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The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy
Currently, restrictions on the delivery of files to mobile devices mean our download titles must be downloaded to a desktop computer and then transferred to the mobile device. Download links are also delivered to you via e-mail: see Download Shop — How It Works for more details. The Return of the Native. Far From the Madding Crowd. The title of The Woodlanders inevitably recalls his earlier novel, Under the Greenwood Tree, and its opening scenes suggest that this too will be a country idyll.
The setting is the tiny hamlet of Little Hintock, isolated even by the standards of rural Dorset, where human lives merge with that of the woodlands that extend for some miles around, and with which the people live in symbiosis, their occupations being exclusively concerned with timber, apples and cider-making. The story is evidently to be that of the love, growing since childhood, between the upright, attractive woodsman, Giles Winterborne, and Grace Melbury, the beautiful daughter of a local timber-merchant.
But this idyllic expectation is unfulfilled, for the novel takes another direction, firstly because Grace is sent away to be educated, so that her father conceives higher ambitions for her; and secondly because Hardy introduces two outsiders into the enclosed world of Hintock, outsiders whose character and conduct are greatly at odds with those of the rural folk.
Consequently The Woodlanders becomes to a great extent a social novel, not a rural idyll. Hardy probably conceived it as a tragedy, but whether it achieves tragic status is questionable; although it is full of pathos, none of the characters are magnificent enough or decisive enough to be felt as tragic. After leaving school at fifteen, he was apprenticed to a local architect, where he worked for some years.
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Although Hardy is famed for his pessimistic view of the universe as hostile, and of nature and fate as implacable and blind to human happiness, he was just as concerned with society, its laws and conventions. The barriers between the classes estranged man from man, and more especially man from woman.
Grace accedes to the urgings of her father and marries Edred Fitzpiers, a young doctor of great charm but questionable moral character. Grace soon turns to Giles for comfort after Edred goes off with Mrs. Felice Charmond, a local upper-class woman. Giles, who is seriously ill, relinquishes his cottage to Grace and moves into a rude hut, where he soon dies of exposure.
Although Grace mourns his loss, she eventually reconciles with Edred.
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