Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Judith B. Slagle

Committee Members

Robert Sawyer, William Styron Harris Jr.


Many female characters in Thomas Hardy’s novels clearly illustrate one of the Victorian stereotypes of women: the proper, submissive housewife or the rebellious, independent dreamer. Hardy does not demonstrate how women should be, but rather how society pressures women to conform to the accepted image. Hardy progresses from subtly criticizing society, as seen in The Return of the Native and The Woodlanders, to overtly condemning gender roles and marriage in Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. The characters of Thomasin, Mrs. Yeobright, and Grace Melbury illustrate those who submit to society’s expectations; and Eustacia Vye, Felice Charmond, Tess Durbyfield, Sue Bridehead, and Arabella Donn illustrate the stereotypical seductress. Hardy’s female characters seem to experience especially harsh or condemning circumstances due to the social expectations placed upon them. These unpleasant events earn readers’ sympathy and work to subvert the traditional limiting views of women.

Document Type

Thesis - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.