Hardy's introductory description of Sophy at the open-air park concert is in some ways simple yet, in other ways, complex. Some of the simple elements of Hardy's description are the details about her hairstyle and about dressing her own hair as she had no lady's maid. These details also turned...
Hardy's introductory description of Sophy at the open-air park concert is in some ways simple yet, in other ways, complex. Some of the simple elements of Hardy's description are the details about her hairstyle and about dressing her own hair as she had no lady's maid. These details also turned to a complex use as her hair may be seen as symbolic of her life. Her life, on the one hand, consists of dissimilar elements woven deftly together and, on the other hand, a series of twists (like to her ankle) rendering results that are less than desirable, for example, the sad twists that result in her funeral procession--presided over by heartless Randolph--that passes a tearful lonely Sam Hobson with hat in hand.
Another simple element of Sophy's description is that Hardy does not detail her features. Apart from the intricacies of her "nut-brown hair ... [u]nder the black beaver hat, [with a] tuft of black feathers," we are told her eye color, which are "soft, brown, and affectionate orbs." Other descriptive details are given in vague terms [a technique most great writers use for main characters, especially in short stories], like: "not so handsome"; "less young"; "Yet attractive"; and "not at all sickly."
the white ear and poll, and the curve of a cheek which was neither flaccid nor sallow, were signals that led to the expectation of good beauty in front. Such expectations are not infrequently disappointed
Another complex element of Hardy's description of Sophy is that we are given indirect information about her personality and temperament through other people's reactions to her as they walk by and study her. One, they are pleasantly intrigued enough by her to want to know more of her. Two, they elicit a response from her; she responds with unflinching openness. Three, we know enough about her to admire her, like her, and feel sympathetically toward her when her son shortly after chastises her and humiliates her with arrogant superiority.
Hardy sets up the theme and meaning of the story through our initial introduction to Sophy. He shows that she has courage and optimism, "it was almost the only accomplishment she could boast of. Hence the unstinted pains"; she is cheerful and charitable, "a concert ... was the effort of a local association to raise money for some charity"; she is affectionate and open, "each time she turned to talk to a boy ... who stood beside her," "she met the eyes of several of her observers by lifting her own." Hardy uses simplicity and complexity to reveal a young woman in less than optimal circumstances who is lovely inside and out, yet not as beautifully lovely as might be, implying the reality of life rather than the dream of the ideal.