The Obscure Reading Group discussion

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Jude the Obscure Archives > Feb. 7th-14th Discussion of "Part First: At Marygreen" and "Part Second: At Christminster."

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message 1: by Ken (last edited Feb 07, 2020 08:14AM) (new)

Ken | 587 comments Mod
OK, I’ll start by noting a seemingly insignificant scene in the first dozen pages that obviously was put there for a reason. I’m speaking of the episode where Jude, still a child, is hired by Farmer Troutham to sound a clacker and scare off rooks feeding in the farmer’s fields.

The boy is described as friendless, ill-treated even by the aunt whom fate has selected to raise him. He feels pity for the birds, even calling them friends. Hardy works in a little descriptive magic here:

“At each clack the rooks left off pecking, and rose and went away on their leisurely wings, burnished like tassets of mail, afterwards wheeling back and regarding him warily, and descending to feed at a more respectful distance…

“‘Poor little dears!’ said Jude, aloud. ‘You shall have some dinner—you shall. There is enough for us all. Farmer Troutham can afford to let you have some. Eat, then, my dear little birdies, and make a good meal!’

“They stayed and ate, inky spots on the nut-brown soil, and Jude enjoyed their appetite. A magic thread of fellowship feeling united his own life with theirs. Puny and sorry as those lives were, they much resembled his own.”

Of course, Farmer Troutham shows up, witnessing little Jude’s largesse, and beats the hell out of the kid. The astonished Jude tries to explain that he was only letting them eat a little, and that there seemed to be enough for all, but such explanations only serve to enrage Troutham all the more.

Then comes mention of workers building the new church nearby, an echoing sound “from the brand-new church tower just behind the mist, towards the building of which structure the farmer had largely subscribed, to testify his love for God and man.”

Hoo, boy! I thought, reading that. Some irony there! And not a little statement about Jude’s character, too, as Hardy purposely wins readers’ sympathy for the little guy.

To me, though, it signals one of Hardy’s intentions in this novel. Although it doesn’t come on strong in Parts One and Two, criticism of the Church of England seems a safe bet, judging by this scene where a supposedly good citizen and Godly man is seen thrashing an innocent who was just trying to share with the equivalent of the poor—birds following nothing but their own instinct.

The scene impressed me, then, for three reasons: its characterization, its irony, and its foreshadowing. As I dive into Parts 3 and 4, I’ll continue to look for more and more about statements about religion from Hardy via his characters.

Did this brief episode catch anyone else’s attention?


message 2: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments Yeah, Ken - I loved it, too - and agreed with its premise. I’m with Søren Kierkegaard insofar as many mainstream churches (Christendom) has ably sidestepped the huge difficulty embedded in truly Living the unadorned gospel. But Jude is taking the hard path, the Way of the Heart - the “road less travelled by” - and his later life, therefore, will be hard... my two cents worth, anyway!


message 3: by Sandra (new)

Sandra L L. | 171 comments Mod
I agree. I highlighted that passage as well as the one when he “could scarcely bear to see the trees cut down” from an idea that it hurt them. Jude’s love for nature makes me think Hardy tends towards a type of nature worship, if not exactly paganism. Christminster initially seems to echo Saint Augustine’s “city of God.”
Hardy uses so much light imagery (when Jude views it from afar).


message 4: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 182 comments Mod
Hardy's relationship to religion may be a little complex, but I love the hypocrisy he’s pointing out. And those scenes certainly worked to put me squarely on Jude’s side. Such a sensitive creature.

What I noticed though was that Hardy, unlike Eliot or Wharton or Austen or even Dickens, apparently doesn’t care to relay empathy for the other characters here. For example, Arabella. She comes off as a hateful, pig-torturing manipulator, while Jude has this lovely heart and insight. Did anyone else see nuance I missed in the Arabella character?


message 5: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments Yes - I’ll buy that. The novel, from that viewpoint, would be about the character development of... only Jude. Hardy has quite a Whitmanesque sense of his hero and his natural setting, and it’s all about the Self over and against the Institution and any of its controls. Solipsistic? Perhaps!


message 6: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 182 comments Mod
Fergus wrote: "Yes - I’ll buy that. The novel, from that viewpoint, would be about the character development of... only Jude. Hardy has quite a Whitmanesque sense of his hero and his natural setting, and it’s all..."

Whitmanesque--yes! Very helpful, thanks.


message 7: by Sandra (new)

Sandra L L. | 171 comments Mod
Arabella is certainly not a sympathetic character. Marriage as an institution, like religion and universities, seems abhorrent to Hardy. I detect a definite leaning towards the trades, although Jude at this point only sees his skill as a means to attaining “higher education.” I can relate to Hardy’s disdain for society! Jude really is alone. I know I sympathized with him when I read it the first time at age nineteen or so. Do you think it’s easier for college students to identify with Jude or is age unimportant? So much of the criticism of society, etc. is still pertinent.


message 8: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments Sandra, maybe the kids who ‘think outside of the box’ will most readily identify with Jude. The kind that have grown weary of stale formulas and too-easy solutions...


message 9: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments Was Hardy ambivalent about marriage as an institution, though, Sandra? Dunno. My whole take on that comes from a slightly different angle...

While Hardy, and thus Jude, seemed to have a Platonic sense of absolutes (the guiding star of faith in Jude’s reading at Christminster, which sinks below the horizon just as the love triangle with himself and his teacher friends solidifies) it’s always countered by a passionate, individualistic and very Gnostic daemon, a destructive as well as a creative force...


message 10: by Laysee (new)

Laysee | 36 comments Ken wrote: "OK, I’ll start by noting a seemingly insignificant scene in the first dozen pages that obviously was put there for a reason.. .The scene impressed me, then, for three reasons: its characterization, its irony, and its foreshadowing... Did this brief episode catch anyone else’s attention?"

Ken, great observation about the three reasons for this episode. It certainly caught my attention. I think Hardy was skillfully developing Jude's character - show rather than tell. We warm toward Jude and feel protective over this tenderhearted boy. The more I read and got to know Jude, the more I became aware that this quality was his strength as well as his weakness.


message 11: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Tebo | 61 comments Something about Jude's age reminded me of the story of Jesus remaining in the temple when Mary thought he was with their group. Jude is 11 and Jesus was 12. Jude's temple is the outdoors. His flock are the rooks. Are they really listening to him? They do enjoy the grain. The rooks are like parishioners having communion in the farmer's field. I think Hardy exhibits a very dark sense of humor in this scene as well as irony. On one hand Jude is being generous. However, his generosity is tempered by the fact the grain he is giving is technically not his to give. He betrays the trust the farmer has in him by letting the rooks eat the farmer's grain. Like Judas who betrays Christ, Jude gets his wages even though he did not do the job he was hired to do. Is this like Judas receiving his silver for betraying Christ? It's hard to see the farmer as Christ so here is another layer of irony. There are hints that relate to various biblical stories but nothing matches up exactly. Hardy in a sense uses his artistic license to twist the scene until it becomes its own unique parable.


message 12: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments What wonderful comments! Yes, we really pick up a Mannerist sense of unease in this novel. One one hand, the serene slow passage of natural time in the brooding Wessex landscape - and on the other, Jude’s anguish, which sticks in our throat throughout, and impels the action.


message 13: by John (new)

John Hughes | 24 comments Mod
Ken wrote: "...criticism of the Church of England seems a safe bet..."

Very important in parts I and II is the collapse of previously steadfast and enduring institutions, and the impact of this collapse on Jude.

In part one the collapse is marriage. In part II the collapse is the university as a seat of Devine or semi-Devine learning. Key to Jude's experience in Christminster is it is a Christminster (Oxford) living in a post- Oxford Movement setting. Jude is mentioned in Part II Chapter I as shadowing in the footsteps of such men.

The Oxford Movement's ultimate failure to revitalise spiritual Anglicanism leaves Hardy, and his Jude confronting Anglicanism as a hollow, (rather than hallow) shell.

Jude's kindness to the birds and encounter with Farmer Troutham stems from the original parting words of Mr Philloston in Part I Chapter I:

'I shan't forget you, Jude,' he said, smiling, as the cart moved off. 'Be a good boy, remember; and be kind to animals and birds, and read all you can.'

He is kind to the birds and is betrayed by those with Anglican affiliation. It is a harbinger of his trial and failure at Christminster. The hollowness of the Church, and of Mr Philloston's words (as father figure) are fully revealed to us in part II. The old schoolmaster does forget Jude. And Jude reneges on the Christminster ideal after he successfully recites the Nicean creed - a creed which, like Jude's personal creed to follow the advice given by Mr Philloston, has been stripped of believers. The creed has shrunk to the significance of idle recital over drinks.


message 14: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments Great comments, John. Hardy seems somehow to have held his head high throughout his own disillusionment. Guess he had a rare mettle! But the school of hard knocks does that to a man.


message 15: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 182 comments Mod
I appreciate that background, John.

There was a marked change in narrative tone in Part Two chapters one and two. Jude is taking it all in, and his inner-philosopher appears to be fighting his inner-architect.

Hardy speaks directly to the reader here too (which I didn't notice him doing in Part One), hinting at Jude's future, with "The deadly animosity of contemporary logic and vision towards so much of what he held in reverence was not yet revealed to him.”

I'm not sure, but this different viewpoint seemed to change back when Sue is introduced.


message 16: by Ken (new)

Ken | 587 comments Mod
Sorry, I've been out of the loop for a stretch. Ice storm in southern Maine took us back to Lincoln cabin days (and you cannot do the Internet by candlelight).

Sandy: Arabella's conniving is a decisive negative for the reader, but I find it hard to believe she will remain such a flat and reprehensible character, like many of Dickens' (oh, I don't know... Fagin or Uriah Heep, maybe).

Cindy: Very interesting take on the bird scene. I never once thought of Christ/Judas/birds as a "flock" metaphorically. Birds and grain DID bring Biblical parables to mind, though, just not the Judas angle.

The grain is not Jude's to give is true! Of course, we could one up that and discuss ownership of land. Is it man's to own? And, as Tolstoy (a Biblical sort) would ask, "How much land does a man need?" There is a marked connection between religion and capitalism, and it isn't pretty. In America today, we can even say between religion and politics, and it's even LESS pretty.

Back for more later...


message 17: by Carol (new)

Carol | 173 comments John wrote: "Ken wrote: "...criticism of the Church of England seems a safe bet..."

Very important in parts I and II is the collapse of previously steadfast and enduring institutions, and the impact of this co..."


“I shan’t forget you, “which is exactly what Mr. Philloston did. He did not remember Jude at all. Another nail in this coffin perhaps?

For all of Jude’s desires( being a great scholar) he was saddled by his
Youthful passion , which lead him into a disastrous marriage.


message 18: by Sandra (new)

Sandra L L. | 171 comments Mod
I’m enjoying all of these comments. Of course the fact that Jude might be named for Saint Jude the patron saint of lost causes is important I think.

I can’t help but wonder and I may be way off with this if Hardy wasn’t thinking of what happened to Oedipus at the crossroads. The whole concept of fate (and incest) and then Hardy brings in the crossroads and meeting at the cross, which could definitely be just a Christian reference, but I think it’s probably a Greek reference as well.


message 19: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments Oedipus is so bang-on! And also the cross, which shows the reverence of ordinary people to be just a sham. So it is with Hardy’s successive revelations here...


message 20: by Carol (new)

Carol | 173 comments To me Jude was a talented stonemason, but his aspirations clouded his talent. Also The details Hardy wrote about the architecture, and how to repair rotting churches, was evident of Hardy’s past. Hardy started out as an architect.


message 21: by Darrin (last edited Feb 08, 2020 12:35PM) (new)

Darrin (darrinlettinga) | 119 comments In Part Second, II.-II., Jude, looking for work as a stone-mason on campus, comes to a workyard of a stone-mason suggested to him when he left Alfredston. Hardy writes a couple of lines I really like in reference to the work going on in the yard as compared to the facades of the buildings he has seen on campus, "Here, with keen edges and smooth curves were forms in the exact likeness of those he had seen abraded and time-eaten on the walls. These were the ideas in modern prose which the lichened colleges presented in old poetry. Even some of those antiques might have been called prose when they were new. They had done nothing but wait, and had become poetical."

Not knowing what will ultimately become of Jude as I am only 97 pages in, I think that while he may never become the great scholar he dreams of being he still creates something of lasting permanence as a stone-mason, even though he is one of many and he works in obscurity. His work is, in a sense, foundational to the college itself even if his work is not recognized by those who live, attend and teach there.


message 22: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments Wonderful, Darrin. Great insight.


message 23: by John (last edited Feb 08, 2020 02:58PM) (new)

John Hughes | 24 comments Mod
Sandra wrote: " can’t help but wonder and I may be way off with this if Hardy wasn’t thinking of what happened to Oedipus at the crossroads. The whole concept of fate (and incest) and then Hardy brings in the crossroads and meeting at the cross, which could definitely be just a Christian reference, but I think it’s probably a Greek reference as well. "

I've been thinking how Hardy here is putting Jude through a strange concoction of both classical and Abarahamic temptation.

In Part II Chapter III I highlighted two sections:

was with some heartache that he saw how little he cared for the freedom and fearlessness that would result in her from such knowledge

Sue's mind as one from Biblical temptation. Yet later in the same passion:

the girl was accustomed to see portrayed, among them being a Venus of standard pattern, a Diana, and, of the other sex, Apollo, Bacchus, and Mars

This is more classical temptation - almost a Bacchanalian trance-like temptation.

In Christminster he is taking on the Arnoldian dialectic: Both post-Classicist and post-Christian, and becoming a strange fusion of the two in the wake of the vacuum.

When I was thinking this was glad to see Jude's experience of Christminster summed up in a quote from Arnold himself (partially quoted in Chapter I Part II):

Beautiful city! so venerable, so lovely, so unravaged by the fierce intellectual life of our century, so serene!?whispering from her towers the last enchantments of the Middle Age? Home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names, and impossible loyalties!

Ties in with my earlier thoughts on Jude as a post-oxford-movement and post-Arnoldian man clinging to the University ideal.


message 24: by Sandra (new)

Sandra L L. | 171 comments Mod
Yes, John. Fascinating comments. What I love about Hardy’s writing—it’s beautiful prose, and a reader can glean as much intellectual stimulation from it or read it as a love story, although I think perhaps a tragic one.


message 25: by John (last edited Feb 08, 2020 03:02PM) (new)

John Hughes | 24 comments Mod
I have to say, and I will post it here, that Jude's failure as a scholar is strangely personal. I recall in my university days (I am 5 years post a STEM degree) that I did become quite disillusioned in how poorly read the STEM (supposedly smart) section of campus were. They knew their field but were isolated from much else of life. Lo and behold my attempts to talk among the Arts. They always saw me as an outsider and I also saw them as diverting too far from the classical ideal (many would not be able to obtain Jude's level of Latin)

So solidarity with Jude (in part if not in totality).


message 26: by Ken (new)

Ken | 587 comments Mod
Darrin wrote: "In Part Second, II.-II., Jude, looking for work as a stone-mason on campus, comes to a workyard of a stone-mason suggested to him when he left Alfredston. Hardy writes a couple of lines I really li..."

There is something, isn't there, between universities' buildings (outer world) and the knowledge they teach (inner world). One seems to feed the other.

I know when I return to my alma mater (as I will be doing tomorrow, it so happens), it is the old brick buildings and the ivy and the walkways and the trees that move me most. Place triggers memory of knowledge, both gleaned and fumbled back in the day.


message 27: by Ken (new)

Ken | 587 comments Mod
John, good thoughts on Bacchus there. Who was it who made a big deal about Apollo vs. Dionysus (using the adjective forms) and how they work for the allegiance of every man?

Frankly, I saw the statue scene as another comeuppance to religion (note the landlady's reaction, expelling Sue!) and, more importantly, a key aspect of Sue's characterization.

This girl likes to upset carts (which society and religion are all-too-willing to provide).


message 28: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments Your comments are wonderful, John. So like my twentysomething Self. A classical education indeed - so nice to see these days. You have my admiration!


message 29: by Cathleen (new)

Cathleen | 13 comments I’ve still a bit more to read, but I was struck by a line when Jude’s aunt tells him, “The Fawleys were not made for wedlock; it never seemed to sit well upon us.” I read Claire Tomalin’s biography of Thomas Hardy a few years ago, and I remember Hardy’s mother, Jemima, being against Hardy marrying. She thought the Hardy family members were temperamentally unsuited to marrying.


message 30: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrog) | 271 comments Ken wrote: "OK, I’ll start by noting a seemingly insignificant scene in the first dozen pages that obviously was put there for a reason. I’m speaking of the episode where Jude, still a child, is hired by Farme..."

Hello, All,

Yes, I also marked that passage and paired it with another from that section:

"You," he said, addressing the breeze caressingly, "were in Christminster City between one and two hours ago. . . touching Mr. Phillotson's face, being breathed by him; and now you are here, being breathed by me -- you, the very same."

These are what I considered when reading and then revisiting these passages:

1) (for first section about rooks) This is parallel to the Gospel of Matthew when God cares for even the birds of the field, extending the same care for humans. This is a very gentle depiction of a forgiving God, and Jude is a gentle soul in these first pages. This led me to consider that Jude would later be cared for due to Providence, an intimation of hope.

2) (for both sections) Jude feels trapped. As the birds can fly, he wishes he could fly away and follow his teacher. In these first pages, I couldn't tell if he wanted to fly to his teacher or more to escape. Of course, both may be part of this story, but at least one is part of his full consciousness -- to follow Mr. Phillotson.

3) This communing with nature establishes Jude as a romantic. After all, the breeze's response seemed to bring the bells from Christminster, and they called out, "We are happy here!" Similarly, he was content with the little rooks. Happiness comes to him through nature. As to his own nature, it's light, and he's meant for a journey.

4) I wondered if this was setting readers up for a contrast later. Would the big cities prove to be treacherous? After all, the first person Jude encounters is Physician Vilbert (in Hardy's words, "a quack-doctor") who turns out to be nothing but a sham. This is yet another human whom Jude cannot trust.


message 31: by Lori (new)

Lori | 4 comments For all his dismissal of his prose writing, “It’s natural to me to write poetry—I was never intended to be a prose-writer, still less a teller of tales—still, one had got to live.”, Hardy knew his trade. All those carefully crafted layers like the seemingly insignificant scene Ken presented, that build more than Jude’s story.

His description of the old village is about how most of it is new, including the repurposing of the original church, “cracked up into heaps of read-metal in the lane, or utilized as pig-sty walls, garden seats, guard—stones to fences, and rockeries in flower-beds of the neighbourhood.” Crazy for books cousin Sue, just like him gets a mention on page 12 as Miss Fawley casually chats with visitors. Another pig-sty and the litter that goes with it. Nothing heavy-handed just getting to know Jude and building his book.
”How ugly it is here!” he murmured.

The fresh harrow-lines seemed to stretch like the channelings in a piece of new corduroy, lending a meanly utilitarian air to the expanse, taking away its gradations, and depriving it of all history beyond that of the recent months, though to every clod and stone there really attached associations enough and to spare—echoes of every clod and stone there really attached associations enough and to spare—echoes of songs from ancient harvest-days, of spoken words, and of sturdy deeds. Every inch of ground had been the site, first or last, of energy, gaiety, horse-play, bickerings, weariness. Groups of gleaners had squatted in the sun on every square yard. Love-matches that had populated the adjoining hamlet had been made up there between reaping and carrying. Under the hedge which divided the field from a distant plantation girls had given themselves to lovers who would not turn their heads to look at them by the next harvest; and that ancient cornfield many a man had made love-promises to a woman at whose voice he had trembled by the next seed-time after fulfilling them in the church adjoining. But this neither Jude nor the rooks around him considered. For them it was a lonely place, possessing, in the one view, only the quality a work-ground, and in the other that of a granary good to feed in.

and
This weakness of character, as it may be called, suggested that he was the sort of man who was born to ache a good deal before the fall of the curtain upon his unnecessary life should signify that all was well with him again. He carefully picked his way on tiptoe among the earthworms, without killing a single one.



message 32: by Ken (new)

Ken | 587 comments Mod
Good excerpts, Lori, reminding us not only of the craftsmanship Hardy applied to his prose but of how Wessex and place in general always stand as characters in his books. Young Jude has no clue (as most of us don't) of the stories that lie in the land we walk every day.

I like to think of time machine movies that do a fast sequence backward, how buildings go down and up and ultimately disappear to wilderness entirely. The more familiar equivalent is the saying, "If these walls could talk," but Hardy submits a grander saying, "If these fields, streams, ponds, and woods could talk."


message 33: by Ken (last edited Feb 09, 2020 04:31AM) (new)

Ken | 587 comments Mod
Jan, when I read points 3 and 4 in your post, it reminded me of how the grass is always greener elsewhere---until you get there.

It's human nature coming out in Jude. Hope. Yearning. A new life. Sometimes the down and out feel moving far away will solve their problems, but more often it's no better and sometimes worse as human nature exists everywhere. That plus the fact that you must take yourself and your innate temperament with you wherever you go. You can flee your physical surroundings but you cannot flee yourself, as you are the baggage and its contents both.

Jude in Christminster (what a heavy-handed symbolic name!) will be the same as Jude in Marygreen (also), no? Sad and frustrated, seems.


message 34: by Ken (last edited Feb 09, 2020 04:39AM) (new)

Ken | 587 comments Mod
Finally, notice how young Jude props up Phillotson with shining characteristics the teacher cannot possibly meet. Maybe hero worship, which is natural to the young, but also proof that the less you know about someone, the more likely you are to fill them with exemplary characteristics they cannot possibly meet. It helps when said person no longer lives in your town, too.

I remember as a kid growing up how I'd always think the new kid in school was so cool compared to the same humdrum kids I knew through the years. Then the new kid opened his mouth and talked. And acted. And chose birds for his feathers. He would have been better off remaining a mystery, in other words.

Anyway, young Jude's Phillotson worship is ironic, given how Jude will later feel about his teacher.


message 35: by Jan (last edited Feb 09, 2020 06:24AM) (new)

Jan (janrog) | 271 comments Ken wrote: "Jan, when I read points 3 and 4 in your post, it reminded me of how the grass is always greener elsewhere---until you get there.

It's human nature coming out in Jude. Hope. Yearning. A new life. S..."


Yes, I hope that throughout all the story that he remains the same Jude: hopeful even though currently unsatisfied. That dissatisfaction propels him into action, or at least the dreaming of another place--
yes, as you noted, the heavily named Chistminster. He doesn't realize that even Marygreen carries a bit of beauty; Mary symbolizes goodness, and green symbolizes spring or new beginnings. Then again, perhaps this was only a name to reveal his naivete.

Given the religious motifs throughout, that would fit with St. Augustine: “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” He's looking for an ideal in his own world, but that doesn't exist.

You're right, he'll find that people are the same wherever they go. He learns then grows dissatisfied. He learns something more of people, growing wary each time he realizes they are tarnished.

More to come later after a few tasks comments to others and then my own tasks!


message 36: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrog) | 271 comments Kathleen wrote: "Hardy's relationship to religion may be a little complex, but I love the hypocrisy he’s pointing out. And those scenes certainly worked to put me squarely on Jude’s side. Such a sensitive creature...."

Hello, Kathleen,

It seems to me within these first two sections that Jude is preoccupied with himself -- in my interpretation not so much as a selfish ego-driven person but Hardy's creation of a sojourner intent on discovering his own life. Jude's internal wishes are for the external world, and we "see" only his first internal points of awareness. For this reason, the other characters are important for moving his life forward, but they really do not merit deeper development. At least right now, he himself doesn't see the nuances in the others, either, much less take time to understand them.

I'm enjoying this! I look forward to reading more of your comments.


message 37: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments Folks, reading your comments about Jude’s hope springing eternal reminded me of Pavese’s line that the primary hope in life lies in a new beginning.

How redolent of Hardy’s creative life is that Italian poet’s aperçu!


message 38: by Carol (new)

Carol | 173 comments I am discovering a deeper depth to reading. These are thought provoking comments that I have not given much thought about. This is a new experience in reading. What a perfect author to learn by. I knew his books had deeper meanings, but not all the religious and social aspects. Thanks for opening my mind.


message 39: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrog) | 271 comments It's amazing what we take away from literature. That one person might take a completely different approach or provide a new perspective I never considered makes the reading all the more valuable. I'll watch for your comments!


message 40: by Diane (new)

Diane Barnes | 169 comments I was late getting started and just finished these two sections. Religion is not my strong point, so I'll leave those references to those of you who can notice and explain them.
I did highlight this though: "the flaw in the terrestrial scheme, by which what was good for God's birds was bad for God's gardener".
And this: " People said that, if you prayed, things sometimes came to you, even though they sometimes did not".
I believe I'm seeing a little of Hardy's cynicism there.

"Growing up brought responsibilities, he found. Events did not rhyme quite as he had thought. Nature's logic was too horrid for him to care for. That mercy towards one set of creatures was cruelty towards another sickened his sense of harmony".
What I am seeing so far is a boy, then a young man, who is being dealt out small doses of reality, as happens to us all. Dreams don't always come true, no matter how ardently desired. People can lie, lead you astray, life is treacherous. And the thing we all come to realize, sometimes too late, that mistakes made in the passion of youth (Marriage to Arabella) can affect the entire trajectory of one's life.

I remains to be seen what Jude will make of all this heartbreak. I'm truly enjoying this so far, and Hardy's prose. And I like Aunt Drusilla. She is a tough cookie who didn't show him much affection, but she did take him in and raise him, and she gives him good advice.....which he doesn't listen to.


message 41: by W.D. (last edited Feb 09, 2020 02:42PM) (new)

W.D. Clarke (wdclarke) | 4 comments John wrote: "Ken wrote: "...criticism of the Church of England seems a safe bet..."

Very important in parts I and II is the collapse of previously steadfast and enduring institutions, and the impact of this co..."


Wow, excellent post, John (and all of these so far!) I wonder about Hardy's relationship to Newman and/or Hopkins (is the lattter even possible, given how little known he was?)...as for the collapse of institutions, I can't get [edit: get over!] the pulling down of the old church and the insta-building of the new, by a man who was out & back from the City in a day or so...the utter erasure of history in the abandoned graveyard...


message 42: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments Wow, W.D. - I had forgotten that scene! How like me - and you too, from the sounds of it - when each new death blow (against buildings or or institutions we have held so dear in our lives) hits us as well, like a vicious slap across the face! Sometimes growing old is no fun.


message 43: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 182 comments Mod
So many great points here. Like Fergus, I take these "death blows" very hard, and that is another way I relate to Jude. Makes me think of Sandra's question earlier: "Do you think it’s easier for college students to identify with Jude or is age unimportant?" I think age may just multiply the ways in which we identify with Jude.


message 44: by Ken (last edited Feb 09, 2020 04:52PM) (new)

Ken | 587 comments Mod
Diane wrote: "I was late getting started and just finished these two sections. Religion is not my strong point, so I'll leave those references to those of you who can notice and explain them.
I did highlight thi..."


Good quote, Diane, about Jude's "sense of harmony" being sickened by the world's unfairness. This will be echoed by Sue up the road, but for now your quote about the birds and gardener and harmony reminded me of the famous philosophical debate about God--one I"m sure occurred to Hardy.

It is this: If God is loving and merciful, why would he stand back and allow evil to play out in his kingdom? Is He ineffectual? Does He really not believe in what He says He does?

Such questions come up again and again in history. The Holocaust is a great example, as shown in Elie Wiesel's book, Night, where prisoners are constantly crying out, "Where is God?"


message 45: by Ken (new)

Ken | 587 comments Mod
Jan wrote: "Given the religious motifs throughout, that would fit with St. Augustine: “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” "

I am unfamiliar with that St. Augustine quote, Jan, but I like it, I like it! I also think the Democrats should adopt it in 2020. I invited all of them to this group, but they seem to think there are more important things than obscurity (this when most of them are headed there themselves!).


message 46: by Sandra (new)

Sandra L L. | 171 comments Mod
Kathleen, I think you are right. I really relate to Jude now that I’m a retired teacher, but as I read I continue to understand why I identified so much with this book when I was “between” college experiences. My parents divorced when I was young, and I did very poorly at the university during my first year. But when I read about Jude, I was angry and determined to return to college and do better. My story ended well. I hope Jude’s does....


message 47: by Carol (new)

Carol | 173 comments Seems we are all relating to Jude on a personal level.


message 48: by Darrin (new)

Darrin (darrinlettinga) | 119 comments Carol wrote: "Seems we are all relating to Jude on a personal level."
I agree with you. I found myself comparing Jude to my own story and the journey to adulthood then is really not that much different now.


message 49: by Carol (new)

Carol | 173 comments I have compared my journey as well, it seems the novel is a lesson in psychotherapy. Jude expresses doubts that I share. I am amazed that Hardy was so attuned to the workings of the inner mind.

I am going to have to re read the books I have read with all this back story about him.


message 50: by Ken (last edited Feb 10, 2020 03:52AM) (new)

Ken | 587 comments Mod
One topic we have mostly avoided is the subject of women as seen through the lens of Victorian times. I noted more than a few lines showing attitudes that don't wear well over time, but I've also seen evidence of Hardy being more attuned to a woman's POV than his contemporaries.

Although they are different cases, both Arabella and Sue give Jude fits (in different ways). If many of you are identifying with Jude, are you also feeling his frustration with the women in his life?

Is he a precursor, maybe, to Freud's yawp: "What do women want?"


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