Dear Thomas Hardy,
You are an ASSHOLE.
And a jerk.
I just finished Tess of the D’Urbervilles, one of your many famous novels, and I am very very upset.
I should have known after the misery-fest of Jude The Obscure that you hate your characters and want them to suffer immensely in life and then die prematurely. But there was a curve ball in there somewhere… can’t remember what it was called, obviously Howard’s End wasn’t exactly happy either, but I know I read something of yours that didn’t end in death and despair.
You are a bona fide asshole, though, for making me upset now. I hate this bullshit.
Apart from one anomaly that I can’t recall now, all your books are really cruel to your characters. This is one of the reasons why I will never probably write a novel- I couldn’t bear to be so horrible and make my beloved imaginary people suffer so much and I hear conflict is important to get people to give a crap about reading on. The other major obstacle to my way of becoming a proper writer is probably that I have no imagination, people always think I have a vivid imagination but I don’t, I just get myself in ridiculous situations and I have pretty weird dreams. When I was a little child I won a writing competition with my “book” about a girl who goes to this magical dome country full of weird snail people who operate massive levers. I forget what else happens but in the end, she wakes up and it was all a dream. Her name was Jessie. I won that competition (the other entries were about people’s dogs liking to chase cats, in fairness) and everyone was like “wow so imaginative”. What happened was, I had a dream one night that I was in this dome country with these snail people operating levers. My best friend’s name was Jessie. I have NO imagination.
Anyway, Thomas Hardy is on my shit list right now.
You see, first what he does is give you a really virtuous main character. Virtuous as FUCK. So virtuous, for those of you who are big saddos like me with the classics, it’s almost on the same level as Pamela. Never read Pamela? You are missing out. It’s basically a whole book about this crazy rich dude trying to rape this young girl who is around 14 or something, well she’s probably younger at first because he has her locked up in his house for months or even years, and he tries to rape her ALL THE TIME. And to this she replies by whimpering and begging him not to take her virtue, but not trying to run away at first or tell someone about it or yell stranger danger, and she stays for ages and he offers her all sorts of jewellery and to be his mistress and calls her a cheeky sauce box which must have been a strong insult back then but I don’t get it, “sauce box” to me sounds like a special meal deal at a chipper, maybe like if you couldn’t decide between garlic and curry sauce…
Anyway she cries and wails and begs forgiveness all the time. He dresses up as a woman at one point and hides in her bedroom and then tries to rape her, but he is so shit at raping cowering little girls, he never manages to do it. I can’t remember how but something happens every time to stop him, and you can bet it aint Pamela or his conscience. Her defence on one occasion is to faint. Eventually he marries her and the proposal basically evaporates all that was wrong with the situation. Her parents are overjoyed despite knowing the whole story (and doing fuck all about it) and Pamela is the happiest cunt in the world, like a sex offender’s cinderella. Anyway. It’s the most infuriating piece of crap I’ve ever read. Apparently it was one of the first novels. It was written as a series of letters supposedly written by Pamela to her parents throughout her imprisonment. It was also the first appearance of the simpering fainting fool of a heroine: The consensus among the period’s authors seems to have been, it doesn’t matter if a girl is really really poor as long as she is distinctly good looking and very pious and humble and dignified. Kate Middleton, baby. In fact, if they were to write a novel about Kate and her rise to royalty, it couldn’t really go a whole lot differently.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles is a wee bit bolshier than Pamela, but not a whole lot really. Just enough for me to actually give a shit about her. But she has this annoying classical literature heroine attitude where somehow there’s dignity in just letting some asshole try to rape you or successfully rape you and sort of turn the other cheek, maybe tell him he isn’t kind and that you don’t care for him. So anyway, I was sure she was gonna get her happy ending on but no, far from it- she gets like 2 days of happiness with her true love and then she’s arrested for killing her repeat rapist after he attacked her, and then she is excecuted in prison and her true love winds up marrying her sister which is what she had asked him to do.
What was the point in my reading this shit?
Great novel, asshole.
I appreciate you, Thomas Hardy, you weave a good yarn all right, I respect anyone who can come up with fiction because I sure as hell can’t do it, and I do love a bit of period drama, boy do those perverts in waistcoats get my lady wood… but was it entirely necessary to kill her? She had loads of hardships already from the rape to the giving birth to the rape baby to the rape baby dying, etc…
No one would have accused you of sugar coating or Hollywooding up the ending.
And look at Jude the Obscure: Again, shitloads of hardships for all the nice characters, and then boom! The nice characters get together and are briefly happy although living in sin and they take in the main dude’s ex’s son because they are kind hearted people, and then the stepson goes and MURDERS their two or three other kids and then kills himself and then they split up and die alone and miserable. WTF THOMAS HARDY! WHY YOU GOTTA PLAY ME LIKE THAT? How so heartless?
I don’t need to get all wrapped up in your virtuous unlucky imaginary people’s heads only to find them completely screwed over and miserable and dead. It’s not necessary and it’s not cool. I can’t even tell what he’s trying to say, because on one hand his clever good characters you know you’re supposed to be rooting for, all seem to lose faith in god at some point, probably around the time their babies are murdered or die. And it seems like they are right in Hardy’s eyes, because the priests are not depicted in a nice light at all, but then it’s like they get their comeuppance for being godless heathens. I don’t get it Hardy, were you just pandering to the religious powers that were, tacking on a miserable end for the atheists while showing the punishers to be bastards in your opinion?
I don’t want to finish a book like that and find out that they are dead and had like 5 seconds of happiness in their lives. I want alternative endings for saps like me who can’t bear shit to get real. I’m sure glad Thomas Hardy didn’t know about Aids because you can bet his characters especially the harlots who got raped as kids, would have wound up riddled with Aids too.
Thomas Hardy, I know you are dead now so I can’t expect this critique to move you to write me an alternative ending.
So I’ll do it myself.
Alternative ending for Tess of the D’Urbervilles, by Chesty Le Roux.
(this takes place when Angel finally tracks down Tess and she’s being forced to be a sex slave for the guy who raped her before. It happens instead of her yelling “go away, don’t ever come find me, I’m his CREATURE now it’s too late” and then him leaving and her murdering her rapist and then going to run away with Angel who forgives her and they are briefly happy and then she is arrested and excecuted and he marries her sister but obviously will never love her as much as Tess.)
Tess: Ahh no it’s too late, I’m his creature now!
Angel: No it’s find, you’re grand, don’t worry about it, I’m not a virgin either.
Tess: Really, so my having had one other sexual partner doesn’t bother you?
Angel: It’s fine, let’s run away together now before you do something you regret.
Tess: Ok, let me just go tell that rape-happy asshole that I’m leaving him.
Angel: Better not, eh? Just come now.
Tess: What if he comes after me?
Angel: Well technically we are married, and I’m a gentleman so let’s just go to my parents house and alert the authorities that this man has been trying to fornicate with a married woman. In fairness the only reason he managed to get you in his clutches was that you are extremely feeble and also, he was generous to your poor family, but now you have me and my family to protect you and also we have money so we can save your family too.
Tess: Ok then, great.
Cue retro porn music…
THE MOTHERFUCKIN END.
They lived happily ever after.
So there. Now I’m not entirely satisfied with the closure my ending gave me, but it seems much more fair on the nice characters.
I would like some sort of system, in future, where books with a horrible ending could have like a black sticker on the cover so people like me could know not to bother. I don’t read to learn or to intellectually stimulate myself, I read because I enjoy the hell out of reading, probably more than I enjoy a good tv show or film. In fact a funny book has more chance of making me laugh out loud and uncontrollably than any sketch show or sitcom. I love reading, don’t make it a downer please!
Thomas Hardy, I know you are dead so you can’t write me another novel with a nice ending now, it’s too late for you. You’ve gone the way of all your nice virtuous characters, but you probably had a damn sight more happiness than they ever did.
But other authors, then, please be kind to your brain children.
Love, your biggest fan,