Thomas Hardy's "The Three Strangers" (1883): Reading Questions

Philip V. Allingham, Contributing Editor, Victorian Web; Faculty of Education, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario

1. What hints and clues suggest the real relationship among the three strangers?

2. What is the function of the first four paragraphs? How do they prepare the reader for the story that follows?

3. Is the story's chronological setting (late March, 182_) significant or peripheral?

4. How does Hardy make us suspicious of the first stranger?

5. Why has Hardy chosen to narrate the story through an omniscient point-of-view?

6. How do local dialect and landscape contribute to the story's atmosphere?

7. What aspects of the story suggest that Hardy's concern is with plot?

8. What aspects of the story suggest that Hardy is also concerned with theme?

9. What are some of the major examples of irony in the story?

10. What are the underlying attitudes of the guests towards the sheep-stealer?

12. Although the atmosphere is suspenseful and sombre, it is relieved by certain touches of humour: give and explain and example.

13. The hangman's riddle contributes to the suspense, but also reveals something about his character: explain.

15. Agree or disagree with William Van O'Connor's assessment that the story is not "wholly successful" because

There is no inevitable connection between the action or plot and meaning. The meaning the story is made to carry seems superimposed and therefore is arbitrary. (262)

Victorian Overview Thomas Hardy

Last updated 12 December 2000