"His experience of women was great enough for him to be aware that the negative often meant nothing more than the preface to the affirmative..." Thomas Hardy; Tess of the D'urbervilles
Hardy's writings are characterized by fatalism. Often expressed in ones given disposition or status in life. Uncontrollable circumstances bring tragedy and characters miss opportunities to change their fate by a hair's breadth; people are seemingly punished for their desire to have happiness. Tess is no different. A simple joke made by a minister for his own amusement causes questions which will lead to rape, heartache, and eventually murder.
His writing style contrast a bit with the content. His descriptions are not very detailed, but they paint landscapes you feel you are seeing rather than reading about. Hardy creates characters easy to love or hate accordingly, the ones we love are also made to be sympathized with and ultimately identified with.
I think Hardy's novels have a sadness aside from the actual content. His inability to escape this fatalism implies what I believe he did in his own life; allowing circumstances to overwhelm you to the point of acceptance. Characters are unable to pull themselves out of the muck life places them in. They all live in a place easy to get into but with effort not impossible to get out of, something I think Hardy would have benefited from realizing.