Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Blog the Obscure

Well, I pretty much ran out of steam with this thing. I love the book, but I haven't made time to keep this blog active. I thought it would work, but I don't think it has.

I'm going to keep this blog alive but in a different format going forward. I'll use it as a place to post my own thoughts and comments about what I'm reading, but I won't have a formal schedule. Hopefully you'll check the blog often enough to find out what I'm reading and join along with me.

Good books, good life.

The Cap'n

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Reading schedule for the next section

We ended the last reading block after the second chapter of the Melchester section. Now we'll read from there all the way to the end of the Part Fourth, which is around page 260 in most versions of the book, so it's about 120 pages of reading from where we left off.

Plan to finish that section by Nov. 30 and we'll have the comment period on Dec. 1-2.

Also, if you're participating in this club then you should really plan to give your comments after each reading block. If some of you REALLY don't want to comment then you don't have to, but the point of this club is to get the discussion going so everyone's thoughts are important. Don't be shy.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Here's a rendering of Hardy's Wessex. The great city, our modern Oxford, is the strongest symbol in the book so far. Jude learned of it then dreamed of it in the first section. Now he arrives at Christminster, but his ideals are quickly overcome by the reality of his situation in the city.


I like the constant undertone of Jude as a worker. He worked as a youth as a matter of circumstance. He labored through the ancient texts, teaching himself, but slowly, methodically, at the pace of a chisel hammering against a stony resistance.

Now at Christminster he finds work in his familiar field. He doesn't earn very much, so he works to survive, but surviving is work. As ever, he is up to the task.


Sue is immediately the opposite of Arabella. Not impulsive, not impetuous, she is reliably staid. Hardy portrays her morality and virtue from the start; she works in a shop selling religious curios and seems to be quite under the thumb of the lady proprietor.

It's convenient but a little unconvincing just how easily Jude encounters Sue in the city. I also found it to be a little unrealistic just how fond Sue and Jude were of each other from the beginning. They hadn't been acquainted for seemingly twenty years or more, but they became fast friends at once. Maybe in those days it was the norm to be so affectionate with a relative right away.

Sue and Christminster are both ideals in Jude's mind, but both are elusive and, to this point, deliver disappointment to Jude's eagerness. Neither is at fault; Jude's own idealism seems to be constantly letting him down. To that point, Phillotson is a third ideal that fails to live up to Jude's expectations, and moreso he appears to be the guy that will end Jude's hopes for romance with Sue.

The drunkeness and return to Alfredson

We're all sad sometimes. What would our lives be like if we were only defined by what we do in our times of disappointment? Not pretty.

So we can note Jude's lapse of judgment but we can't judge him to be "that" person. Like anyone would, when times were too hard to bear alone Jude returned to his home. Jude and we alike are quickly reminded that the aunt isn't any kind of soothing for the troubled soul. Still, he was drawn. Maybe Jude is such an idealistic person because his constant reality has always been so bleak. That bleakness doesn't suit him; he didn't stay at Alfredson very long.

Sue and Melchester

We'll see what happens here, but I'm of the opinion that Jude is going to blossom in a place where he's not a slave to his ideals. It seems like an average place where an average person can make a way for himself. In Melchester, like in Christminster, there are still undertones of a Christianity that binds Jude down, holds him back, outdistances him for Sue's affections.

But recall the instance when Sue bought the busts of the Greek figures to display in her apartment. There's something inside of Sue that is going to let her explore beyond the strictures of her mostly bottled-up life so far. To me, those Greek figures suggest a non-religious, or extra-religious journey for Sue. That they have literary significance suggests that the journey is going to involve Jude.

"Shall we go and sit in the Cathedral?" he asked, when their meal was finished.

"Cathedral? Yes. Though I'd rather sit in the railway station," she answered, a remnant of vexation still in her voice. "That's the centre of the town life now. The Cathedral has had its day!"

Let's hear your thoughts, club. We'll keep the comment period open through Sunday, Nov. 18. I'll post the reading schedule for the next block on Sunday night.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

New Reading Schedule

Good job everyone on completing the first segment of the reading schedule. This book club blog idea is working out great so far - I thought everyone's comments were insightful. And with the action just starting to heat up in this book, I can't wait to read what everyone thinks about this next segment.

We'll read chapters 9-20 next. Plan to have the reading completed by November 11th. The comment period will be Nov. 12-13.

Have fun!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Jude the Obscure: Chapters 1-8 Discussion

This picture is a view of Christminster (Oxford) as seen from Marygreen, as Jude Fawley would have seen it.

So hopefully you've all had a chance to finish the first eight chapters of the book. I've made a few notes during my reading so I'll get the ball rolling here. Remember, nobody is required to do a book report; we're just sharing thoughts, exploring ideas, and looking for some literary depth as we progress throughout the book. It's up to each of you to comment on my thoughts, each other's thoughts, and your own thoughts as we go throughout the process. Each discussion period will be open for two days (you can always return and add comments to older discussion threads) and then we'll move on to the next block of chapters.

The Setting

Everything seems more sophisticated if it happens in England. So much so, that for me the converse had actually become true in real life; in my travels in England I over-idealize and over-romanticize the scenery, people, and places because I'm superimposing the effects of the literature onto the landscape. In a way it's all silly, but I don't think I'd have it any other way. Whether it's true or not, my England is Thomas Hardy's England, Jude Fawley's England.

Old Miss Fawley

Jude's great aunt factors as a background character so far, but I'm struck by the meaning of her role in Jude's life. He's obviously a burden to her; he's obviously got no better options, so they're stuck together for the time being. I feel like that fact is a symbolic statement about the circumstances we're all stuck with in life. She represents the inheritance of circumstance that applies to all of us, and in truth, ends up defining most of us. Jude is an immediately compelling character because he seems determined to push himself to become more than the strictures of his class and circumstance would seem to allow.


Kacey commented a week or so ago that the development of the Jude/Arabella romance happened pretty fast in comparison to other books of this period. Jude's world with Arabella in it is about to be turned upside down in the coming chapters. For now, it's interesting to think about why Jude so quickly abandoned his long-term plans to pursue Arabella. She wasn't particularly comely or educated. She didn't come from money. She was clever, but what else? I can't think it is all simply Jude's desire to get with a woman. Do we blame Arabella for her wiles or Jude for his shortsightedness? As noble as his pursuits were before he met Arabella, he now seems like mere simpleton and he's setting himself up to live the life of a simpleton, at best.


It is the city on the hill. It symbolizes everything there is to hope for. It cannot possibly live up to the expectations that Jude has created in his mind. Or can it? It will be interesting to watch the evolution of Christminster from mysterious place of wonder, to far-off place of dreams, to literal streets, structures, and people who may or may not deliver the impact that Jude awaits. So far, I like the way Hardy creates this city; not mythical but with a drawing power that appeals to the goodness within Jude. I think we must all have our own Christminster, too.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Jude the Obscure - Chapters 1-8

You still have about 5 days to complete reading chapters 1-8. I wanted to start this first section off with plenty of time alotted so everybody had a chance to get caught up.

Going forward, I'll post the reading schedule for each section and then we'll have 2 days for discussion before moving on. If you think the time alotted for each reading section is too long or too short, let me know. It will be a learning process to figure our what works best to keep us progressing without making it seem like a chore.

I hope the discussion threads will focus on the subtleties and the literary devices of the book, such as the meaning within the plot development, the expansion of the characters, the symbolism of the people, places, and events, and the general human themes. And whatever else comes to mind - I hope each of you will take time to share what you think and what you feel the book is teaching.