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on Jude the Obscure- A Young Man's Struggle

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  2.     <h1>on Jude the Obscure-  A Young Man's Struggle </h1>
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  7. <img src="http://mike_reichold.tripod.com/images/thomashardy_.jpg" alt="Thomas Hardy"  style="float:right; width:100px; height:150px;">Jude the Obscure subtitled The Letter Killeth,  is the story of a young man's struggle
  8. to balance the demands of  his physical and spiritual natures.  Paradoxically, this  seeker of
  9. knowledge is only dimly aware of the real world obstacles that block the path to fulfillment of
  10. his dreams.  He seems to  lack the common sense necessary to succeed at what he
  11. undertakes.  Within him, the spirit and the flesh are perpetually in conflict, and his beliefs
  12. constantly bring him into conflict with the conventional thinkers around him.  If he were to
  13. wholeheartedly support one side or the other, that side would prevail.  As he lacks the insight
  14. to do this, and lacks the stamina to sustain the spirit and the flesh , he "dies a virtuous victim . .
  15. . by marriage is his end brought about."(1)  He curses the day he was born and he perishes.
  16. <p> Our first introduction to Jude takes place in the village of Marygreen.  He is a kind-
  17. hearted boy of eleven, who has been orphaned through the deaths of his parents, and who
  18. now lives with a curmudgeon of an aunt.  We learn of his kindheartedness and latent
  19. spirituality when he suggests that the teacher, who is leaving for Christminister, store his piano
  20. in the boy's aunt's fuel-house until he is ready to send for it. "'A proper good notion', said the
  21. blacksmith."(2)  We learn of his physical strength when he brings water from the well, for
  22. "Slender as was Jude Folly's frame, he bore the two brimming house-buckets to the cottage
  23. without resting." (3)
  24. <p> We learn more from the aunt of Jude's scholarly potential and of his future affinity
  25. for Sue when his aunt says, "The boy is crazy for books,  that he is.  It runs in our family
  26. rather.  His cousin Sue is just the same. . . ." 4  Though a child of the working class, Jude
  27. dreams of attending college at Christminister, Hardy's literary Oxford.  He demonstrates his
  28. intellect  by studying Greek and Latin on his own.  As he grows older, he combines
  29. work with study.  In his mid-teens, he reads Latin while driving a wagon to deliver  his aunts
  30. baked goods.  His inability to see practical matters  is evident when he concentrates so hard
  31. on his reading that he runs other people off the road.  Thus, even at this early age, this
  32. unconventionality puts him in conflict with those around him, "a private resident of an adjoining
  33. place informed the local policeman that the bakers boy should not be allowed to read while
  34. driving, . . . The policeman thereupon lay in wait for Jude, and want day accosted and
  35. cautioned him."(5)  Growing older, to support himself and his  studies, Jude apprentices as a
  36. stone mason. Stone Masonry requires a  man who is strong physically and who as some
  37. artistic talent. (Perhaps the perfect occupation for a working class man with a bent for
  38. learning.)    The robustness of his physical health and of the health of his ability to dream and
  39. imagine, are further illustrated by his  later entry into Christminister--he "was  now walking the
  40. remaining four miles rather  from choice than necessity, having always fancied himself arriving
  41. thus."(6)   The physical and spiritual aspects of Jude's life are also represented symbolically by
  42. the two main female characters of the story, his wife Arabella, and the woman he really loves,
  43. Sue Bridehead.
  44. <p> Sue and Arabella represent Jude's spirit and flesh.  "Allegorically we can see Arabella
  45. as flesh and Sue as spirit, with Jude caught in between."(7)   According to Alvarez, physical
  46. desire for Arabella leads Jude away from the things of the spirit (learning, Latin, the
  47. NewTestament): conversely, the spiritual side of Jude's relationship with Sue is threatened by
  48. her lack of sexual drive."(8)
  49.    
  50. Because of his inability to balance the two aspects of his life, symbolized by the
  51. influence of  these two woman,  he is twice thrown off from pursuit of his proposed careers.  
  52. Because of his disastrous marriage with Arabella, into which he was trapped under false
  53. circumstances, he sees his academic career derailed; and because of his enthrallment with
  54. Sue, he has his pursuit of a religious career  brought to an end. Jude says, "Strange that his
  55. first aspiration--- towards academical proficiency- had been checked by a woman, and that
  56. his second aspiration--- towards  apostleship--- had also been checked by a woman."  9
  57. <p>  Sue and Arabella entwine Jude throughout his adult life. "Sue and Arabella are in fact
  58. like the white and black horses, the noble and base instincts, which drew Plato's chariot of the
  59. soul"10    The spiritual, represented by Sue, seems the dominant in Jude, or at least it is the
  60. part he tries to emphasize the most.  The affinity between Jude and Sue is obvious to Sue's
  61. lawful husband, Phillotson, who says "' I have been struck," he said, "with . . . the
  62. extraordinary sympathy or, similarity, between the pair.   . . . they seem to be one person split
  63. in two."(11)
  64. <p>Jude's love for the ephemeral , and its affect on practical matters, is foreshadowed in
  65. the scene from his childhood where he loses employment by a neighbor farmer.  The neighbor
  66. has hired him to drive away the birds that come to eat the farmer's grain out of his fields.
  67. Rather than chasing them away, Jude sympathizes with them, seeing them as "gentle friends
  68. and pensioners".  The farmer returns in time to hear him say, "Eat then my dear little birdies,
  69. and make good meal." After beating him, the farmer pays him off and dismisses him from
  70. service.   This sets the pattern for his entire adult life.  Sue herself is referred to as a little bird,
  71. and throughout the story, Jude sets aside practical concerns for the sake of his relationship
  72. with Sue.  
  73. <p>Sensuous Arabella, first seen with the most self-indulgent of barn yard animals, the
  74. pig, wakens Jude to an awareness of sex and sexuality.  Ever practical, she wants a strong
  75. man, a good provider, to look after her.  She cares nothing for the ephemeral, she is only
  76. interested in meeting her needs.  As a practical consideration , she traps Jude into marriage by
  77. claiming to be pregnant.  She has absolutely no use for Jude's intellect or his
  78. sensitivities, and intends to dispose of his scholarly pursuits at the earliest convenience.   After
  79. she wakens the earthly side of Jude's nature, Jude quickly finds his interest in higher
  80. pursuits giving way to the urgency of Arabella's sexual appeal, "Arabella soon reasserted her
  81. sway in his soul.   He walked as if he felt himself to be quite another man from the Jude of
  82. yesterday.  What were these books to him?  what were his intentions? . . It was better to love
  83. a woman than to be a graduate, or a parson; ay, or a pope!"  
  84. <p>Jude is unable to find a balance between his spiritual and physical needs.  His
  85. sensitivities, as represented at his occasional efforts to return to his books leads him into
  86. conflict with the necessities of the flesh and practical considerations.  This conflict is shown
  87. when the time comes for them to kill and butcher a pig they had raised.  He kills the pig in a
  88. manner that allows it to die quickly and with less suffering; but which makes the meat worth
  89. less than it would have been had the pig bled to death  slowly.  The next day, he becomes livid
  90. with anger when she announces she was "mistaken' about her pregnancy, and their first
  91. marriage ends  (unofficially  at least)  with her going to Australia with her parents.  He has
  92. turned out to be less practical than she had thought.  After she leaves, he acts as if he was
  93. never really in love with her at all, else he would have been more forgiving when he learned
  94. she "mistaken"  about being pregnant. In the first weeks of their separation, he has many
  95. opportunities before she leaves the country to try to reconcile with her- but, he does not.
  96. Instead, he "strolled in the starlight along the too familiar road towards the upland whereon
  97. had been experienced the chief emotions of his life.  It seemed to be his own again."(12)
  98. <p>Arabella returns again years later to wreak further havoc in Jude's life.  At the time of
  99. her return, he has had a rarified, spiritual and intellectual union with Sue; but, no  
  100. physical union.  Sue from the first brought a different sort of rapture to Jude than that of
  101. Arabella; a knowledge of the mind, rather than of the flesh.  His love for Sue begins in a purely
  102. intellectual manner.  At first, he is in love with her picture, with the idea of her.  Later, he goes
  103. to Christminister with dreams of what it will be like to meet her.  After he finds her, he
  104. watches her and goes to the same church as she, but doesn't introduce himself until later.  In
  105. the first church service he attends at the same time as she he feels the highest sense of ecstasy
  106. and oneness, just knowing they are listening to the same music.
  107. <p> The immediate affect of Arabella's return is that in order to hold onto Jude at all, Sue
  108. yields to  him sexually.  Thus the element of the flesh enters what has been an idealized
  109. relationship.  Although she surrenders to his pleas for a physical union,  she "isn't a woman at
  110. all, but a fey, a kind of sprite."  Sue loves the idea of marriage, of the idea of her oneness with
  111. Jude.   Before the return of Arabella, they have had a Platonic relationship; "she is the
  112. untouched part of him, all intellect, nerves and sensitivity, essentially bodiless."13   She is
  113. loathe to consummate this relationship physically or to solemnize it in any conventional way,
  114. and argues that a lawful wedding would be "destructive to a passion whose essence is its
  115. gratuitousness."(14)
  116. <p>Less immediate is the overall affect  the return of  Jude's  fleshly aspect , in the person
  117. of the son of Jude and Arabella.  Arabella had apparently left Jude and England not knowing
  118. that she really was pregnant.  Her son, called "Father Time" because of his dour disposition,
  119. enters Jude  and Sue's life together at its high point, and presides over the decline of their
  120. lives, ending with his suicide after killing the children of Sue and Jude "because we were too
  121. menny."(sic) (15)   During the years Jude's son is with them, at Aldbrickham and afterward,
  122. they  'have returned to Greek joyousness, and have blinded ourselves to sickness and
  123. sorrow." (16)   Before his son's arrival, Jude's livelihood has consisted mostly of stone work on the  churches in the town.  Father Time's appearance with Jude and Sue, and their failure to abide by convention, makes Jude and Sue's
  124.  relationship notorious in the town of Aldbrickham.  Their notoriety grows because they
  125. have never married in the eyes of English religious and governmental officialdom.  Though
  126. they actually start down the aisle from time to time, Sue always backs out and Jude always
  127. agrees with her reasons.  "The unnoticed lives that the pair had hitherto led began, from the
  128. day of the suspended wedding onwards, to be observed and discussed by persons other than
  129. Arabella." (17)  Eventually, their unconventional union alienates the conventional people around
  130. them to the point where no decent person will have anything to do with them- or give Jude
  131. work.   "From that week, Jude and Sue walked no more in the town of Aldbrickham."(18)  
  132. They travel from town to town for years, until at Kennetbridge, Jude's health breaks down
  133. and he resorts to baking cakes shaped like landmark buildings of Christminister to earn
  134. enough to live on.
  135. <p> Even after so many years,  "Christminister is a sort of fixed vision with him."(19) And he
  136. decides to return there.  At last, with Father Time  and their own two children in tow, Jude
  137. and Sue return to Christminister on its busiest day, Remembrance Day, or as Jude puts it,
  138. "humiliation day for me."(20)  The pull of the old dreams, of the old colleges, proves irresistible
  139. to Jude.  Rather than securing lodgings, he stands, with his wife and children in the rain,  to
  140. watch the graduates march by, .  He pauses to deliver a final harangue, or homily, or eulogy,
  141. describing for the gathered crowd how he has not met the goals he set for himself so long ago.  
  142. He lingers outside after the graduates have passed into the church, to catch a snatch of Latin
  143. during the service.  Postponing practical considerations in order to ruminate over lost
  144. opportunities proves to be a catastrophic  mistake, because by the time they set out to find
  145. lodgings, it is too late too find a place that will accept the whole family, and Jude seeks
  146. lodgings apart from the family. This upsets  Father Time to the deepest level of  despondency.  He believes he and the other children are
  147. to blame for Jude having to look else where for a place to stay; and, he  is mortified to learn
  148. that Sue is going to have another child.  The next morning, Sue leaves the children alone to
  149. have breakfast with Jude and make plans for the day.  When Sue and Jude return to the
  150. children, they find them dead, Father Time having hung the smaller children and then himself.
  151. The deaths of the children cause the final collapse of Jude's world.  
  152. <p> Jude's love for Sue remains undaunted by this tragedy, and he is able to go on despite
  153. their loss.   The erstwhile logical and passionless Sue, on the other hand, seems devastated.
  154. Jude tells a friend, "bitter affliction came to us, and her intellect broke, and she veered round
  155. to darkness."(21)  Despite all previous professions of the rightness of her relationship with Jude,
  156. she now claims to believe that the deaths of the children are some form of divine retribution for
  157. the life Jude and Sue have had together, instead of the lives they'd have had with their former
  158. spouses.  She goes so far as to embrace the conventional view that she is still married to her
  159. divorced husband and that Jude is really still married to Arabella.  This final abandonment of
  160. reason for hysteria in the name of convention  is a blow from which Jude can not recover.
  161. Rejected by Sue, he is again deceived by Arabella into a drunken marriage, and suffers a
  162. further physical breakdown.  
  163. <p> After his remarriage to Arabella, Jude remains in Christminister, surrounded by the
  164. city of his dreams.  Despite severe physical illness and debilitation, Jude's love for Sue remains
  165. undaunted.  He still loves her and believes that their marriage, the union of their spirits, remains
  166. a true marriage despite their legal remarriages to people they detest.  He describes his
  167. remarriage to Arabella as, "immoral, degrading, unnatural."(22)  For Jude, conventional
  168. marriage, by the letter of the law, is "acting by the letter, and ' the letter killeth'".23   He makes
  169. a final plea for Sue to leave with him, saying,  "--you call yourself Phillotson's wife. . . .  You
  170. are mine.. . . Let us shake off our mistakes and run away together."(24)  In his heart, he believes a true marriage is one between the two participants inwhich they know with every fiber of their beings that they are one.  He insists to Sue afterher return to Phillotson that whatever the marriage documents say,  they are man and wife.  He
  171. has gone to her through a pouring rain to plead his case before her, knowing that if she spurns
  172. him, the exertions of the trip through the rain, to and from Marygreen , will kill him.  His final
  173. appeal to reason,  goes unheeded.   He returns through the rain and the cold to  Arabella.  
  174.      
  175. <p> Throughout the novel, the characters views of marriage remain fairly constant.  Sue
  176. sees marriage as a prison or punishment. She likens it to crucifixion and mutilation.   Arabella
  177. sees marriage as a means to an end, a contract to ease one through the business of living.
  178. Arabella is  "the Flesh . . . merciless calculation as to what will be profitable to herself" (25)
  179. <p>  Jude held two contrary views of marriage at once- as his heart told him marriage
  180. should be  and as he found  it was with Arabella-- an inconvenience at best and a trap at
  181. worst.  Though  in Jude's hopes he  views marriage as an exalted state, where spirit and flesh
  182. are met and two souls become one, he finds himself frustrated in seeking  this union by  his
  183. inability to balance spirit and flesh.  Throughout the novel, he is "tossed like a puppet between
  184. the two women- one ready to gratify him whenever they meet, the other holding him on the tip
  185. toe of expectation."(26)
  186. <p> Jude is intoxicated before both of his marriages to Arabella.  Before the first marriage,
  187. he is intoxicated by the urgency of his sexual longing for her; in the second marriage she has
  188. gotten him drunk on despair and alcohol, to cloud his reason and trick him again into a sham
  189. of a marriage.  The only hint of legitimacy in either marriage is that they were presided over by
  190. duly appointed representatives of conventional society.
  191. <p> Because each of Jude's
  192. choices have led him to infamy, loss, and finally death, it would seem he is totally unaware of the practical aspects of life.  His perception of
  193. marriage, that the letter killeth, is contrary to the conventional views of the people of the
  194. city of Aldbrickham and of the University city of Christminister, and call into question his
  195. ability to reason.  Seemingly, only a fool would alienate everyone in every town he travels,
  196. knocking from pillar to post on a matter of principle.  As a matter of principle he and Sue have
  197. gone years without marrying, having two children along the way.  As a matter of principle,
  198. everyone who suspects their fornication refuses to give Judea work.  However, Jude is not a
  199. fool.  A fool could not exhibit his artistic talents, as indicated by his attempted profession and
  200. shown to be at full power at Kennetbridge, where he and Sue make a living selling their
  201. Christminister cakes.  His intellect was and is still powerful.
  202. <p> Intellectually, he is not far removed from where he was when he and Arabella killed
  203. their pig, so many years before.  After their remarriage, Arabella says to Jude, "you are as bad
  204. as when we were first married."(27)  While he bungles killing the pig in a profitable manner, it
  205. was not for lack of dexterity or because of stupidity.  He places the knife exactly where he
  206. wants it, so that the poor animal can die quickly and painlessly.  Nor would a person of less
  207. than average sensitivity have looked on the pig's blood  as "a dismal, sordid, ugly
  208. spectacle."(28)  He would simply not have possessed the imagination to see such a spectacle or
  209. to see any other existence but to remain as a slave to Arabella's sexual allure.
  210. <p> A man of average intelligence would have appreciated Arabella's
  211. practical side.  Everything she does is planned, from catching Jude, to keeping and leaving
  212. Jude to finally preparing for Jude's death by setting her sights on Vilbert.  Such a man may
  213. have felt for the pig about to be butchered, but would not have let these feelings interfere
  214. with the business of killing the animal in a way that would bring the greatest profit, and
  215. without spilling the blood on the ground that could have been used to make blackpot.  Nor
  216. would the average man  have sacrificed a normal sexual relationship (or perhaps above
  217.  
  218.  
  219. normal) for a rarified existence with the spritely Sue.  Yet Jude is patently impractical.
  220. <p>     Only a genius could see life as Jude sees it and  be so enthralled with principle and a
  221. highly intellectual  existence, at the expense of  everything he has, including, ultimately his life.
  222. His final thwarted, attempt at spiritual union wrecks his already precarious health and leads to
  223. his death. Intellectually, he is far beyond the conventional wisdom of Kennetbridge and
  224. Christminister and has no place in the social setting of his day.  Jude predicts that their
  225. unconventional sort of marriage, though shockingly at the time the novel was written, would
  226. eventually be commonplace, saying, "Our ideas were fifty years too soon to be any good to
  227. us. …
  228. <p>And so the resistance they met with brought reaction in her, and recklessness and ruin on
  229. me!"(29)  Jude sees that there is no place for him and his views in conventional England.  He
  230. quotes Job, not only cursing the day he was born, but looking forward to the place where" '
  231. the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. . . .The small and the
  232. great are there; and the servant is free from his master."(30)  He then dies, seemingly to the
  233. cheers of  the Christminister Remembrance Day crowds.&nbsp;<p>
  234. <h3>Works cited</h3>
  235. <p> 1.Oliphant, Margaret.   from Blackwood's Magazine.  Jude the Obscure,  A Norton Critical Edition.
  236. Edited by Norman Page.   W. W. Norton & Company.  1978.   pg. 382
  237. <p><P> 2. Hardy, Thomas. Jude the Obscure,  Signet ClassicNew American Library.  New York.   pg. 14  
  238. <p> 3.IBID.   pg.16.
  239.  <p> 4.IBID pg 17
  240.  
  241. <p> 5.  Hardy, Thomas.   Jude the Obscure.   Signet  Classic.  pg.37.  
  242. <p> 6. IBID.   pg. 80.  
  243. <p>7. Butler, Lance St. John.  Thomas Hardy.   Cambridge University Press.  1978.  New York.   pg.121.    
  244. <p>8. IBID
  245.  
  246. <p> 9.Hardy,Thomas.  Jude the Obscure.    Signet Classic.  pg. 215.
  247. <p> 10. Alvarez, A. The Poetic Power of Jude the Obscure. Jude the Obscure,  A Norton Critical
  248. Edition. Edited by Norman Page.   W. W. Norton & Company.  1978.   pg. 421.  
  249. <p>11.IBID.  pg. 416.
  250. <p> 12.Jude the
  251. Obscure", Thomas Hardy,  Signet Classics  pg. 77
  252. <p>13. Alvarez, A.   "The Poetic Power of Jude the Obscure".  Jude the Obscure,  A Norton Critical
  253. Edition. Edited by Norman Page.   W. W. Norton & Company.  1978.    pg.417.  
  254. <p> 14. Hardy,Thomas. Jude the Obscure.  signet classic.  pg. 268.
  255.  <p>  15. IBID.  331.   16. IBID.  293 
  256.  
  257.  
  258. <p> 17. Hardy, Thomas.  Jude the Obscure.  signet classics.  pg. 293.   <p> 18.  IBID.  364.
  259. <p> 19. IBID. pg. 308  <p> 20. IBID.  pg. 318
  260.  
  261. <p> 21.Hardy, Thomas.  Jude the Obscure.  Signet Classics.   pg. 394. <p>  22.IBID.   pg383. <p>  23. IBID.  
  262.  
  263. <p>24.  Hardy, Thomas.  Jude the Obscure.  Signet Classics.   pp.384-385
  264. <p>25.Oliphant, Margaret.   from Blackwood's Magazine.  Jude the Obscure,  A Norton Critical
  265. Edition. Edited by Norman Page.   W. W. Norton & Company.  1978.   pg.383.  <p> 26. IBID, pg 382
  266. <p>
  267. 27.  Hardy, Thomas.   Jude the Obscure.   Signet classics.   pg.394.  
  268. <p> 28. IBID. pg.69
  269. 29.Hardy, Thomas.  Jude the Obscure.   Signet Classic  pg. 395.  
  270. <p> 30. IBID. pg. 398.  
  271. <p>
  272. Alvarez , A.   "The Poetic Power of Jude the Obscure".  Jude the Obscure,  A Norton Critical
  273. Edition.    Edited by Norman Page.   W. W. Norton & Company.   1978.  pp.416,  417,  421,
  274. <p>
  275. Butler, Lance St. John.  Thomas Hardy.   Cambridge University Press.  New York.  1978.
  276. pg.121
  277. <p>
  278.  Hardy, Thomas. Jude the Obscure,  Signet Classic.  New American Library.  New York.
  279. pp. 14, 16, 17, 37, 69, 77, 80, 215, 268, 293, 308, 318, 364, 383, 394-385, 394, 395,
  280. 398
  281. <p>
  282. Oliphant, Margaret.   from Blackwood's Magazine.  Jude the Obscure,  A Norton Critical Edition.
  283. Edited by Norman Page.   W. W. Norton & Company.  1978.   pp.382, 383
  284. <p>
  285. </article>
  286. <footer>
  287. <hr>
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