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Thomas Hardy’s The Well-Beloved: A “Ghost” Story

From: College Literature
Volume 41, Number 3, Summer 2014
pp. 95-113 | 10.1353/lit.2014.0032



The Well–Beloved attends to the complexities and an xieties of creative consciousness. While Hardy, characteristically, remains non-committal throughout, a speculation surfaces about the status of the artist, the relationship of the artist and the world, and the tendency of art to falsify. The artist hero Jocelyn Pierston is an explorer feeling his way in an effort to reveal some unknown beauty. It is his desire to find the ideal of woman (“the Well–Beloved”) and translate her beauty into a sculptural form that impels him to wander. So among Hardy’s preoccupations in the novel is a need to register the notion of wandering as a metaphorical referent for the hero’s journey in search of ideal beauty, which is in fact beyond the limits of his own power. This essay invites the reader to consider the nature of Pierston’s wandering, thereby aiming to underline that The Well–Beloved reflects Hardy’s aesthetic and mores beyond his own fin de siècle, which could be described as distinctively postmodern.

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