Hardy's Tess: Quest Of Irony
Such may be a beginning in the quest of irony. If we would have a little risk on saying that the test of a great writing – especially novel, is organic or imaginative structure, we won't be wrong. As Coleridge defines the power of imagination as a fusion of many into one, it will not have a way to disagree. The organic form does not stand without fusion. It may also be said that the mind's vibration seeks always fusion. I shall endeavor to show that irony. Perhaps, the complexion may arise in the sense of any kind of organic form.
While emphasizing on adding special effect of irony to their writings or expressions, the modern critics, sometimes looses their track. They are sometimes seen ending up with something very cheap.
In certain respects, the position taken here is antipodal, i.e. the exact opposite of a person or a thing, which occurs interestingly in a novel to improve the design on life. "In proportion as in what fiction offers us we see life without rearrangement, do we feel that we are touching the truth, in proportion as we see it with rearrangement, do we feel that we are being put off with a substitute, a compromise, and a convention." Henry James wrote a paradox in his Art Of Fiction that demands such a wide hearing.
At the heart of the paradox, is the conflict between creative humanity and the spirit of things, essentially alien to the former. Though our morality, our culture, our values consist of a series of nota bene (that is, usually contracted into N.B.), yet the tension is perpetual. The artist, if he has any sort of penetration, does not merely represent life. But also reveals the underlying brittle. The revelation is not a matter of gratitude to the readers. It must have a significant in a real wide sense – beau ideal (i.e. ones highest type of excellence).
The point of illumination is where the cruelty and the cheapness of things and the pity and justice of man's interest. G.B. Shaw said, "if pity akins to love, love akins to gratitude", in his serious drama Arms And The Man. These are all the discipline in the literature. The two opposed impulses counter balance each other within a form: the impulse to advance and impulse to recoil. There may be variations in the descriptions. We have doubts if we could do without recognition of the chaos even though it be in a relative sense.
But we should remember that the ironic principle has a philosophical basis that could be sketched artistically in the characters of a novel. Henry James insists upon the secret of the "Air Of Reality". Shaw preached in a different way, i.e. in advanced ideas, where Thomas Hardy discovered by his detractors to be the age-old "Man proposes God disposes"!
But it should be kept in the forefront of the mind that none may hope to win immorality with any testimonials. But the ultra modern de-banking of Hardy – unfortunately led by Dr. Leavis who calls him a "second-rate provincial" – seems to mistakes his technical clumsiness for a basic failure. In the literature it may happen. An author may be a man to shrink from unpleasant consequences, or one to be gloat upon horror. Hardy calls Tess "a pure woman" and thus focused an ironic light upon her life. Tess herself is certainly pure, but no prude. She faces disaster that overwhelmed the ideal aspiration of life; but she holds out with the amazing toughness of inescapable life. She commits a murder, but that was supreme love. How? In the last chapter where she clings pathetically to Angle Clare, who had been suffering, haggard and limited creature and wonders at the strange violence of affection. There is a peak of irony.
Consider the place, where Tess places a bunch of flowers in a vase at the grave of her body: "what matter was it that on the outside of the jar the eye of mere observation noted the wars 'Keelwell's marmalade'". This is the complex fabric of human experience, unmistakably reveals itself. This alone in a passport immortality comes through the times.