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Minor CreaturesPersons, Animals, and the Victorian Novel$
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Ivan Kreilkamp

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226576237

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226576404.001.0001

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Using and Pitying Animals in Thomas Hardy

Using and Pitying Animals in Thomas Hardy

(p.109) Chapter Five Using and Pitying Animals in Thomas Hardy
Minor Creatures

Ivan Kreilkamp

University of Chicago Press

With Thomas Hardy, this book comes to the first canonical British novelist to take an active interest animal-welfare and anti-cruelty politics—which had moved from the margins to closer to the mainstream in the decades since the 1824 founding of the SPCA (later the RSPCA). This chapter considers Hardy’s representation of animal life and animality both as important in its own right, and as deeply intertwined with his depiction of human life. It does so through a consideration of various Hardy texts and aspects of his biography, but especially through a reading of what is defined as the “pastoral plot” of Far From the Madding Crowd. This novel teaches its readers to “pity the sheep” and to push beyond an exclusively human-centered perspective. To pity the sheep is to “follow after” and live with the animal, to be willing to risk symbolic infection from proximity to the non-human. Hardy’s shepherd Gabriel Oak represents a new kind of protagonist for the Victorian novel, one who achieves his status not by asserting but by giving up the privilege of casting out the animal from the space of the human and the home.

Keywords:   Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd, animal welfare, domesticity, Jude the Obscure, pastoral, pity, sheep, meat

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