Victorian Popular Fictions 2.2 5 Hayes

Darkest Wessex: Hardy, the Gothic Short Story, and Masculinity

Tracy Hayes

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Thomas Hardy is generally recognised as a powerful delineator of the female psyche, his intuitive understanding of the emotional complexities of women such as Tess Durbeyfield and Sue Bridehead being emphasised at the expense of his male characters, who are often viewed as weak and two-dimensional. However, Hardy’s men are also examined in depth, in light of their ambitions, sensitivities, hypocrisies and social expectations, thereby giving voice to discursive categories of maleness often elided in the work of his contemporaries. In the Gothic short story as featured in Blackwood’s and similar magazines, the author’s intention is to elicit terror within a circumscribed textual space, creating a balance between actuality and artifice which holds the reader enthralled. The effect is achieved through the power of brevity. In this context a withered arm, a luridly disfigured statue and a demonic fiddle player are used as vehicles by Hardy through which the incredible or fantastic highlight instances of toxic masculinity and grotesque extremes of human nature in a concentrated modality which leaves behind an indelible impression.

Key Words

Thomas Hardy; Gothic; masculinity; short story; periodicals; folklore.

Date of Acceptance: 1 October 2020

Date of Publication: 25 October 2020

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation

Hayes, Tracy. 2020. “Darkest Wessex: Hardy, the Gothic Short Story, and Masculinity.” Victorian Popular Fictions 2.2: 76-94.

ISSN: 2632-4253 (online).


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