Painting Thomas Hardy’s Novels: The Lost Earring

Copyright (C) Sreemoyee Roy Chowdhury

After spending several years researching the novels of Thomas Hardy, Sreemoyee Roy Chowdhury decided to turn her critical studies into visual art, and to develop paintings inspired by Hardy’s third novel A Pair of Blue Eyes. In this final post in a series of four, she depicts a symbol of romantic deception and discovery.

The lost earring plays an even more significant part in Elfride’s relationship with Henry Knight, and truly becomes what Devereux refers to as a ‘symbol of lost maidenhead’.

Knight’s venture into the ‘feminized world of commodity culture and self adornment’, is described by Hardy in great details as he throws himself into the mission of buying a pair of earrings for Elfride, momentarily stepping away from his carefully cultivated and nurtured masculinity, his rational, practical world that he sternly inhabits. Elfride initially refuses the earrings from him, but ultimately accepts them, signalling a capitulation to Knight’s amorous and sexual advances towards her.

The scene where Knight puts the earrings into Elfride’s ears is sketched by Hardy in visual details. Knight ‘trembles’ as he puts the earrings in Elfride’s ears, ‘like a young surgeon in his first operation’. This moment leads to their first kiss, as well the moment of a great faux pas from Elfride, who thus far cautiously keeping her previous romantic dalliance with Stephen from Knight, exclaims that Knight should be careful as she ‘lost the other earring doing like this’. And, later in the novel, while on a romantic rendezvous with Knight at the same spot, she spots the previously lost earring hidden in a crevice among the rocks. She tries to hide the earring from Knight, but he spots it, becomes suspicious and interrogates her at length about her previous lover.

The little lost earring, almost lost in the painting too, thus becomes the source of much consternation and an important symbol of deception and discovery in the romantic triangle between Elfride, Stephen and Knight.

You can see the first three paintings and posts in this series here

About the Author

Sreemoyee’s PhD thesis was a metacritical survey of the criticism on Sue Bridehead’s portrayal in Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure, from the time of its publication in 1895 to now. The project engaged with over one hundred years of literary criticism to show how analysis of Sue’s portrayal functions as a Rorschach test, making readers and critics commit to certain positions, thus creating a plurality in the critical responses.


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