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Jude the Obscure
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Archived Group Reads 2020 > Jude the Obscure: Week 6: Part Sixth - At Christminster Again

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message 1: by Kerstin, Moderator (last edited Feb 13, 2020 07:49PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kerstin | 571 comments Mod
They arrive in Christminster but have trouble finding a place to stay. For the night they find a place for Sue and the children, but Jude had to stay somewhere else. Upon the question if they are married, Sue answers that they are not – legally, in her mind she is. Hmm, either I missed something or Hardy left this detail out until now. I thought they’d gone to London for the very reason a few chapters back. In any event, they have to look for other accommodations come morning.

What happens next is so disturbing I can’t make myself to summarize it in more detail. The children are dead and Sue miscarries. Their relationship does not survive the tragedy. In a complete about-face Sue insists she is still sacramentally Richard’s wife, and they should part ways. She remarries Richard and Jude is heartbroken.

Arabella is in dire straights again and sets her sights on Jude again, and like before, she tricks him, this time into re-marriage.

Jude is sick again and asks Arabella to send for Sue to visit him one more time. She writes but doesn’t post the letter. Soon afterwards when Arabella is out Jude steals away to Marygreen and the two meet at the church. On his way home the weather turns and Jude is chilled to the bone. Jude never fully recovers. He gets more and more frail and while he is bound to the bed Arabella is on the prowl again. While she’s out enjoying festivities Jude dies.


Peggy | 24 comments I thought this would end badly, but I did not see it coming that the children would die and Sue would go back to Richard. I also thought they married, but we were just led to assume that. Sue is a strange bird. Whew, glad that’s over. I like Hardy’s writing style. His views on marriage and religion are another matter.


message 3: by Renee, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Renee M | 1813 comments Mod
I find this to be the most difficult of the Hardy novels. It’s so crushingly bleak, with no stay to the grinding annihilation of the hopeful, promising youth into the dust of, well, obscurity.


message 4: by Kerstin, Moderator (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kerstin | 571 comments Mod
It got wretched. I really had to push myself to get to the end, and then I really didn't care anymore. Too bad, because there were a few themes that would have been interesting to explore, but who wants to spend time with these characters and plot?

What you had at the end of the 19th century are a lot of philosophical and religious currents clashing. Much of it is still with us today and it is still as controversial or even explosive. All of Hardy's esoterical excursions do have a point.

In a nutshell, you had Jude moving from traditional Christian conventions to modernism, and Sue doing the opposite. In Hardy's telling the two philosophies are incompatible and it destroys them both. Is he right? And that gets us even today into stormy territory.

Modernism is purely materialistic, and so all religious impulse or expression is mere sentiment and not objectively knowable. This means all social structures and conventions originating in the Christian world view are not based in fact. From the perspective of the Christian world-view these assertions are utter nonsense...and so the battle lines are drawn.


Peggy | 24 comments I agree. After a while you just don’t care and want it to end. What are we supposed to get from the name of Jude’s son, Father Time? You can really twist yourself in knots over this book. Whew.


message 6: by Kerstin, Moderator (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kerstin | 571 comments Mod
Peggy wrote: "I agree. After a while you just don’t care and want it to end. What are we supposed to get from the name of Jude’s son, Father Time? You can really twist yourself in knots over this book. Whew."

Father Time:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Father_...

At Albrickham:
Him they found to be in the habit of sitting silent, his quaint and weird face set, and his eyes resting on things they did not see in the substantial world. "His face is like the tragic mask of Melpomene*," said Sue. "What is your name, dear? Did you tell us?"
"Little Father Time is what they always called me. It is a nickname; because I look so aged, they say." "And you talk so, too," said Sue tenderly. "It is strange, Jude, that these preternaturally old boys almost always come from new countries. But what were you christened?" "I never was." "Why was that?" "Because, if I died in damnation, 'twould save the expense of a Christian funeral."
*Melpomene: Greek muse of tragedy

Ugh! talk about bleak.


Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments Kerstin wrote: "...mere sentiment and not objectively knowable ..."

I'm out of my comfort zone here, but "mere" sentiment? I am in the throes of reading Sterne's Tristram Shandy, which ostensibly values "sentimentalism" -- which seems to be that human knowledge which derives from feelings and emotions versus the objective observations upon which empiricism rests. How to fit all those (concepts?) into an understanding of what Hardy was trying to do with Jude is still falling outside my grasp... but (part of) why I cherish forums such as these.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentime... (Note the link to Locke and contrast with "reason" -- an intersection where I want to understand better -- whatever that means?!)


Peggy | 24 comments Yes that’s what I thought about the name as well. I’d forgotten the actual description in the chapter. Ugh so incredibly sad and over the top.

I’m amazed at the analysis you all bring to this forum. Appreciate the stimulating discussion. I’m impressed.

I wonder how many PhD could be spawned from this book. LOL


message 9: by Kerstin, Moderator (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kerstin | 571 comments Mod
Lily wrote: "Kerstin wrote: "...mere sentiment and not objectively knowable ..."

I'm out of my comfort zone here, but "mere" sentiment? I am in the throes of reading Sterne's Tristram Shandy, whic..."


I meant to read along with 'Tristram Shandy', but simply couldn't fit it in.

These philosophical concepts are always hard to express, and I have no formal training, only what I picked up here and there, so it would be natural for me to trip up somewhere, LOL!

Let me rephrase what I meant: In Modernism faith and reason are definitely divorced, so what is objectively knowable comes by the faculty of reason. They are tangible Where does that leave faith? It gets relegated to some form of sentiment, emotion, impulse, etc. Things you cannot readily see or measure, or things that are intangible. Now intangibles by themselves are not negated in Modernism, but they play a subservient role.

In a society based on Christian values this has huge ramifications. When morals, social traditions and conventions are only the result of sentiment, emotion, or impulse, then it takes the foundation away on which they are based. ... And you can expect some push-back. Pope Pius X promulgated a scathing refutation on Modernism in his encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis in 1907. It is a very philosophical document. I read it and don't pretend I understood everything. In a nutshell, he picks Modernism apart, because in the Christian world-view faith and reason are two sides of the same coin.

Back to Hardy and the initial discussions on the nature of marriage.
Sue argues that marriage is nothing but a contract. If two people feel they want to live together they should. Who needs the Church? Jude comes from the perspective of the Christian sacrament, or the exchange of vows.
OK, what is meant here?

The definition of a contract is an exchange of goods and services based on some mutually agreed upon time frame. Contracts have time limits. Contracts are tangible.

In contrast, in a wedding ceremony we don't exchange goods and services, we exchange vows. What are vows? They are a solemn promise, pledge, or personal commitment, which are intangible. "With this ring I thee wed..." As long as the person I promise myself to lives, I am bound to him or her by the promise I have given, and vice versa. Only death can dissolve the promise, because the deceased can no longer uphold it.

Now the sacrament: A sacrament is the outer manifestation of an inner truth. The vows exchanged are historically made between the couple before God (to keep it simple we'll leave civil unions out). The minister or priest presiding is only a witness (this has a whole other history...). So this makes marriage a personal covenant (=binding) between the couple and God. The outer manifestation is the living marriage physically consummated, and the result, children. The inner truth is the binding promise made before the eternal God.

Sorry this got so long. But as everyone can see, this is only a starting point. And as I mentioned before, some of it can get quite contentious even today.
I hope this was helpful.


Peggy | 24 comments 🤯


message 11: by Kerstin, Moderator (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kerstin | 571 comments Mod
LOL! I better stop before I get into real trouble ;-)


message 12: by Lily (last edited Feb 17, 2020 07:42AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments Kerstin wrote: "LOL! I better stop before I get into real trouble ;-)"

Kerstin -- I have long recognized our views of the intersection of faith, Christianity, secularism, the ancient world, the modern world, ..., probably have developed from very different directions! And I am certain neither of us is interested in laying those out against each other here in a forum over Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure! (If interested in a bit of my background: (view spoiler)

Part of my game in reading is to relate characters and plot to experiences within my own current life, whether directly or by news articles or .... I have trouble doing so with the characters Hardy has given us in Jude. I want Jude to be the American who find can a way for his ambition amid all the formidable obstacles. Sue as a whole is unlike anyone or story to whom I can relate her readily -- although I can find bits of her many places. Father Time is the tragic story that interrupts "normal" life. Arabella, well, Arabella is Arabella. But the back and forth with a maturing Jude is still difficult for me to want to grant him.

As Peggy says, Hardy has provided a book to spawn many a dissertation. Maybe when I return to dear Jude again, perhaps I shall see if there are some I find useful. A google search does suggest some of the approaches taken and probably decent access to some of them.

I do thank this group for leading me to think about this text again, although I am with Charlotte in being uncertain whether that is or is not a wise use of time.


message 13: by Kerstin, Moderator (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kerstin | 571 comments Mod
No worries Lily! It wouldn't be the first time my analytical ruminations caused some head scratching...
We all come from different perspectives and life experiences that shape who we are and how we respond. And that's just fine with me :-)


message 14: by Lily (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments Kerstin wrote: "We all come from different perspectives and life experiences that shape who we are and how we respond. And that's just fine with me :-)..."

Pax, Kerstin!? Differences that are all the more reason for our attempts to live in community and to try to hear each other?

And I guess some parts of me ask where was, what was "community" that Hardy's characters each needed and seemed not have....


message 15: by Kerstin, Moderator (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kerstin | 571 comments Mod
Lily wrote: "Pax, Kerstin!? Differences that are all the more reason for our attempts to live in community and to try to hear each other?

And I guess some parts of me ask where was, what was "community" that Hardy's characters each needed and seemed not have.... ..."


Of course, Lily! Peace.

And you bring up a great point! Where was "community"? I missed that. The characters seem to drift along in isolation. Since Hardy was influenced by Darwin, you have to wonder if "survival of the fittest" is part of the set-up. If that's the case, then Arabella who scouts out one opportunity after another is the true survivor of the story.


Peggy | 24 comments Good points! In Victorian times in the UK was there much in the way of social support outside of the church. Would help from the church even be extended to a couple “living in sin” in that period?

That aside there’s very little assistance from friends. Plus neither Sue nor Jude have living family to help them.

So it seems very much like survival of the fittest with society and the church looking on with ambivalence if not malevolence.


message 17: by Kerstin, Moderator (last edited Feb 18, 2020 10:14AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kerstin | 571 comments Mod
Peggy wrote: "Good points! In Victorian times in the UK was there much in the way of social support outside of the church. Would help from the church even be extended to a couple “living in sin” in that period?
..."


Looking at the history of marriage may be helpful here. It is far more varied than meets the eye. Here is what I know:

You go back enough in history, marriage was a private affair between individuals and families. The Greeks, Romans, and Pagans all had their own way of marking a couple's entry into marriage. Many of these, later known as common-law marriages, were legal and valid for a long time, in the case of Scotland until 2006! A couple living together long enough was considered married even if they never had an official ceremony, civil or religious, though as we know they were often looked down upon.

So why did the Church get involved? The reason is clandestine marriages, private commitments between a couple that were publicly denied. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and the Council of Trent (1545–1563) forbade them, as well as other civil and ecclasiastical enteties over the centuries. So what was the big deal? Human nature. You had way too many Lotharios sowing their wild oats promising happy ever after without ever meaning it. Scores of young women and their children born from these unions were abandoned. And I am sure female abandonment happened as well. How could it be otherwise. The Church, and later other churches and governments, stepped in to protect the family and children, to hold the couple to their mutual promise by making it public and before witnesses.

What I take away from this is that from age to age there has always been a bit of a back and forth between the longterm wants and needs of the individuals entering into marriage and society's need (represented by governments and the churches) to protect the family unit too keep community life stable.

The article goes into more detail, but by no means exhausts the subject.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common-...


message 18: by Renee, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Renee M | 1813 comments Mod
Gretna Green!!! So that’s why all those couples ran off to Gretna in the stacks of historical romances I’ve consumed over the years!


Thank you for sharing this article, Kerstin. Hardy definitely has a few things to say about relationships & public opinion through his web of marriages/non-marriages.


message 19: by Kerstin, Moderator (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kerstin | 571 comments Mod
Renee wrote: "Gretna Green!!! So that’s why all those couples ran off to Gretna in the stacks of historical romances I’ve consumed over the years!

LOL!!


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