy appears to be attempting just such an infusion, not of a single emotion, but of human consciousness. The thread-like sinuousness, yet inviolate brightness of the road appears like ‘the parting-line on a head of black hair’; whilst the surrounding dark shades of the heath compose ‘The face upon which Time makes little impression’ (p. 34). It is the face of a partially anthropomorphised universal process which, like Spencer’s Absolute, is subject to the same laws that it propagates. Yet despite the harshness of these laws, the heath endures, its undulating contours making it impervious to the harsh ‘unweeting wind’ of necessity.
KeywordsBurning Depression Amid Boiling Sonal
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