THE SYNTHESIS OF FICTION AND HISTORY IN THE WRITINGS OF HAWTHORNE AND HARDY (MASSACHUSETTS, ENGLAND)

ELLEN MARIE MCDONALD, Fordham University

Abstract

The chronic preoccupation with historical subjects, trends, purpose, and meaning that marks and fundamentally links the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Thomas Hardy transforms their characteristic fictions into expressions of the writers' emotional, intellectual, and artistic response to the reality of history. Inspired by both literary inventiveness and historical awareness, the authors seek to produce in their stories, romances, and novels a vital fusion of forms, a synthesis of fictive and historical visions through which they can probe more perceptively essential truths of human experience. An investigation of this proposed merging of outlooks as it operates in the tales and longer fictions of the writers should lead to a keener appreciation of their individual works and underlying affinity. In addition, such a study should also provide insight into the contribution each makes to the development of fiction in the nineteenth century.^ One way of approaching the central question of synthesis is to consider the extent to which the fictions of both authors represent accurate historical records of the regions in which they most often are set. The image of the New England past found in Hawthorne's works and the delineation of prior epochs in Dorset found in Hardy's prove in some respects more immediate and accessible than those provided by conventional histories. Specifically, the drama and concentrated focus of fiction can uncover truths beyond the bare facts of history.^ An analysis of the writers' typical method of adapting these facts, along with the techniques and ideological concerns of history, to suit the artistic aims of their fictions further clarifies the concept of synthesis. More precisely, an inquiry of this nature reveals how a persistent historical perspective enriches the realms of setting, character portrayal, and thematic intention in the authors' literary productions as a whole.^ Whatever general ideas regarding the synthesis of fiction and history and the bond between Hawthorne and Hardy result from the preceding lines of study can be tested more specifically by an examination of individual works. Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and Hardy's The Trumpet-Major deserve this close scrutiny as evocations, in part at least, of memorable historical periods; The House of the Seven Gables and Tess of the d'Urbervilles merit investigation as well, as paradigmatic outgrowths of the ambitious fusion of forms employed by both Hawthorne and Hardy. ^

Subject Area

Comparative literature|American literature|English literature

Recommended Citation

MCDONALD, ELLEN MARIE, "THE SYNTHESIS OF FICTION AND HISTORY IN THE WRITINGS OF HAWTHORNE AND HARDY (MASSACHUSETTS, ENGLAND)" (1983). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8323540.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8323540

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