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Thomas Hardy's Shorter FictionA Critical Study$
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Sophie Gilmartin and Rod Mengham

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780748632657

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748632657.001.0001

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A Group of Noble Dames

A Group of Noble Dames

(p.53) Chapter 2 A Group of Noble Dames
Thomas Hardy's Shorter Fiction

Sophie Gilmartin

Rod Mengham

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines A Group of Noble Dames, a collection of stories that mostly feature cross-class relationships or marriages. It shows several ‘noble dames’ who marry men from lower classes, as well as the complications that arise over whom they have married. This can serve as an introduction to some of the confusions and detailed circumstances that appear to exercise every change of adultery, marriage, and widowhood. The chapter presents the different phases of womanhood and the performative language of the marriage vow. It notes Hardy's use of strained and complicated events that put pressure on the marriage contract, pushing it to the point of breakage or exhaustion. The chapter also considers illegitimacy, secrets of women, and how pain in these stories is expressed through dialogue.

Keywords:   cross-class relationships, noble dames, adultery, widowhood, womanhood, marriage vow, marriage contract, illegitimacy, pain, secrets

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