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Discussion Topics for “On the Western Circuit”:
1. What is Hardy’s attitude toward marriage in “On the Western Circuit”? Compare Edith’s marriage to Anna and Chalres’. What in particular is problematic about marriage as depicted here?
2. How does sexual desire complicate the characters’ lives? How is the fulfillment of that desire in conflict with other aspects of their lives?
3. Is Charles a sympathetic character? To what extent does his seduction of Anna affect the way you judge him and the way you understand the story?
4. Of the three characters–Ann, Edith, Charles–who is the most tragic and why? Provide specific examples from the story to support your analysis.
5. The Norton’s bio of Thomas Hardy says, “Men and women in Hardy’s fiction are rarely masters of their fates . . . they may be subjected to the indifferent forces that manipulate their behavior and their relations with others. They can achieve dignity, however, through endurance, heroism, or simple strength of character.” Explain how either Charles, Anna, or Edith embodies this analysis.
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