Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Wessex

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. At the time in which this story is set it is still very much a rural setting.

Little Hintock

Little Hintock. Wessex village so closely intertwined with the forest surrounding it that a traveler from a nearby town cannot locate it without the help of locals. In some spots the foliage is so dense that it obscures the road to the village, cutting it off from the outside world. The majority of Little Hintock’s residents live in harmony with their natural setting. Many cut timber in the forests owned by George Melbury or help Giles Winterbourne press cider in the apple orchards. These are trades that villagers have plied for centuries, and Hardy depicts the village as largely untouched by the present and the many changes transforming the English countryside in the nineteenth century. The townspeople still follow many of the old customs and traditions, including a primitive Midsummer’s Eve ritual, in which the unmarried village women try to use enchantments to conjure glimpses of their future husbands.

The village’s isolation contributes to its simple, tranquil character. Little Hintock is what Hardy calls a sequestered spot “outside the gates of the world” where meditation is more common than action, and listlessness more common than meditation. However, even so harmonious a setting is not without its problems. The village is a place where grand and even Sophoclean dramas unfold because of the concentrated passions and...

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