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The Trumpet-Major

Language - English
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Description: - The Trumpet-Major has a relatively simple plot (Millgate 193). It tells about a woman courted by three competing suitors against the backdrop of the anticipated landing of Napoleon's troops in Britain. The novel skilfully mingles historical facts and fiction. Hardy introduces King George III and his family, who stayed in Weymouth during the Napoleonic Wars, as well as his alleged ancestor Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy (later Vice Admiral), who served under Admiral Horatio Nelson and commanded the HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. The fictional plot of the novel focuses on Anne Garland, a lovely country girl, who lives quietly with her impoverished widowed mother in a part of Overcombe Millhouse, which belongs to the miller Loveday, until a regiment of Royal dragoons sets up camp near the village and prepares to defend the coast from the expected invasion of Napoleon's fleet. She becomes attracted by one of the dragoons, John Loveday, one of the miller's sons and a gallant trumpet-major. John falls in love with Anne but soon finds out that she has two more suitors: his jolly and fickle brother Bob, who was Anne's childhood sweetheart, now a merchant navy captain and a two-timing womaniser, and Festus Derriman, the selfish and cowardly nephew of a local squire. Eventually, Bob Loveday, who persuades Captain Hardy to take him on board the Victory, returns safely from the Battle of Trafalgar, captivates Anne's heart and they are married. His brother John, the trumpet major, will die in one of the bloody battlefields of Spain in the service of the king and country. The Trumpet Major, which is regarded as a minor novel by Hardy, has recently received much critical attention (Harvey 104). The strength of the novel lies in Hardy's style and his description of the English countryside awaiting Napoleon's invasion, as well as country fairs, army camps, royal parties and weddings. Hardy, who had a lot of admiration and sympathy for the British military men, provides meticulous descriptions of contemporary weaponry and military uniforms as well as detailed facts about the British army and the navy. The Trumpet Major played an important role in Thomas Hardy's literary development, but as Beat Riesen has written, it may in fact be taken as a rather minor side-product of the phase of development which eventually brought forth The Woodlanders, Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure and, after further years, the unstageable drama in verse, The Dynasts (99). The novel's little flaw - a plagiarised paragraph - seems to be negligible today. After all, a novel is essentially an ingenious patchwork of more or less explicit borrowings from other writers.
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