Date of Award


Degree Type

Master's Essay - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Commitment takes on many forms, Alvin Toffler points out in Future Shock, and one of these forms is attachment to place. We cannot comprehend the significance of modern man's mobility unless we first appreciate the centrality of fixed place in the psychological structure of traditional man. Even more fundamentally, perhaps we cannot understand the importance of place until we consider the simple fact--the impact of which our ecology-conscious environment makes us acutely aware--of individual man's occupation of a specific physical area with his body (spatial) and of a specific slot in time (temporal). Hardy surely grasped the profound psychological significance of the latter fact and, rural in background, fully appreciated Toffler's point for the word "roots" is agricultural in origin. It signifies post-nomadic man's attachment to a fixed place--a home handed down from generation to generation and serving as a link with both nature and the past. The turbulence involved in the exodus of rural folk to the urban areas during the industrial revolution of Hardy's time served to focus his attention all the more sharply on the importance of place in man's spiritual and physical make-up. After the seemingly impervious bastions of marriage and formal religion crumbled beneath him)what was left but to seek the foundation for his life in the land of his forebears? Like Scarlett O'Hara, for whom no consolation remains but Tara plantation itself, Hardy's ultimate foothold in life seems to be that planted in the soil of Wessex, England.

We shall in this paper examine Hardy's preoccupation with the environment of his native region, and the development of a 'spirit of place' concept that is intimately linked to his philosophical view of the world and significantly operative in his series of Wessex novels. In particular, this study will concentrate on the living environment of a major Wessex novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge. The chief point in regard to this work is that Hardy does not here merely employ the pathetic fallacy, but utilizes his 'spirit of place' notion in a manner integral to his philosophy of the Immanent Will as influenced by the evolutionary theories of Darwin. We begin with an examination of the role of the 'spirit of place' concept in Hardy's world view, move to a survey of early appraisals of its use in his work and to a general review of its operation in other relevant Wessex novels, and then turn to the Mayor itself.