Entertainment & Arts

Archers domestic abuse plot 'inspired by Thomas Hardy novel'

Louiza Patikas and Timothy Watson Image copyright PA
Image caption Women's Aid has advised the writers and actors involved in the storyline.

The outgoing editor of The Archers has revealed that Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles partly inspired its contentious domestic abuse subplot.

The novel tells the sorry tale of a milkmaid who murders a man who, it is implied, rapes her in her sleep

Interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House on Sunday, Sean O'Connor said he was also influenced by the Victorian play Gaslight.

He said that Archers abuse victim Helen "should triumph".

"I do believe that soap opera has some sort of moral responsibility and I do believe that, in the end, Helen should triumph," he said.

Image caption Gemma Arterton played Tess in a BBC 2008 adaptation of Hardy's novel

Gaslight, by Patrick Hamilton, is about a man who psychologically abuses his wife by trying to convince her she's losing her mind.

Speaking of the influence of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, O'Connor said: "You see how this woman who starts off as a virginal milkmaid becomes a vengeful murderess.

"What you get, in every chapter, in infinitesimal ways, is finding out why she does it.

"That's what we've sort of done in the past 900 episodes of The Archers."

In an episode broadcast on 3 April, listeners heard Helen (Louiza Patikas) stab her husband Rob (Timothy Watson) in front of her young son Henry.

The storyline has been building up for the best part of two years, with Rob's behaviour escalating from controlling emotional abuse to physical harm.

O'Connor said the storyline had "at least another 20 years to go" but by the end of the story, "there will be some sort of redemptive conclusion".

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