Elfride Swancourt is the girl with the blue eyes, and she finds herself romantically torn between the young architect with some clumsily kept secrets, and the mature magazine writer and critic with no secrets but also no experience in dating or romance. Elfride is a pretty girl with enough intelligence to be interesting and no guile to use it to her advantage in the field where all is fair. The architect wins her heart but their time together turns tragic and the book ends darkly. Hardy doesn't do happy endings.
With his later heroines, most notably Tess, Hardy would further develop the moral principles of love,fate, desire, and class which he introduces here in Elfride. Still not a mature writer, his treatment of the character is sometimes more like a caricature than a three dimensional woman in her surroundings. The treatment is so harsh at times that it made me wonder if Hardy did not personally like women, not in a homosexual way, but in an apparent lack of respect for the power, will, and value of women as equal partners with men. To condemn Hardy for this attitude may be to judge him unfairly against the standards of his day,. for Tess would be a more complete character and a woman Hardy clearly respected.
Blue Eyes is not bad even though it pales next to Hardy's later work. His awareness of class and culture in the English society of his day is trenchant and sharp (indeed much of Elfride's tragedy turns on the fulcrum of class) and his fictional Wessex is a fully realized and attractive setting for his family of characters. Read it to watch Hard develop his skill in painting characters to match his landscape.
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