🌳 Because I love nature, it's only natural that I tend to be attracted to books where nature poses as dominant aspect. The Woodlanders falls into this category, and that's why I loved it!
🌳 I was drawn, particularly, to the simple life of the woodlanders; their occupation, their view of life, and their intimate relation with mother nature. I was also interested in the spars making craft (I didn't know what a spar is until I googled it). And that was, actually, how we were first introduced to this book: a simple nineteen year old girl, Marty South, making spars in the dead of the night to get paid in the morning. That's how woodlanders had lived, and, but for some influences from "outsiders", they would all live contentedly. And that's what this book is about - greediness and ambition which wrecked the beautiful balance of natural life in a woodland village: Little Hintock.
🌳 As I have analyzed before, I see Marty South as the centre of this story. She is reserved, calm, hardworking, and possesses enough skill for improving her life. Then the outsiders' unnatural greediness or ambition starts to shake her world. First, Marty must sacrifice her luscious long hair to be sold for money, just because Mrs. Charmond, a rich widow with many lovers, wants to have it as a wig!
🌳 The hair symbolizes Marty's femininity. Without it, she loses hope of ever attracting Giles Winterborne, a woodsman whom she loves, though unrequitedly. Giles is in love with another: Grace Melbury, who has been "promised" to him by her father.
🌳 The ambitious Mr. Melbury had sent his only daughter Grace to be educated abroad to improve her future. He takes back his promise to Winterborne, as he thinks her daughter should marry higher than a mere woodsman. A young doctor called Fitzpiers, who is charmed by Grace, is the one Mr. Melbury believes as a more suitable husband for Grace.
🌳 What about Grace herself? It is interesting to see how she'd view the woodland after returning from abroad. Would she be contented with her old life (and lover), or would she view them as flat and boring, seeking more refined, more amusing life and husband? It was amusing to see her blundering through her choices, in Hardy's universe, which was always ruled by chances, bad timing, and errors. Could Grace escape it all unscathed? But more importantly, how would she re-shape the life of those who are truer woodlanders?
🌳 Hardy himself had classified this novel in the group of "Novels of Character and Environment" [source: wikipedia]. And I agree. The Woodlanders is about clashes between classes and different environments, poor marriage, adultery, wrong choices. It's not a cheerful story, but it's Hardy, you can't expect nothing more, right? But no worry, Hardy compensated the gloomy plot with his rustic settings of the woodland and his usual beautiful narration. And also, with one of the strongest 'heroines' I've ever read.
Rating: 4,5 / 5
Further reads on The Woodlanders:
- Character analysis of Marty South
- Book cover art analysis
- Hardy's poem on Marty South