How Do Pope and Hardy Explore Responsibility for the Downfall of the Protagonist?

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  • Topic: Lock of hair, Rape, Alec Issigonis
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  • Published : March 12, 2013
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How do Pope and Hardy explore responsibility for the downfall of the protagonist?  
Pope in The Rape of the Lock and Hardy in Tess of the D’Urbervilles both explore the responsibility for the downfall in their female protagonist, one losing her virginity and another only a lock of hair. In Tess of the D'Urbervilles it is mainly shown to be the fault of the male aggressors such as Alec and Angel, whereas Pope doesn't explore the Baron in great detail suggesting he is less at fault for Belinda's fall. Both Pope and Hardy are reluctant to make their protagonist solely responsible, but there are suggestions that they partially contribute, seen particularly in The Rape of the Lock. Although not as emphasised in The Rape of the Lock, Hardy's criticisms of society run through the novel, which contribute to the actions of both the supposed aggressors and victim. This leaves us to sympathise with Tess as she is more of a victim to society than Belinda who is shown to have conformed to her society, allowing her own downfall. Although Beatrice in The Changeling can be seen under stresses of society, she is strongly presented as having a personal bad nature causing her fall.  

In both the male characters can be seen as violently bringing the protagonists fall upon her. Hardy shows Alec's role as an aggressor ambiguously in his 1912 edition but clearly in his 1891 novel. Pope indicates in the title that Belinda is a victim of rape although his intentions are satirical, as the rape leaves the Baron with her hair as a prize rather than her virginity. Hardy uses Alec's introduction to portray him as a villainous and 'dastardly' womaniser as his 'black moustache with curled points' creates an immediate sinister image of him. Hardy continues this characterisation of Alec as 'his appearance in a gathered smockfrock…had a ghastly comicality that chilled her’, this image of Alec becomes more sinister as he takes it on and say that ‘I am the old other one’. Alec’s physical approaches as early on as their ride to the D’Urberville home once Tess has taken on the job, show that his aggressive and dominant advances contribute to the loss of Tess’s innocence. Alec is seen to 'settled the matter by clasping his arm round her as he desired'. Hardy uses Alec’s physical approaches to show that he is mentally and physically capable of violating Tess, and putting him forward to be responsible for her downfall due to his aggressive behaviour. However Ellen Rooney suggests that ‘the meaning of purity hinges on the relation between seduction and rape’, suggesting that Tess was partially at fault. This could be argued as in his 1912 edition due to the use of words such as 'obscure' and 'nebulous' indicating what happened thereafter as hard to interpret. However Despite Hardy putting in the sub title Pure Women to stop criticisms as such it has done the complete opposite with dispute of whether Tess was raped or seduced for over a hundred years. However Hardy attacks Rooney’s statement as he says she cannot prove Tess to be ‘a desiring or speaking subject." This was down to Hardy having to remove offensive passages so that it could be published in The Graphic from 4 July to 26 December 1891, because of Victorian society being alarmed and disgusted at the idea of what they would see as seduction and an illegitimate birth. Therefore the passages being restored in the November 1891 edition prove that Hardy wished to make clear that Tess was a pure woman, and that Alec was the aggressor as he labelled him a ‘spoiler’, therefore leaving no space for interpretation. Although it could be suggested Beatrice to be seduced as had Tess due to naivity, there is a strong characterisation that Beatrice is the aggressor. Despite being the female protagonist as Tess, Beatrice is seen to exploit De Flores’ minor status, just as Alec exploits Tess’s lower class status and naivety. Beatrice finally see’s she has ‘some use’ for De Flores despite seeing him as a ‘serpent’...
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