The Image of Christ in Thomas Hardy's Poetry of Progress
Although many scholars discuss the importance of Christian images in Thomas Hardy’s poetry, most conclude that the ideas and images of the Christian faith were ultimately inadequate for Hardy in his attempts to find hope for the moral progress of humanity. In this thesis, I argue that Christ is crucial as a figure of hope and a symbol of redemption in Hardy’s attempt to assert the possibility of moral progress through human actions. Through a close reading of several of Hardy’s poems, as well as a study of texts that influenced his ideas about progress and about Christ, I first discuss the importance of concrete examples of human goodness, rather than speculations about miraculous or divine help, as sources of hope for Hardy. I then examine the continued importance of Christian images, especially the figure of Christ, within Hardy’s humanist worldview. To Hardy, Christ serves as a historical example of the lasting efficacy of virtuous activity, as well as a poetic symbol with the power to inspire further virtuous activity in other humans.