Protection of the self, compassion toward the other : Thomas Hardy examined through folk theory of mind.


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In this dissertation I am using a conceptual framework known as Folk Theory of Mind to shed new insights on Thomas Hardy’s five most well‐known novels: Far From the Madding Crowd, The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and Jude the Obscure. Folk Theory of Mind is an area of research undertaken by psychologist and professor, Dr. Bertram F. Malle. The theory is a “conceptual framework for processing information about human beings” (How the Mind 31). I have used different aspects of this framework: the need for explanations and meaning, differences between actor and observer explanations, patterns regarding the assignment of blame, the driving power of mental states, and the presence of intentions and intentionality to analyze the five aforementioned novels. Each novel I have chosen exhibits the strong presence of an aspect of folk theory of mind, which will serve as the focus for the analysis of that novel. Each analysis points to one conclusion: that for Hardy characters, behavior explanations must be sought and offered to heighten an awareness of one’s own as well as others’ goals, desires, and motives, and that the sections allow for protection of the self as well as an opportunity to practice compassion and responsibility towards others. I will demonstrate that Hardy’s characters often fail to do this, leading themselves and their conversation partners to suffer disappointment and disillusionment in their relationships. This is an extension of observations that already exist in other forms in Hardy studies. However, I am using a formal conceptual framework that has not been used extensively in conjunction with Hardy before, and my conclusion vis‐a‐vis self‐protection and responsibility can also be distinguished from arguments put forth by other scholars.



Thomas Hardy. Folk Theory of Mind. Bertram Malle.