Thomas Hardy's, On the Western Circuit: A Twist of Irony

Pages: 3 (1091 words) Published: February 24, 2014

A Twist of Irony
Reflection on Thomas Hardy’s critical exploration of moral issues in ‘On The Western Circuit’

Thomas Hardy’s On The Western Circuit narrates the story of the country girl Anna who madly falls in love with lawyer Charles Bradford Raye on a fair. Raye asks Anna to write him during his travel around the Western Circuit. Anna, who can neither read nor write, enlists the help of Edith Harnham, who recruited her as a housemaid and expresses deep affection for her. Eventually, Edith falls in love with Raye as well. This essay will prove that On The Western Circuit demonstrates Hardy’s sense of waste and frustration involved in human life and the twist of irony which presents itself when trying to deal properly with moral issues, establishing “The sadness in his work” which is “considered part of the late Victorian moral” (Buelens and Claes 98). This essay will argue that the three protagonists of the story have the best moral intentions and that these intentions, quite ironically despite their moral goodness, will lead to the destruction of their lives.

Charles Bradford Raye, to begin with, falls in love with a simple country girl and does not expect her at first to be intellectually developed. Thus he is very surprised when reading her first letter: “It was the most charming little missive he had ever received” (Hardy 1923). As the story evolves Raye is convinced that Anna is a decent woman worthy to support him in making a social career. When he heard of Anna’s pregnancy at first he thinks he might have to alter his career prospections but then he makes up his mind, because of “ the unexpected mines of brightness and warmth that her letters had disclosed to be lurking in her sweet nature had led him to abandon that somewhat sad prospect” (Hardy 1927). Thus, Raye can be seen as morally good, exceeding social superficiality by acknowledging the intellectual capabilities of a mere country girl.

The second important protagonist Anna...

Bibliography: Buelens, Gert and Koenraad Claes. English literature - II Historical survey: more recent period. Ghent: Academia Press, 2013.Print.
Hardy, Thomas. "On The Western Circuit." The Norton Anthology of English Literature.
Gen. ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. D. New York: Norton, 2012. 986-995. Print.
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