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Archived Group Reads 2014 > Jude The Obscure - Book 6 At Christminster Again (week 6)

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Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Please post your comments about book 6.


message 2: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 103 comments I've been too mesmerized to comment but Hardy has once again brought me to tears. Poor little Time to think that was his destiny. And Sue is unravelling rapidly.


message 3: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Anybody who could read the scene of Sue discovering the death of the children without tearing up doesn't deserve to call themselves human.

This last section is Hardy at his most tragic -- which also equates to some of his best writing.


message 4: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments "And I was just making my baby darling a new frock; and now I shall never see him in it, and never talk to him any more! … My eyes are so swollen that I can scarcely see; and yet little more than a year ago I called myself happy! We went about loving each other too much—indulging ourselves to utter selfishness with each other! We said—do you remember?—that we would make a virtue of joy. I said it was Nature's intention, Nature's law and raison d'être that we should be joyful in what instincts she afforded us—instincts which civilization had taken upon itself to thwart. What dreadful things I said! And now Fate has given us this stab in the back for being such fools as to take Nature at her word!"

This is the personification of Nature, a throwback to the concept of the Greek Fates, which is brought out a few paragraphs later when Jude says

"Nothing can be done," he replied. "Things are as they are, and will be brought to their destined issue."

She paused. "Yes! Who said that?" she asked heavily.

"It comes in the chorus of the Agamemnon. It has been in my mind continually since this happened."


Hardy seems clearly to posit that there are forces, whether called Nature or Fate or whatever, which control our destiny, do what we wish. Is he right?

BTW, it's interesting that neither one blames God, and that Sue even goes to the Church to seek solace and, maybe, healing.


message 5: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Was Sue and Jude's relationship doomed from the outset? Was Jude's aunt right? Was this in their stars? Or was it something they did wrong, and if so what?


message 6: by Peter (new)

Peter Everyman wrote: "Was Sue and Jude's relationship doomed from the outset? Was Jude's aunt right? Was this in their stars? Or was it something they did wrong, and if so what?"

Everyman

You are asking some huge questions in your above posts. With Hardy, however, there are seldom small questions. You are correct in saying that this section presents Hardy at his most tragic. Now, when we are confronted with the culmination of the novel, there can be no ease or rest for either Hardy's characters or his readers.

I will never understand Sue, and have, on more than one occasion, wanted to see her think or act consistently for more than a few sections, pages, even paragraphs. To me, she always seems to live in a somewhat theoretical world of her own creation and followed her own rules. With the children, however, her centre of gravity shifted towards them, and as she learned to be a step-mother with Little Father Time, and then become a mother herself, she became grounded.

After the tragedy of the childrens' deaths the novel (to me) seems to again careen out of control. Sue is re-united with Phillotson, Arabella, once again leads Jude upstairs to bed, and in the morning looks into the bedroom to view "her shorn Sampson ...asleep."

Both women manipulate Jude to get what they want. Sue manipulates Jude's kindness and sense of fair play in order to return to Phillotson and Arabella manipulates Jude's weakness for liquor in order to trap him into marriage for a second time.

I can't think of any other Victorian novel that contains as much sadness, sorrow and tragedy.


message 7: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Peter wrote: "Both women manipulate Jude to get what they want. Sue manipulates Jude's kindness and sense of fair play in order to return to Phillotson and Arabella manipulates Jude's weakness for liquor in order to trap him into marriage for a second time.
"


Exactly. As Jude says himself several times, he has two weaknesses, women and alcohol, and together they lead him to his destruction. And it's not as though he's an alcoholic; most of the time he is a responsible, sober man; he only gets drunk, what, about three or four times that we know of? But each instance leads to disaster.

Should he be so severely punished by life for two weaknesses which are pretty much endemic to mankind? Why do they act so disastrously on Jude when they don't on most men? Did he deserve to die so young? He was, after all, only about thirty, we are told.

But it is clearly these two faults which kill him. It was his original tryst with Arabella that led to the first marriage, it was that and his drunkenness that led to his second marriage, and it was his trip to see Sue for the last time that led to his death. Virtually every disaster of his life was tied to one or both of those weaknesses.

Did Hardy intend this as a morality tale?


message 8: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Peter wrote: "I will never understand Sue, and have, on more than one occasion, wanted to see her think or act consistently for more than a few sections, pages, even paragraphs."

I am working this idea through, but it seems to me that one can view her life as quite consistent if one thinks of her as a cauldron of two competing values. One is a strong streak of selfish independence -- going after what she wants in the way she wants it without concern for social norms. The other is a deep backbone of very strict traditional morality. The selfish independence leads her to seek to use Jude for what she wants from him; the backbone is what sends her in the end back to Phillotson, believing that it was the independence streak which was responsible for the death of the four children.

I haven't fleshed out this idea yet, but I am thinking that one can explain pretty much everything she does by the battle between these two core values, one rising to the top at some points of her life and the other at other times.


message 9: by Peter (new)

Peter Everyman wrote: "Peter wrote: "Both women manipulate Jude to get what they want. Sue manipulates Jude's kindness and sense of fair play in order to return to Phillotson and Arabella manipulates Jude's weakness for ..."

Everyman

Good point. I can see how this novel does echo a morality play.

While Sue does battle between the two core values you correctly identify, and because you see her battle is ultimately destructive to her, I have some empathy for her. Arabella, though, by the end of the novel, is portrayed as very toxic. For her, I have no sympathy or time. Sue, while she may have manipulated others, I don't believe she did so with total malice, forethought and planning. Arabella is cold, calculating and borders on being evil.


message 10: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Peter wrote: "Arabella, though, by the end of the novel, is portrayed as very toxic. For her, I have no sympathy or time."

I do have more sympathy for her. She had a very hard childhood, did what she had to do to get out of it, found that she had made a bad choice of man (who couldn't even do such a simple country thing as killing a pig), was left her husband to try for a new life in Australia (a courageous thing to do in that day and age of sailing ships, a long, arduous, and dangerous journey half way around the world), married there (anything to get out from under her father's thumb, which at that time she couldn't do without marrying or going into service), came back to England without her child (his situation seemed to be a better one than with her, so it wasn't a lack of concern for him that caused her to leave him behind), when he was sent back to England she did the best she could for him. When her second husband came back she lived with him until he died, then she had, again as a still fairly young woman in that society, no option but to go back to live with her father, so she did what she had to do to try to better her life and manipulated a remarriage with Jude --it's Jude's own fault if she was able to get him to remarry her -- and once again found that he still wasn't the man for her.

But throughout, all she was trying to do was play the hand that life had dealt her (no aces, kings, or queens, and lots of torn cards) as best she could.

What would you have had her do in her early years? Just live with her father until she was an old worn out spinster? There weren't that many young men around. She did what she could to get away from her father's home, she used the few skills she had, and she made the best of a bad situation.

While I don't like what she did to Jude on either occasion, I do have sympathy for plight and a grudging admiration for her pluck in not giving in to her dismal life but trying her best to make something, anything, good out of her life.


message 11: by Lily (last edited May 23, 2014 06:32AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Eman -- thank you for the overall tone of your defense of Arabella, difficult creature or character that she is, even bordering or wandering over into "evil" as Peter challenges us to consider/recognize. (An interesting query to place against any character.)

Sue and Jude are also characters I still find difficult to understand. I would hesitate at any dualistic analysis, no matter how accurate the two parts of the dualism. For me, it seems too close to perhaps one of the weaknesses of much of Western analysis -- a tendency towards assessing right and wrong, good and evil -- attempts to organize the messy into dueling two party systems.

"..a deep backbone of very strict traditional morality."

"...a strong streak of selfish independence..."

"I am thinking that one can explain pretty much everything she does by the battle between these two core values."

I'd throw in at least a couple of others -- first, I'd explore whether Sue really possessed "a very strict traditional morality" given her resistance towards conjugal relationships. Second, is Hardy broaching something about the very nature of Sue's sexuality, somewhat as James does with his heroine in Portrait of a Lady, without even knowing if culturally, morally, or naturally induced? Third, is Hardy exploring something about the essence of women that makes them seem somehow different than men to him, something that he himself perhaps cannot label or transmute entirely successfully into a character -- some needs for autonomy or self definition even while bearing the risks and burdens of procreation. Just how "selfish" is Sue's streak of independence?

As I read your "big questions" I think of Hardy's comments that he could be a more severe critic of this novel than the most severe that had been written of it. One wonders what he meant.

Some critics call "Little Father Time" the disastrous character creation of the novel. I haven't figured out what is meant by such statements, but I do wonder what Hardy was doing with that artistic creation -- and I have reached a point of believing that Hardy perceived himself as creating a work of art as well as telling a story -- whatever that means.

In terms of "feeling," I do not "feel" Jude, Sue, or their children "deserved" what happened to them. Is this "true tragedy" in some high Greek sense? (I know some of the words Eman quotes @4 indicate Hardy suggested so. Is Hardy accurate or aggrandizing a bit?) Regardless, for me it is a large share of my inability to "like" this novel that also conveys aspects of "great" at the same time. It becomes almost Buddhism-like in portraying a sense that for many life is suffering. Comparison with Tess: (view spoiler)


message 12: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments I also found anger the feeling present as much as sorrow and tears at the deaths of the children and suicide of Little Father Time.


message 13: by Peter (new)

Peter Arabella keeps rattling around in my mind, and while I appreciate her struggles and ability to survive, let me try and frame my comments further. When we first encounter her she tosses a pig's "part" at Jude. At the inn she and Jude sit under a picture of Sampson and Delilah. Arabella initiates and then tricks Jude into bed twice and consciously uses liquor, one of Jude's (tragic?) flaws to gain her ends. At the end of the novel Hardy reminds the reader of his initial framework by commenting how Arabella looks upon "her shorn Sampson." In my mind, Hardy has evolved a character, through symbol, sexual reference and repetition who is meant to be seen as clearly calculating and manipulative. When Hardy gives Arabella the last words in the novel, I felt chills at how I was to interpret and appreciate the totality of the novel. Arabella is certainly a survivor, perhaps the ultimate survivor in the novel. To me, that alone is disturbing.

In any case, what a powerful novel, and how rich in possible areas to discuss.

Lily. I ordered a copy of Tomalin's biography and am picking it up today. Thanks again. I'm looking forward to reading it this rainy weekend.


message 14: by Lily (last edited May 24, 2014 08:21AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Peter wrote: "Arabella keeps rattling around in my mind, and while I appreciate her struggles and ability to survive, let me try and frame my comments further. When we first encounter her she tosses a pig's "pa..."

Enjoy, Peter. At some point, you may want to contrast Tomalin with Ralph Pite's Thomas Hardy: The Guarded Life. These are from its closing pages:

"Perhaps the most valuable thing Hardy left behind was his belief in 'loving kindness' --" p474

"Hardy had a strong sense of humanity as anomalous within nature, that consciousness and sensitivity had not been intended by the Creator and set people at odds with the rest of creation. In such conditions, oblivion seemed preferable; writing disturbed oblivion, enhancing awareness and responsiveness, so perhaps it was a foolhardy or even a damaging activity. Hardy could at times believe or fear this; more often, though, he saw in writing his particular means of carrying out a responsibility borne by everyone alike -- he found in it a test of his capacity to be human and loving, gentle and kind." p. 475

Ponder who Arabella is in the context of such words? Is she the woman with the shears or the one who took Jude in when he was shorn? Or both? Or...

I am enjoying the Norton edition and a couple of books of criticism.


message 15: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 188 comments There were hints of a tragedy to come. I thought that it may be little Time taking his own life, but thought 'surely not'. I was intensely shocked at what happened and felt that I needed to discuss it with someone. My husband has not yet read it. He intends to, but is more of a reader of non/fiction. I felt as though there had been a bereavement in my own family, but that I couldn't tell anyone. Quite overwhelming!


message 16: by Lily (last edited May 23, 2014 12:54PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Hilary wrote: "...I felt as though there had been a bereavement in my own family, but that I couldn't tell anyone. Quite overwhelming! ..."

Hilary -- I am sorry for the vicarious grief you must be feeling. You speak to the power of Hardy's art.

Your reaction reminds me of my own to Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala, (view spoiler) As disparate as her experiences are from any I have personally encountered, I found helpful aspects of her descent into personal hell and eventual ability to assimilate (rather than suppress) memories. I suspect aspects of Jude and the shocking actions of Little Father Time may offer catharsis or similar reflective value.

Personally, I think I have read Jude surrounding myself with a certain protective armor or distancing, having been perhaps forewarned by its reputation. I have not yet come to a view as to why Hardy included this sequence, apparently even upping its severity and hence shock value as he developed the novel.


message 17: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Lily wrote: "Some critics call "Little Father Time" the disastrous character creation of the novel. I haven't figured out what is meant by such statements, but I do wonder what Hardy was doing with that artistic creation"

I've been pondering that, too.

I think it's significant that he is Jude and Arabella's child, though Jude never realized he had gotten her pregnant. But there is something fundamentally wrong in the Jude-Arabella relationship, and Father Time seems to confirm and accentuate that wrongness, as though nothing in that relationship could ever turn out right.

Also, Hardy needed a believable way to have Sue and Jude's children, the apparent validation of the rightness of their love, destroyed in a way that Sue, while not actually killing them herself, has to accept in her own mind a huge sense of responsibility and guilt for interaction with FT which led to their deaths. If they had been killed in some other way, it probably would not have sent her over the edge, into the church, and back to Phillotson.


message 18: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Peter wrote: "When Hardy gives Arabella the last words in the novel, I felt chills at how I was to interpret and appreciate the totality of the novel. "

And yet, Arabella for all her faults is perhaps the most clearheaded and understanding of all the characters in the novel about Sue.


message 19: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Lily wrote: "I have not yet come to a view as to why Hardy included this sequence, apparently even upping its severity and hence shock value as he developed the novel.
"


I think he had to find a way to drive Sue away from Mude forever, despite the deep love between them which still burned bright to the end, and probably still burns in Sue. But something had to cause her to make that ultimate sacrifice of taking herself from love and happiness into a passionless duty and dreariness. Nothing less powerful could have done that, or at least couldn't have sold itself to us so effectively.


message 20: by Peter (new)

Peter Everyman wrote: "Peter wrote: "When Hardy gives Arabella the last words in the novel, I felt chills at how I was to interpret and appreciate the totality of the novel. "

And yet, Arabella for all her faults is per..."


Well, Arabella is the survivor at the end of the novel. That is a point to ponder. I just wish I had a better grasp of Hardy himself. I'm going to read Tomalin to give me some more perspective.


message 21: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 188 comments Thank you, Lily, for your empathetic comment. I can understand why you would have read the novel in the cover of a somewhat protective shield. In the end I am glad to have experienced that raw emotion. I naturally avoid sorrow and depression where possible, which is the main reason that I had avoided Hardy for so long. Nevertheless, I am glad to have gone there and my impression of Hardy as a writer has soared, despite, or because of, emotions.


message 22: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments In the Book 5 thread, Renee wrote In the other hand, they have each other and three healthy children with another on the way. You can almost believe that if they could get that break, they might be okay. I know that's not likely to happen, but I've grown so find of them both, in spite, or perhaps because, of the fact that they seem too innocent/unworldly for the world.

Oh dear. That comment highlights how far and quickly things turned out wrong for them.


message 23: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1973 comments Mod
Thomas Hardy is a rat bastard!

(Just finished Chapter Two.)


message 24: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Renee wrote: "Thomas Hardy is a rat bastard!

(Just finished Chapter Two.)"


Did you mean Chapter Six?


message 25: by Lily (last edited May 24, 2014 09:30PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Hilary wrote: "...In the end I am glad to have experienced that raw emotion...."

In general, I think I make major distinctions between fiction and "real life", so it has been awhile since fiction has drawn what I would call intense emotions. (Watched the film Ida tonight which certainly at least disturbed.)

You pose interesting thoughts about what catharsis is and what it does for different ones of us.


message 26: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1973 comments Mod
Everyman wrote: "Renee wrote: "Thomas Hardy is a rat bastard!

(Just finished Chapter Two.)"

Did you mean Chapter Six?"


No, chapter two. But I've just finished and I stand by my assessment. With perhaps the addition of "sadistic, miserable, misanthropic, and egg-sucking."

It's no wonder that Hardy never wrote another novel. Where was he gonna go after this??? I mean without resorting to cannibalism.


message 27: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Renee wrote: "Everyman wrote: "Renee wrote: "Thomas Hardy is a rat bastard!"

And your criteria? Are you talking his novels or his life or both?


message 28: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1973 comments Mod
Lol. I haven't read the bio, yet. And I'm coming down from my fit of pique. (Although, I'd still kick Mr. Hardy in the shins, if he still had them, so I'm not quite ready for rational thought.)

I knew there was bound to be an unhappy ending. I just didn't foresee the whole family going down. It seems like overkill. (Probably a term invented for Hardy, like 'cliffhanger.') I can almost imagine he was thumbing his nose at the adoring public who just LOVED the vicarious tragedy of reading Hardy. "Ignore my poetry, will ya? Take that!" So he could give it up and go back to writing poetry. After all, who was gonna be brave enough to ask him to write another novel?

Not really, but as I said, I'm not yet ready for rational thought.


message 29: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 188 comments Is it possible that Hardy was incorporating a certain kindness towards his readers in that we never knew the names of Sue and Jude's children? In that way, there was the potential for us to distance ourselves from these anonymous children; even Arabella and Jude's child didn't really answer to the name Jude, but to 'Little Father Time'. (Oh, I have just noticed a possible morbid association between his name and his actions.)

It is true that, for me, the absence of names did not reduce the horror and, I should venture to suggest, nor did it work for you, Renee.

I totally understand what you mean, Lily, that there is, for you, an emotional dichotomy between fiction and non-fiction. I have made this choice on occasion when watching certain films, particularly where the subject matter is harrowing. In my family, with its fair share of film buffs, I am constantly being told that I ought to 'buy into it and suspend disbelief' because otherwise what's the point? In the end, I have freedom of choice. I feel tempted to seek out the film you mentioned, but then...ought I or ought I not?

Thanks for your input, all of you. It has been fascinating. Mmm, this is not intended to sound so final!


message 30: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1973 comments Mod
I agree that Hardy was probably creating distance by leaving the children unnamed and essentially without personality or description. The storyteller in me feels like they were thrown in as a sacrifice in order to up the ante on a big finale. That makes me angry. I don't mind a bleak ending as long as there's purpose and the author has fulfilled his/her contract with the reader. I'm hoping that once the outraged part of my brain stops shouting and cursing, the logical part of my brain will be able to sort things through.

In the same way, part of me suspects that Hardy doesn't like women very much. He keeps giving me these interesting, intelligent, independent women, then smashing the crap out of them. Not just through social pressure or circumstance, but by their own weakness or poor judgement. But, then, I come around to thinking how human they are, and how beautifully written, even when displayed at their worst.

I don't actually believe that Hardy went for the cheap payoff or that he was tanking his career as a novelist. But, I'm not buying that Sue/Jude are merely at the mercy of fate. Nor that they earned their ends through their respective weaknesses. Nor as a punishment for flouting societal norms or class distinctions. I just haven't been able to gather my thoughts enough to pin down the purpose that would make me feel fulfilled as a reader.


message 31: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Why "the obscure"? Why did Hardy title his novel this way?

And how do we react to a title that uses only the character's first name? To me, that makes him both more accessible and more vulnerable; we are instantly on a first name basis with him even before we read the first words of the book.

Perhaps interesting: when Jude is talking to Sue about her divorce, trying to persuade her that it is proper to marry him, he says ""One thing is certain, that however the decree may be brought about, a marriage is dissolved when it is dissolved. There is this advantage in being poor obscure people like us—that these things are done for us in a rough and ready fashion." Self-describing himself as obscure -- how many modern people with out focus on individuality would describe themselves as obscure people?


message 32: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 188 comments Yes, that's a good point about Jude's name. Maybe, we are meant to think of him as everyman, Everyman. I mean in the sense that bad things happen to good and bad alike. Certainly in the modern western society we tend to have a strong sense of the individual; low self-esteem or otherwise. Some Eastern countries have a much more communal rather than individual identity.


message 33: by Peter (new)

Peter We are at the point of looking at the title. Everyman offers the line from the text delivered by Jude about "poor obscure people like us." If I step back from the novel I can't think of anyone who has a prominent social position. Was this conscious on Hardy's part to write a novel with only characters from the working class? To what extent are we to see Jude as an Everyman as Hilary suggests? Does that suggest we are all obscure?

This novel presents more questions at its end than answers, and leaves more character, plot and storylines open than the "typical" Victorian novel. This novel was written in the early evening of the Victorian period, and seems more aligned with what is coming as the twentieth century encroaches than what was established as being settled by the Victorian world that was slowly fading.


message 34: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 188 comments Hi Peter, I like your thinking. My feeling is that, in a sense, we may all be seen as obscure in regard to the vast size of our universe, however, as we are the centre of our own particular universes, we cannot be in any personal sense or spiritual sense, for that matter, obscure. These, however, are individual perceptions which are impossible to quantify: are they even right?


message 35: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Hilary wrote: "...I totally understand what you mean, Lily, that there is, for you, an emotional dichotomy between fiction and non-fiction. I have made this choice on occasion when watching certain films, particularly where the subject matter is harrowing...."

California got me this morning (5/25/14 -- I didn't see the news immediately). I found myself wondering how Hardy living today would fictionalize that horror.


message 36: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Peter wrote: " If I step back from the novel I can't think of anyone who has a prominent social position.."

No named characters, other than the don who wrote the discouraging letter to Jude. But we do from time to time see the other side -- the dons parading in the streets, the Oxford students in the pub, who clearly come from the "other side" of society. That world of prominent social position seems to be present in the ancient walls and streets of the university, serving to emphasize the distance between that world and the word of Jude and Sue and Arabella.


message 37: by Lily (last edited May 25, 2014 06:57PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Renee wrote: "...In the same way, part of me suspects that Hardy doesn't like women very much...."

His Tess has always been his testimony to the contrary for me. Still, I don't think he "understands" women. (But, he did want to understand Sue? Maybe I draw too many parallels with the real women in his life. He seemed to need/want his feminine Muse ala Shelley. He apparently did not support Emma's suffrage efforts.)


message 38: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Everyman wrote: "..Self-describing himself as obscure..."

It has often struck me as particularly tantalizing since the biographical parallels between Jude and Hardy himself have often been noted.


message 39: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Everyman wrote: "Also, Hardy needed a believable way to have Sue and Jude's children, the apparent validation of the rightness of their love,..."

Can you explain? Why wasn't their love "right" without children -- even in Victorian times?

(Sadly, to them, apparently, Emma and Thomas did not have children.)


message 40: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Peter wrote: "...This novel was written in the early evening of the Victorian period, and seems more aligned with what is coming as the twentieth century encroaches than what was established as being settled by the Victorian world that was slowly fading...."

Supposedly some of the best criticism of Hardy was written by D.H. Lawrence. I have not read any of what he has written, although there is a piece in the Norton Edition of Jude I have on loan.


message 41: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Lily wrote: "Can you explain? Why wasn't their love "right" without children -- even in Victorian times? "

My thinking is that since in a Christian ethic the purpose of sex is for children, the fact that they had children may have been seen by Sue to have justified, in a way, her eventual agreement to a have sexual relationship.


message 42: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Everyman wrote: "My thinking is that since in a Christian ethic the purpose of sex is for children, the fact that they had children may have been seen by Sue to have justified, in a way, her eventual agreement to a have sexual relationship."

Thx for your comments, Eman. I hadn't picked up that view from the text.


message 43: by Peter (last edited May 26, 2014 03:49PM) (new)

Peter Everyman wrote: "Peter wrote: " If I step back from the novel I can't think of anyone who has a prominent social position.."

No named characters, other than the don who wrote the discouraging letter to Jude. But ..."


Everyman

Good thoughts on social positions in Jude The Obscure. Your comments lead me to see the Christminster scenes in a more symbolic fashion. Jude does encounter the Dons, the parading students and even gets a letter from a college, but in each circumstance these events are presented as alienating events. Jude can watch a parade, he can read a dismissive letter and he can even demonstrate his knowledge of language once in a pub to Christminster students, but in each event he confronts an invisible yet impregnable barrier. Is it not telling that when Jude has a single opportunity to show his knowledge and language skills to the university students it is in a pub, and the results of his failed attempt to impress the students once again reveals his weakness for drinking?

Christminster certainly represents social status and the world that Jude strives to embrace, but ironically all Jude can do is to repair and strengthen the structures of Christminster through his skills as a stonemason. I find it ironic and sad that he repairs and strengthens the very stones, fabric and symbols that he is attempting to surmount. To push the symbolism one step further (or is it too far?) it is made clear in the novel that the only stone structures that Jude fully completes and thus gains monetary and personal satisfaction from his craftsman's skill is the placing of names on gravestones.


message 44: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Lily wrote: "Thx for your comments, Eman. I hadn't picked up that view from the text. "

I didn't take it from the text directly, but from my general thinking about the way Sue and Jude would have thought about the interplay of religion and sex, keeping in mind that Jude had at several points been interested in a religious career, and that Sue had, despite her preference for Pagan statuary, worked for an ecclesiastical publisher.


message 45: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Peter wrote: "Christminster certainly represents social status and the world that Jude strives to embrace, but ironically all Jude can do is to repair and strengthen the structures of Christminster through his skills as a stonemason. I find it ironic and sad that he repairs and strengthens the very stones, fabric and symbols that he is attempting to surmount. To push the symbolism one step further (or is it too far?) it is made clear in the novel that the only stone structures that Jude fully completes and thus gains monetary and personal satisfaction from his craftsman's skill is the placing of names on gravestones. "

I like that a lot. And I don't think you're taking the symbolism too far. As to the first point, in a way he is both physically and symbolically strengthening the walls which exclude him.


message 46: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Everyman wrote: "Lily wrote: "Thx for your comments, Eman. I hadn't picked up that view from the text. "

I didn't take it from the text directly, but from my general thinking about the way Sue and Jude would have ..."


Hmm. You lead me to ponder what stories dwell on procreative love as the centerpiece of plot and expression of fulfillment for the protagonists. Where are Erik Erikson's theories about human fulfillment among the great novels?


message 47: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 188 comments Yes Peter, I found your thought process to be quite a revelation; very interesting.


message 48: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Peter wrote: "...the results of his failed attempt to impress the students once again reveals his weakness for drinking?..."

I have a bit of chicken and egg questioning about Jude's drinking -- certainly the habit lessened his chances of penetrating the academic halls, but did not his rejection make him far more vulnerable to the mental escape of the Dionysian stupor of drink. Probably neither students nor fellow artisans offered him resistance, but rather created societal encouragement. For the stone masons, drink offered release from hard work; for the students, from mental concentration. Jude was bound into the physical labor and had not the time nor the examples to remove himself for the mental disciplines of study and application. Yet, the pub was where the two worlds intersected a bit for Jude.


message 49: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1973 comments Mod
A very elegant observation, Lily.


message 50: by Peter (new)

Peter Lily wrote: "Peter wrote: "...the results of his failed attempt to impress the students once again reveals his weakness for drinking?..."

I have a bit of chicken and egg questioning about Jude's drinking -- ce..."


Lily

You have raised a good question about the social aspects of the 19C.

I don't know much about English pub life today, and certainly less about pub life in the 19C. From reading I know the rich and the aristocrats had their private clubs, and the working man had his institutes, but to what extent did the pub serve as a bridge that offered the various social strata a chance to co-mingle to any extent?

Certainly we see these two worlds intersect in Jude the Obscure and previously in the Mayor of Casterbridge.


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