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.


Kacey Nielsen said...

It seems like the things that we look forward to the most, the things we fantasize and dream about and wait our whole lives for, are the things that just can never live up to their expectations. What a blow that must been to a boy who held on to this fantastical idea of Christminster as the answer to all his problem and for it to bring disappointment after disappointment. I really just wanted to give poor Jude a hug after he waited all that time for a letter from one of the University Presidents only to receive one that dashed all of his dreams.

I enjoy Sue, I can't help but love a good character with just a little bit of a rebellious nature (as shown through her art preferences). I don't agree about the assesment of the immediacy of their relationship though. They both have a sense of loneliness about them with the need to be accepted, Jude particularly but I get it from Sue also. Forming relationships in a large city can be difficult and Sue obviously wasn't finding any lasting friendships in her home or work. It seems really natural to me that one would be so willing to find an instant friend in family, even family you had never met before.

Samantha said...

I have been hesitant to comment because I feel like it's been a while since I have finished this part of the book and my memory isn't too hot!

But I really like the idea from the captain that maybe Jude will blossom in Melchester. It seems as though he's hit rock bottom as his lifelong dreams were shattered with the letter from the University President. I think he was just trying his best to prosper in his bleak situation, but in one night he realized his disappointment progress in Christminster, with Phillotson not making it in the University, with Sue and Phillotson's relationship, and with his own miserable marital status, and all of it came piling down on him and he hit his rock bottom. (Hopefully it's his rock bottom. I know things are going to be rough for Jude but I'd like to hope that he doesn't have to be that sad too many more times.) So if he feels like he has little left, life has to be uphill in Melchester, right?

I really like Sue too. And I agree with Kacey that lonliness on both sides could have easily brought on their quickly formed friendship.

Captain Emus said...

Some good comments here. If anyone else wants to chime in on this section, feel free. I'm posting the new reading schedule for the next section so that we can keep things moving along.