Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Wessex. Fictional region of England in which Thomas Hardy set most of his major novels. It is situated east of the Cornish coast, between the River Thames and the English Channel. There, Hardy freely constructs a partly real and partly fictional locale to accommodate a series of “local” novels, including Far from the Madding Crowd (1874). The countryside in many ways resembles that of southwestern England—rolling hills, babbling brooks, quaint villages, and rustic rural folk.


Marygreen. Jude’s hometown village in Wessex, where he is reared by his aunt. Marygreen’s landscape is idyllic and contrasts with the coarseness of its working-class population, as represented by Arabella’s family. Jude is initiated into adulthood in Marygreen; he learns a work ethic and experiences the temptation of fleshly desires. Here he marries Arabella and gives up his dreams of pursuing an education. This town is set in opposition to the university town of Christminster, which Jude views as an enlightened place of learning. This village is based on Great Fawley, Berkshire, where some of Hardy’s ancestors are buried and where his grandmother lived. Jude’s surname is taken from this place.


Christminster. University city. Christminster represents a typical university institution of the nineteenth century. It professes Christian values of humility and generosity yet excludes applicants based on class and gender. Jude moves to Christminster after his failed marriage to Arabella. However, Christminster will not accept him because he is a stonemason and therefore part of the working class. Even though Jude is intelligent and has studied independently, his application is rejected. Thus the city represents the belittling attitude of the...

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