Year

2013

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

School of Arts, English and Media

Abstract

This research is an attempt to explore Hardy’s unorthodox attitudes to Christianity after he lost his religious faith on the intellectual level, but retained it at an emotional level. The research seeks to answer the question of whether Hardy embraced an alternative belief system to supplant his loss of faith in Christian dogma after he was acquainted with Darwin’s writings. The thesis argues that Hardy did embrace an alternative ‘religion’ and this was the Positivist ‘Religion of Humanity’. The methods ado.ted in undertaking the research consist of the thorough investigation of primary resources through intensive textual reading, focusing on the themes that are relevant to the thesis question, and assessing the textual themes against intellectual movements and biographical details.

The research concludes that Thomas Hardy lost his orthodox faith on the intellectual level, but retained his emotional attachment to the Anglican Church, and that he embraced Positivist philosohy. Although Hardy viewed the universe as devoid of providence and ruled by an apathetic and capricious Power, he armed his protagonists with Positivist merits and evolutionary meliorism to help them endure their daily suffering. Moreover, Hardy endowed his protagonists with Comtean merits that set them intellectually and spiritually ahead of their communities. However, Hardy’s protagonists’ noble intentions are baffled by the deterministic laws of the ‘Immanent Will’, Darwin’s law of natural selection, and the laws of social and religious constraints that Hardy believed to rule human life.

The afore-mentioned findings are significant because they may lead to the correction of the common misconception that after he lost his orthodox faith intellectually, Hardy did not embrace any other religion. Although the research findings showed that Hardy embraced the Positivist Religion of Humanity, he did not completely assent to Positivism as a belief system but only as an ideal because his realistic sense of human frailty and fate was tragic.

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