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In Jude the Obscure, hy could Hardy not find some resolution to Jude's needs? The...

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plato1234 | Student | eNoter

Posted June 23, 2013 at 11:35 PM via web

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In Jude the Obscure, hy could Hardy not find some resolution to Jude's needs? The trouble I see is not in the world but in Jude's inability to come to terms with it. What was Hardy after?

Jude is a very pitiful character.  I would read him as a idealist if Hardy did not take such pleasure in undermining all his hopes and dreams. Is the novel solely written from Hardy's own feelings of resentment against society? Is there no place in this world that Jude can find some mode of happiness? He could have found it in the artistic use of his talents.

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted June 25, 2013 at 1:05 AM (Answer #1)

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[NOTE: eNotes allows us to answer one question and one close follow-up, so I'll answer the two I've moved to the top but leave your others as rhetorical background to your thoughts.]

This is the most autobiographical of Hardy's several novels. It is also the most controversial and the reason he left off writing novels: the criticisms leveled at Jude, following after those leveled at Tess, prompted Hardy to decide that he didn't write novels just to be lambasted, and he returned thereafter to writing poetry. What Hardy is "after" in Jude is an expose, if you will, of the limitations wealth and social status put upon talented, intelligent young men and women who have no means on their own to pay the tuition's for high level education. Hardy, like Jude, aspired to clergical education and profession but was, like Jude, denied admittance because of limitations to formal education stemming not from limited intelligence but from limited wealth and social status. One advancement society made after Hardy's disappointing youth was that scholarships were more broadly extended to deserving youths (males principally) and opportunities like classical and clergical education were thus opened to them (scholarships for the deserving had always been an old English tradition extended to Chaucer, Spenser and Shakespeare among other notables, though perhaps contracted in scope in the 1800s).

Another thing Hardy was after was an expose upon what he considered inappropriate marriage contract strictures. Somewhat confusing though it is, it seems the crux of his protestations (as he was legally and religiously correctly married himself) was that (1) unacceptable marriages could not easily be gotten out of; (2) unacceptable demands were made within marriages such as the manipulative demands made upon Jude by a falsely represented Arabella; (3) that second marriages were not as religiously, morally, and socially acceptable as first marriages. In sum, it seems the crux of his protest was not marriage itself but the cruel limitations and punishments that indissoluble marriage placed upon youths who were misguided or led astray or whose reputations, like Sue's, were wrongly called into question through inadvertent and innocent social mishaps.

Thus for Hardy to find a resolution for Jude that did not involve tragedy would have been possible but would have defeated his aims and entirely altered his end objective: the narrative would cease to be a multilevel protest and become a sentimental romance. Hardy was not a Romanticist nor was he a sentimentalist. Hardy was one of the early Realists and instrumental as a bridge to the Modernists. As for Jude, his flaw is that, being a sincere and straightforward unsuspecting individual with strong emotional sentiment, he is easily influenced and thus even more easily manipulated, much to his misfortune. After all, his original decision to study for the clergy was as a result of a passing remark made by Phillotson on his way out of town. Had it not been for this chance remark, it is unknown what direction Jude's ambitions might have taken. The one puzzle--and probably the most realistic puzzling element--is why he would not be influenced by his aunt's protests against knowing his cousin Sue. Her influence seems to have been what might have directed him rightly, though we can't say that, from textual evidence, with any more confidence than we can say what direction he would have taken if not for Phillotson.

Tears rose into the boy's eyes,... "You wouldn't understand my reasons, Jude...."
   "I think I should now, sir."
   "You know what a university is, and a university degree? It is the necessary hallmark of a man who wants to do anything in teaching. My scheme, or dream, is to be a university graduate, and then to be ordained. By going to live at Christminster, or near it, I shall be at headquarters, so to speak, and if my scheme is practicable at all, I consider that being on the spot will afford me a better chance of carrying it out than I should have elsewhere."

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