So, Hardy is a “naturalist writer”. Did you know this?
Did you guess based on chapter 1 of The Return of the Native?
Wow, he wrote a whole chapter just about the setting.
Here’s what SWB had to say about naturalist writers in our handbook The Well-Educated Mind:
Naturalist writers were convinced that they could write “purely scientific” novels. The individual, the subject of all novelization since Don Quixote, was no longer free. The “self” was only the product of inherited traits plus environmental influence. Naturalist writers–most notably Thomas Hardy–gave their characters certain genetic characteristics, plopped them down into a sheer hell of environmental factors, and then described the resulting behavior. The naturalist’s job (in his or her own eyes, at any rate) was jut like the scientist’s: Put the rat in the maze, watch what it does, and record the outcome without elaboration.
(WEM p. 64)