Questions for Thomas Hardy's Desperate Remedies (1871)

Philip V. Allingham, Contributing Editor, Victorian Web; Faculty of Education, Lakehead University (Canada)

1. The features commonly associated with the publishing phenomenon of the 1860s known as the Sensation Novel include the following:

Reginald Terry's Victorian Popular Fiction 1860-80 (London: Macmillan, 1983) defines "detailism" as the Sensation novelists' practice of rendering the improbabilities of suspense, melodrama, and behavioural extremes in "commonly shared experience" (55). In what sense may we describe Desperate Remedies as a Sensation Novel?

2. What are Miss Aldclyffe's motives for wanting Cytherea to marry Aeneas Manston?

3. In what respects is the fictional Edward Springrove like his author, Thomas Hardy?

4. Unlike many of Hardy's novels of Character and Environment, Desperate Remedies seems to downplay the Wessex setting and focus on the kinds of characters and events common in the novels of Wilkie Collins. However, the place names and dialect of Wessex are evident. How has Hardy used such background elements to provide "local colour"? How is the Wessex setting significant in this novel?

5. What role does each of the following play in the novel's plot? A. Anne Seaway B. Eunice C. Mr. Raunham D. Aeneas Manston.

6. "He got to Liverpool and embarked, intending to work his way to America, but on the passage he fell overboard and was drowned." A. Who is the speaker? B. What is the significance of this anecdote?

7. "She was a tall woman. She was broad at the shoulders. She was full-bosomed. She was easily recognizable . . . ." A. Who is being described? B. Who is the observer or speaker? C. Of what significance are the broad shoulders?

8. "It was a depressing picture of married life among the very poor of a city. Only for one short hour in the whole twenty-four did husband and wife taste genuine happiness." A. Who are being described? B. What is the "genuine happiness" they "taste"?

9. ". . . he's a-married to a sharp woman, and if I don't make a mistake she'll bring him a pretty good family . . . ." A. Who is the speaker? B. Which couple are referred to? C. What does the speaker mean by "a pretty good family"?

10. Explain which event constitutes the novel's climax.

11. How is it discovered that Manston's wife did not perish in the fire?

12. In what respects are Aeneas Manston and Edward Springrove foils?

13. What suggestions does Hardy give that Miss Aldclyffe is a lesbian?

14. The novel has been described as a tale of ‘mystery, entanglement, surprise, and moral obliquity': provide an example of each from the plot.

15. What economic circumstances drive Cytherea Graye to accept the hand of Aeneas Manston?

16. Why did Hardy's name not appear on the cover of the first edition?

17. In the first edition, Hardy referred to Manston as a "demon," but altered this in 1889 to "desperado." Speculate as to why he made this alteration.

18. How does "the Testament in the waiting-room" help us date the action of the story?

19. There are parallels between the fire that burned down the Houses of Parliament on 16 October, 1834, and the Carriford fire, including the neglected warnings, the inadequacy of the fire-fighting equipment, and the removal of goods rescued to a church. Where might Hardy, born in 1840, have gleaned these details? Speculate as to the motivation for Hardy's providing these parallels.

20. What does Springrove mean by saying, "I meditate the thankless Muse no longer?" Whom, in fact, is he quoting? What does this quotation suggest about Springrove?

21. Why does the novel end with a row on the lake?

22. To what extent is this novel one of Crime and Detection?

23. Hardy describes Cytherea as trapped in a labyrinth. What parallels exist between her plight and that of the hero Theseus? How does she extricate herself from this labyrinth?

24. When Cythera finds herself penniless, she accepts the position as lady's maid at Knapwater House: why did she choose this line of work?

25. Explain how "Miss Aldclyffe . . . directs operations on both the emotional and economic planes" (C. J. P. Beatty, "Introduction").

26. Why is each of the chapters entitled "The Events of . . ." followed by a time-frame?

27. What circumstances in her past have made Miss Aldclyffe bitter and deceitful?

28. In what ways is Manston an expression of the darker side of Miss Aldclyffe's character?

29. What elements of the Gothic Novel are contained in Desperate Redemies?

30. What is the significance of the Three Tranters Inn at Carriford to the plot and theme?

31. How has the introduction of the railway led to Farmer Springrove's economic and social decline?

32. What is the significance of the cottages' not being insured on account of their thatched roofs?

33. How does Manston, like a tragic hero, achieve dignity in death?

34. To what extent in the first-two thirds of Desperate Remedies is this novel one of "Character and Environment"?


Victorian Overview Thomas Hardy

Last updated 1 June 2001