How does Hardy use title, subtitle and structure to convey the main themes of Under the Greenwood Tree?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The title of this novel, Hardy's first major novel to be released, is one which draws attention to the pastoral nature of this work and also the importance that nature has on the development of the novel as a whole. The title refers to the greenwood tree in Geoffrey Day's garden, the father of the female heroine of this novel, and the importance of this tree and of nature as a whole is at the heart of the story. Note the following quote:

To dwellers in a wood, almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature.

The greenwood tree is highly significant in the novel, as shown by the way that Fanny Day finally marries Davy and has her wedding feast beneath this tree. As this tree is described as being venerable and the sustainer and creator of life for so many creatures, it can be seen as a symbol of fertility in the novel that, during the wedding feast, encompasses the humans celebrating beneath it with the dancing, merriment and storytelling that accompanies Fanny and Davy's union. The title of the novel therefore points towards the importance of nature as an entity in the novel and the way that it impacts upon the characters, and the structure of the novel is very much built around the importance of setting and the tree that gives the novel its name. The ending of the novel, which takes place literally under the greenwood tree, is one that is shown to be fitting and proper due to the pastoral elements of the story, and can be seen as depicting humanity living together with nature rather than opposed to it.

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