Simon Gatrell offers a fresh and stimulating exploration of Hardy's account in fiction of the individual man or woman's relationship with various aspects of the encompassing world- with other men and women, with the aggregation known as society, with the natural and artificial environment, and with the supernatural. He focuses on the importance of community in Hardy's fiction, especially on the ability of rural villages and towns to withstand the stresses of industrialized agriculture and the national standardization of education and culture.