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 kwn 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. He also proposes that the full titles Hardy gave to a number of his vels have t been sufficiently attended to as signs instinct with meaning. The title of the book alludes, in part, to Pope's Essay on Man. Simon Gatrell writes, In his examination of humankind Pope considers how we stand as individuals in relation to divine power, to Nature, and to each other. It is my suggestion that Hardy considers essentially the same questions in his vels: what external to us causes things to happen - God, fate, destiny, the Immanent Will? how do individuals stand in relation to their environment [and] society? and what part do individuals' own natures play in what occurs to them? Thomas Hardy and the Proper Study of Mankind concentrates on eight of Hardy's fourteen vels, ranging from the early Under the Greenwood Tree, through neglected middle-period works like Two on a Tower, to the final masterpieces Tess of the d' Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. Of particular te is the author's provocatively imaginative reconstruction of the story of Angel Clare, which follows the chapter on Tess. There are also chapters on the role dance plays in Hardy'sfiction and on how his writing encompasses the wider world beyond Wessex and England. A feature of the critical inquiry is the illumination afforded by the study of Hardy's often substantial revisions.