Date of Award

5-2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Departmental Honors

Department

English

First Advisor

Brian McCuskey

Second Advisor

Keri Holt

Third Advisor

Jennifer Sinor

Abstract

Even as modern technology continues to introduce new modes of communication, people still write letters. Letters are a primary vehicle for written communication and have played a key role in forming, maintaining, and preserving relationships for centuries. Particularly in Victorian England, letters facilitated communication over a range of space and time, capturing the momentary and immortalizing the impermanent. At the height of the letter’s popularity, Thomas Hardy included letters in his novels to further plot, develop characters, and think critically about the function of written communication in society. Hardy’s exploration of this medium changed over the course of his career. This essay analyzes the depiction of letters in three key Thomas Hardy novels: The Return of the Native, Tess of the D’urbervilles, and Jude the Obscure. It also orients each novel within the context of Hardy’s career. Hardy’s use of letters in these works explores their limitations and indicates his devolving faith in the effectiveness of writing. This disillusionment culminated in his decision to abandon novel writing.

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