Thomas Hardy

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What effect does Hardy's use of Dorset dialect have?

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The effect of Hardy's use of words from the Dorset dialect is to show the difference between educated and uneducated people, as well as the difference between people in rural communities and those who have traveled and perhaps are more worldly. These differences are often shown to be merely superficial, as we see in Far From The Madding Crowd when Bathsheba looks past Gabriel at first and does not realize his value until she has experienced much hardship.

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The effect of Hardy's use of words from the Dorset dialect frequently is intended to show the difference between educated people and those who are not educated. For instance, in The Mayor of Casterbridge, the pretentious mayor says to his daughter Elizabeth in response to her use of the Dorset dialect,

Are you only fit to carry wash to a pig-trough, that ye use such words as those?

He castigates her because her use of the words “bide where you be” instead of “stay where you are” is a giveaway that she is from Dorset and moreover that she has not received instruction about using “proper” British English instead of the more colloquial local dialect.

Use of the Dorset dialect declined during the twentieth century except in the more rural areas and in certain works of literature and poetry. In Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd, Farmer Oak is not pretentious like the mayor of Casterbridge is. Farmer Oak has no airs about him. He does not judge people by their use of the dialect as Michael Henchard does. For instance, when Gabriel is speaking with the toll keeper who will not let Bathsheba through the gate without paying the toll, he does not display any superciliousness to the man when the toll keeper says that Bathsheba's fault is

Beating people down? ay, 'tis so.

Moreover, although Gabriel speaks well generally, he also uses colloquialisms from time to time. For instance, he asks Bathsheba’s aunt,

D'ye know if she's got any other young man hanging about her at all?

He means does Bathsheba have any other suitors who might thwart his intent to ask her for her hand in marriage. In the book, his use of local dialect is intended to show his lack of worldliness, which is one reason that Bathsheba looks past him originally and does not realize his true worth until she has lived through many miseries in her own life. The differences that the use of the dialect highlight are often shown to be merely superficial. For instance, Michael Henchard's origins were just as humble as Gabriel's, but the mayor has taken on airs to hide his humble beginnings.

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