Critical analysis

The study of how a text works and how it has been put together is part of the appreciation of literature (and vital for exam success!). Unlike many other Victorian novelists, Thomas Hardy opens his work to a variety of interpretations, by apparently guiding the reader's response then undermining such guidance by later events or comments. In the end, readers are left with a number of possible interpretations.

This has generated a large mass of critical material since Tess of the d'Urbervilles was published in 1891. Some of the more recent interpretations, especially those that deconstruct the novel in a postmodernist way, can be very technical and more suited to undergraduate or even graduate levels of study. However, many are perfectly accessible to 'A' level students.

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