Shakespeare, following the lead of Aristotle, always selected men and women of rank and status as his tragic heroes and heroines. They are all exceptional individuals; it was supposed the fall of such a person alone arouses the tragic emotions of pity and fear, and has a Kathmtic’ effect. But Hardy chooses his heroes and heroines from the humblest ranks of society, and yet the effect is equally “Kathartic”.
Mrs. Yeobright, for example, is a woman of humble status and rank. She is the wife of a poor farmer, and there is nothing exalted, high, or exceptional about her. Yet, such is the art of Thomas Hardy, that at the moment of tragedy, she rises to the heights of tragic grandeur. The effect is “Kathrtic’ in the true sense of the word, and the final impression created one of immense waster of noble, human material.
This is so because Mrs. Yeobright though humble and poor, has many features of character which are the source of her greatness and glory. She is a woman of strong, determined character, and the novelist shows that it is her very strength which becomes a weakness in her relations with her equally strong son. The tragedy is brought about by a conflict between these two strong wills, and the result is terrible in its consequences. She is an affectionate mother who loves her son intensely and passionately and he is a part and parcel of her very being, and she lives for him. It is the very force and intensity of his mother-love that raises her to heights of tragic grandeur and majesty.
Mrs. Yeobright is a wise, shrewd and intelligent woman who has also a penetrating insight into human nature and character. She has a true understanding of the character of Eustacia, and knows that her son can acner he happy; with such a wife. Therefore, she does not want that he should marry her. The resuft is a fierce quarrel with the son who leaves her, and goes to live away from her. Mrs. Yeobright remains a lonely, forlorn figure at home, detested by the son to whom she had given the best years of her life, and without whom she cannot live. We cannot help but pity her.
Though Mrs. Yeobright is strong and firm. She is also gentle and humble. It is she who makes the first move towards a reconciliation. She goes a long distance in scorching sun to meet her son, and talk matters over with him. But crue! destiny has willed otherwise. She finds the door of her son closed against her. She trudges homeward, exhausted and thirsty, is stung by a snake, and dies on the heath, a broken-hearted woman cast off by her own son. The very embodiment of motherhood, she rises to tragic height of grandeur and majesty at the moment of her death. Hers is the tragedy of an innocent, loving mother done to death by cruel destiny.
Mrs. Yeobright death produces a feeling of pity, a sense of tragic waste. The real tragedy is not that Mrs. Yeobright dies, for man must dies one day. The real tragedy is that so much of noble human material is wasted. The waste of such love, such strength, such prudence, etc., is the real tragedy.