Hardy, among other things, was the author of the poem, "The Dead Man Walking." Considered the "writer of Dorset," Hardy's fictional Wessex is perhaps bleaker than the real Dorset itself, long possessed of a hard, cold, lonely beauty. A Changed Man and Other Tales is a collection of Hardy's stories written between 1880 and 1910. The title story is reminiscent of Hardy's longer, darker novels such as Jude the Obscure. The "Changed Man" is Captain Maumbry, a dashing Hussar from a regiment that comes to Casterbridge, captivating all the young women and most of the young men. But the regiment is "haunted" and -- after a new parson comes to town, the formerly carefree soldier Maumbry is transformed into a deeply religious minister. But his wife has no intention of becoming a poor parson's bridge; the dissolution of their marriage and both of their lives constitutes the rest of the tale. In distilling deep insight from what serves as cruel gossip in most towns -- not merely Casterbridge -- Hardy is writing about his heart's truest subject. A Changed Man and Other Tales is highly recommended for readers who are moved by such bleak, uncompromising, yet truthful visions.
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