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Elfride finds herself caught in a battle between her heart, her mind and the expectations of her parents and society. The novel is notable for the strong parallels to Hardy and his first wife Emma Gifford. When Elfride’s father finds that his guest and candidate for his daughter’s hand, architect’s assistant Stephen Smith, is the son of a mason, he immediately orders him to leave. This was the third of Hardy’s novels to be published and the first to bear his name.