Romanticism' in Jude the Obscure
Deepsouth v.4 n.1 (Autumn 1998)
Copyright (c) 1998 by
|Holly Davis - University of Otago, Department of English
"In the face of a changing, and therefore an unfamiliar world, Hardy needed Romanticism as a touchstone, as a key to a formely golden age. But in Jude,with its bleakness and desolation, Hardy shows the growing gap between Romanticism and reality."
Abstract:The following article is taken from my MA thesis, entitled Hardy and the Romantics, and follows directy on from the article about The Woodlanders, which appeared in the previous issue of Deep South (volume three, number three). In this current article, on Hardy's final novel Jude the Obscure (1896), I identify the Shelleyan influences present in the novel, which are most apparent in the characters of Jude Fawley and Sue Bridehead.
The aim of my thesis is to identify Hardy's Romantic vision, a vision which becomes increasingly darker in his later novels, Jude included. So in Jude there seems to be no hope for the Romantic Jude to survive in what seems such an anti-Romantic world. In my thesis I establish an opposition between Romanticism, associated with tradition and a "golden age," and Darwinism, representative of modernisation, progress, and the absence of an immanent God. In Jude, unlike in Hardy's earlier novels, Darwinism is the dominant mode, with Romanticism seen by Hardy as untenable in the modernising world in which Hardy (and Jude) lived.
IntroductionJude the Obscure intensifies the despair of the previous novel I have discussed, The Woodlanders, in that in this later novel there is no hope for the happiness of Jude Fawley, or his cousin, Sue Bridehead. Their Romantic ideals are so strongly inherent in their personalities, and so antithetical to their society, that they are better off dead than living in this world. But unlike The Woodlanders, whose tone is one of sad, quiet, lament for the passing of the traditional rural ways, the tone of Jude is much darker, more bitter and cynical, and expresses a far more tragic vision: one of the novel's strongest motifs is voiced by Sue who comments, "'it seems such a terribly tragic thing to bring beings into the world'" (V vii 328). In Jude, Hardy exposes more strongly than ever the impracticalities and dangers of Romanticism (the gruesome deaths of Jude's children bears testimony to the force of Hardy's vision) in modern society.
It is necessary, first of all, to distinguish between Hardy's attitude to Jude's Romanticism and Jude's Romanticism itself. As always, Hardy was divided between his realisation that Romanticism could not exist in a universe which was so strongly Darwinian, and his indignant protest that Jude's vision ought to be true. In other words, Hardy the humanist is sympathetic towards Jude's futile fate, but Hardy the realist is aware that Jude's inability to adapt to the requirements of Darwinism means that he will not survive long in this world. In Jude, then, Hardy combines the realistic strand (that Jude will not succeed) with the Romantic strand (that Jude ought to succeed). The result is a novel which largely fits a tragic mode, not only because of its plot, but also because of Hardy's obvious pity for Jude's suffering. This sympathy is perhaps more acute than it might have otherwise been, because in creating Jude as a stonemason and church restorer aspiring to academia, Hardy is paralleling his own life and profession: he began as an architect with an interest in church restoration, and aspired to be a writer.
Hardy creates Jude as a Romantic idealist. But both objects of Jude's idealisation (Christminster, which stands for Oxford, and his cousin and lover, Sue Bridehead) disappoint him in their failure to live up to his unrealistic expectations. So the novel could be read as a negative Bildungsroman, in which Jude learns that his Romanticism is quite mistaken and that he is better off dead than trying to live in a world so opposed to his ideals. Hardy's patterning of allusions reinforces this descent from idealism to confounded reality: in the early stages of his life, Wordsworthian allusions surround the Romantic Jude; but the later stages of his life, in which he is beginning to see how futile his Romantic hopes were, are accompanied with references to Job (the Old Testament figure who was afflicted despite his innocence).
Hardy's aesthetic and vision expressed in Jude take much from Wordsworth and Shelley, although in this article I will consider only the influence of Shelley. Hardy's use of Shelley is most obvious in the character of Sue, who is based on the ethereal woman of Shelley's poems such as "Epipsychidion." Sue's views of marriage are also borrowed, almost directly, from Shelley's views. But in the character of Jude, Romantic characteristics are also abundant. Jude has a strong imagination, and he idealises rather than sees his "loves" as they are. Another characteristic is Jude's desire to transcend this bleak, real world and live on in an ideal realm. Romantic poets sought such transcendence in their poems. For example, in "Tintern Abbey" Wordsworth accomplishes transcendence by achieving a union with God and nature, experiencing in nature,
So Wordsworth (and Coleridge) found the ideal in the landscape (i.e. the real). Second generation Romantics strove equally hard for transcendence (an obvious example being Keats' attempt in "Ode to a Nightingale"), but they were unable to find the ideal in this world, and nor could they transcend to an ideal realm, because to transcend this world meant death. To the second generation, then, the ideal was utterly unachievable. Jude is like Shelley, one of the second generation of Romantics, because Jude does not transcend this real world; and like Shelley and Keats, who find it difficult to accept the real world the way it is (see for example "Adonais," "The Triumph of Life," and "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty"), neither can Jude: Jude attempts to merge the real with the ideal. But his attempts at discovering the ideal necessarily fail: real and ideal cannot co-exist in the way Jude hopes.... a sense sublime Of something far more deeply interfused ... A motion and a spirit, that impels All thinking things, all objects of all thought, And rolls through all things. (ll. 96-103)
So Hardy presents Romanticism as an unachievable ideal in this modern society. He constructs an imaginative ideal, but does so in order to show that it is not feasible in Jude's (or in Hardy's) society. In the face of a changing, and therefore an unfamiliar world, Hardy needed Romanticism as a touchstone, as a key to a formerly golden age. But in Jude, with its bleakness and desolation, Hardy shows the growing gap between Romanticism and reality.
Jude the IdealistIn Jude, Hardy unequivocally shows that Jude's Romanticism is destructive because it distorts his vision of reality, ensuring that he acts neither rationally nor practically. But Jude gains Hardy's sympathy for his resilience in the face of continual disappointment, and for his enthusiasm to keep trying to recapture his ideals. In his useful article entitled "Compromised Romanticism in Jude the Obscure," Michael Hassett argues that Jude's Romantic quest is ultimately unachievable because Jude and Sue "repeatedly create imaginative substitutes for reality, but their Romanticism is compromised in practical application" (Hassett 432). Hardy's patterning of allusions, beginning with an abundance of Wordsworthian parallels and ending with references to Job, shows the pattern of Jude's decline, until, with the final flourish of Job quotations (while Jude is on his death bed), he gains some awareness of the follies of his early idealism. As with Hardy's previous idealising characters, Jude is modelled on the Shelleyan idealist and the most strongly Shelleyan aspects of Jude's character (which I will now discuss) are as follows: the strength of Jude's imagination; his idealism; and his (partially) Shelleyan relationship with Sue.
From the opening pages of the novel Hardy shows us that not only does Jude have a strong imagination, but that there is a disparity between his imaginative world and the real world. Michael Hassett argues that Jude seeks a "limited, concrete, embodiment ... of his ideals" and in so doing he "thinks he reconstitutes the world, while in fact he only creates substitutes, and reality remains intractable" (Hassett 433). This is certainly the case with Jude's first "vision" of Christminster, when Jude sees it illuminated with topaz lights after a mist has risen. This vision of Christminster is an illusion, much like the illusion Wordsworth experiences after stealing the boat in Book one of The Prelude, at which time he imagines that the looming mountains "Strode after me" (1850 l. 385). Days later, Wordsworth still sees "huge and mighty forms, that do not live / Like living men" (1850 ll. 398-99). Jude also "sees" the large looming shapes that Wordsworth saw: he "started homewards at a run, trying not to think of giants, Herne the Hunter, Apollyon lying in wait for Christian, or the captain with the bleeding hole in his forehead and the corpses round him that remutinied every night on board the bewitched ship" (I iii 17).
It is clear, then, that it is not something intrinsic in Christminster that makes Jude see it the way he does. He has a need to find beauty and hope, and because there are neither in this post-Romantic society, Jude fabricates them. Hardy makes this fabrication clear in the following comment: "He suddenly grew older. It had been the yearning of his heart to find something to anchor on, to cling to; for some place which he could call admirable" (I iii 21). That Hardy refers to Jude's imaginative construction of Christminster as a dream, and Jude as a dreamer, further confirms the falsity of his vision. The pig's pizzle landing at Jude's feet "mingled with his dreams" (I vi 35); Christminster is thought of "in his days of dreaming" (II i 78); Shaston is "the city of a dream" (IV i 209). On several occasions Jude "wakes up from his dream," such as when Arabella tells him that she is not pregnant (I ix 58) and again when he becomes aware of what Christminster is really like (II vi 118-19). At Shaston Sue calls Jude "'Joseph the dreamer of dreams'" (IV i 215), and when Jude suggests that they educate Father Time with a view to the university, Sue cries dismissively, "'O you dreamer!'" (V iii 292). Dreaming, an activity so important in Romantic literature, is reduced to scorned fantasy here.
The strength of Jude's imagination is Romantic: but what is un-Romantic about his imagination is that it is unfounded in reality. The Romantics, particularly the first generation, generally sought the reality of an experience, and based their poetry on common life, while "throw[ing] over [such incidents] a certain colouring of imagination, whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual way" (my emphasis. The passage is from Wordsworth's "Preface" to his Lyrical Ballads). Their quest was idealising, but only because they discovered in reality its Platonic archetype, something a pre-Darwinian, broadly theocentric world view allowed.
Jude's character is Romantic rather than Darwinian, which is why he cannot survive in this age. He is sensitive to nature, in a way out of place in this Darwinian society:
He had never brought home a nest of young birds without lying awake in misery half the night after, and often reinstating them and the nest in their original place the next morning. He could scarcely bear to see trees cut down or lopped, from a fancy that it hurt them; and late pruning, when the sap was up, and the tree bled profusely, had been a positive grief to him in his infancy. (I ii 11)And Hardy prophesies in these very early pages that Jude's life will not be happy: "he was the sort of man who was born to ache a good deal before the fall of the curtain upon his unnecessary life" (I ii 11). This bleak prophecy is accurate: because Darwinism has become the dominant force in Jude's society, only the strong will survive -- and Jude is not one of the strong.
As I have argued, Hardy undercuts Jude's utterly naive belief that his Romantic ideals will succeed several times in the novel. Yet Jude cannot, or will not, learn, despite receiving moments of insight, which he chooses to ignore. The first illuminating moment comes after Dr Vilbert forgets to bring Jude the Greek and Latin grammars he wants. But Jude does not abandon his hopes of learning; rather, he sends to Mr Phillotson for his grammars. But Latin and Greek are not as he had expected, and the narrator exclaims (mirroring Jude's real distress), "This was Latin and Greek, then, was it; this grand delusion! The charm he had supposed in store for him was really a labour like that of Israel in Egypt" (I iv 26). Hardy claims that someone walking past might have been able to restore Jude's spirits, but (anticipating the twentieth-century modernism of the likes of Samuel Beckett) "nobody did come, because nobody does; and under the crushing recognition of his gigantic error Jude continued to wish himself out of the world" (I iv 27).
Despite the setback, Jude gets on with Latin and Greek. But he is soon interested in another pursuit: the courtship of Arabella. At their first meeting, he is granted a moment of illumination as to Arabella's character, when she throws the pig's pizzle:
It had been no vestal who chose that missile for opening her attack on him. He saw this with his intellectual eye, just for a short fleeting while, as by the light of a falling lamp one might momentarily see an inscription on a wall before being enshrouded in darkness. And then this passing discriminative power was withdrawn. (I vi 39)So Jude's ability to see Arabella for what she is is over in a moment, and she becomes shrouded, once again, in his idealised visions.
The disparity between the imagined and the real continues after Jude's arrival in Christminster, where he sees the imaginative glory fade into the "defective real" (II ii 84). The second disappointment in Christminster is in his re-acquaintance with Phillotson: Phillotson's lack of success "destroyed at one stroke the halo which had surrounded the schoolmaster's figure in Jude's imagination ever since their parting" (II iv 102). At times he wakes up from the dream world and gains real insights: "For a moment there fell on Jude a true illumination; that here in the stone yard was a centre of effort as worthy as that dignified by the name of scholarly study. ... But he lost it under stress of his old idea" (II ii 85). Jude also awakens to his sense of limitations. He can cite "the afternoon on which he awoke from his dream" (II vi 119), and he recognises that, "These struggling men and women before him were the reality of Christminster, though they knew little of Christ or Minster" (II vi 121). But under the duress of his desire to become a scholar, he makes no use of this illumination.
Throughout the novel Jude is continually transfixed by Christminster, and the pull of the city remains strong: Sue says to Arabella, "'Of course Christminster is a sort of fixed vision with him, which I suppose he'll never be cured of believing in. He still thinks it is a great centre of high and fearless thought, instead of what it is, a nest of commonplace schoolmasters whose characteristic is timid obsequiousness to tradition'" (V vii 329). Jude admits that despite Christminster's scorn towards them ("'it scorns our laboured acquisitions ... it sneers at our false quantities and mispronunciations'" -- V viii 337), "'it is the centre of the universe to me, because of my early dream: and nothing can alter it'" (V viii 337). It takes until the very end of the novel, and the end of his life, for Jude to begin to see Christminster as it really is. At this time he tells Arabella that the famous men of letters, graduates from Christminster, "'seem laughing at me!'" (VI ix 414). Jude's insight, though, is far too late to change anything, and he dies only a short time after coming to terms with the reality of Christminster.
Jude and Sue - the Influence of ShelleyBecause Christminster never lives up to his expectations, particularly once he has moved there (in Book Two), Jude needs something new upon which to anchor his ideals, and he receives an almost epiphanic vision that Sue Bridehead, his cousin, is that something. This vision takes place while watching her in church, and "To an impressionable and lonely young man the consciousness of having at last found anchorage for his thoughts which promised to supply both social and spiritual possibilities, was like the dew of Hermon, and he remained throughout the service in a sustaining atmosphere of ecstasy" (II iii 93). Patricia Ingham's note to the Oxford edition explains that Hermon is "a high mountain referred to in the Old Testament, and sometimes said to be the scene of Jesus' transfiguration (Mark 9: 2-9). The suggestion seems to be that Jude is transformed" (notes, 437). Jude's initial vision of Sue paves the way for his relationship with her: he never sees her realistically, but always as a sort of spiritual touchstone. Michael Hassett realises this, suggesting that "Jude's initial conscious intention always seems the attainment of spiritual ideals, yet simultaneously there is a need for realistic form" (Hassett 435). So Jude wants both a spiritual and a physical relationship from Sue -- but Sue is only interested in giving the former.
Jude first sees Sue in a photograph, in which she is wearing "a broad hat with radiating folds under the brim like the rays of a halo" (II i 78) -- thus his first idea of her is of an angel. This is reinforced when he sees his cousin at work in what Jude thinks of as "A sweet, saintly, Christian business" (II ii 89). After this she remains an "ideal character" to Jude, "about whose form he began to weave curious and fantastic day-dreams" (II ii 90). Days later, "she was almost an ideality to him still" (II iv 99). After a chance meeting with her, at which neither of them speaks to the other, Jude is irrevocably obsessed with her: "From this moment the emotion which had been accumulating in his breast as the bottled-up effect of solitude and the poetized locality he dwelt in, insensibly began to precipitate itself on this half-visionary form" (II ii 90-91). The phrasing strongly suggests a similar passage in The Woodlanders, in which Fitzpiers tells Giles that "'people living insulated, as I do by the solitude of this place, get charged with emotive fluid like a Leyden jar with electric, for want of some conductor at hand to disperse it'" (The Woodlanders xvi 89). Grace is the "conductor" in Fitzpiers' experiment, in the same way that Sue is the agent for Jude's emotions. Hardy is more explicit, though, about love in the passage in The Woodlanders: Fitzpiers tells Giles that "Human love is a subjective thing ... I am in love with something in my own head, and no thing-in-itself outside it at all'" (The Woodlanders xvi 89). But ironically, it is the villainous Fitzpiers who obtains the love of both Grace and Felice, and ends up with Grace at the end; whereas Jude is tricked into marrying Arabella, whom he does not love, and is forced to wait a long time before being given Sue's love, and yet he still never gains happiness.
Just as Shelley was an important influence on Jude's character, so has he influenced Sue. Sue is continually seen as a spiritual rather than a physical woman, and in this way she is strongly connected to the ethereal heroine of Shelley's "Epipsychidion." In "Epipsychidion," Emily is a "spirit," a "vision," a "shadow," and something totally other than a bodily woman -- ironically, it is Emily's ethereality which means that Shelley cannot unite with her on earth. Hardy is also at pains to emphasise Sue's insubstantiality. Jude remembers that her figure "was light and slight" (II ii 90); further on, "Sue stood like a vision before him -- her look bodeful and anxious as in a dream, her little mouth nervous, and her strained eyes speaking reproachful inquiry" (III ix 194). At this time, Jude "Look[ed] at his loved one as she appeared to him now, in his tender thought the sweetest and most disinterested comrade that he had ever had, living largely in vivid imaginings, so ethereal a creature that her spirit could be seen trembling through her limbs" (III ix 195). After their elopement (perhaps their attempt to transcend this mortal world), the Shelleyan allusions intensify. Jude addresses Sue: "'you spirit, you disembodied creature, you dear, sweet, tantalizing phantom -- hardly flesh at all; so that when I put my arms round you I almost expect them to pass through you as through air!'" (IV v 256-57). At this point, after Jude has spoken in an overtly Shelleyan way, Sue asks Jude to quote from "Epipsychidion." Because he does not know the lines she recites for him:
On Sue's urging, Jude agrees that the description from "Epipsychidion" is exactly like her.'There was a Being whom my spirit oft Met on its visioned wanderings far aloft ... A seraph of Heaven, too gentle to be human, Veiling beneath that radiant form of woman.' (IV v 257)
At "Aldbrickham and Elsewhere" (Book Five) Shelleyan parallels continue. Jude tells Sue "'you ... are such a phantasmal, bodiless creature ... who ... has so little animal passion in you'" (V i 272). Sue is so light she barely touches the ground, and Arabella, noticing this, describes her as a fairy (V v 306-7). Hardy also makes it clear that Sue and Jude have deluded themselves, and are living in a dream world. After postponing their marriage in Aldbrickham, Sue and Jude "seemed to live on in a dreamy paradise" (V iii 286). On the morning of their next attempt at marriage, Sue wants to deny their reality, asking Jude to kiss her "incorporeally" (V iv 297). The wedding is not accomplished, though, and Sue declares "'let us go home without killing our dream!'" (V iv 301). Weeks later, at the Agricultural show, the pair "still lingered in the pavilion of flowers -- an enchanted palace to their appreciative taste," and after the show, Sue is vivacious, saying "'I feel that we have returned to Greek joyousness, and have blinded ourselves to sickness and sorrow'" (V v 311-12).
To emphasise Sue's ethereality and her connection to Emily in "Epipsychidion," Hardy creates a strong contrast between Sue and Arabella. Arabella (especially because of her association with pigs) is the epitome of the anti-Romantic. Whereas Sue is ethereal, Arabella is a woman, earthly and sexual: there was "something in her quite antipathetic to that side of [Jude] which had been occupied with ... the magnificent Christminster dream" (I vi 39). She had "a round and prominent bosom. ... She was a complete and substantial female animal -- no more, no less" (I vi 36). Whereas Sue inhabits a Romantic world ("Vague and quaint imaginings had haunted Sue in the days when her intellect scintillated like a star, that the world resembled a stanza or melody composed in a dream" -- VI iii 361), Arabella is firmly rooted in the real world, Jude finding her at one time "busy melting down lard from fat of the deceased pig" (I x 66). Unlike Jude's love for Sue (which, although idealised, is nonetheless strong), Hardy clearly shows that Jude is not in love with Arabella: "His idea of her was the thing of most consequence, not Arabella herself" (I ix 56 -- my emphasis). Jude wakes irretrievably from love's spell after learning that Arabella's dimples, her hair, and her pregnancy are all false.
One final way in which Jude bears Shelley's strong influence is in Sue's views of marriage, which closely resemble those which Shelley expressed in "Epipsychidion" and in his extensive notes to "Queen Mab." Sue does not "'regard marriage as a Sacrament'" (III vi 173). She feels that marriage is an "'iron contract'" which will extinguish tenderness, and so she would "'much rather go on living always as lovers ... and only meeting by day'" (V i 271). This is Shelley's view: in the notes to his political poem "Queen Mab," he wrote "Love withers under constraint: its very essence is liberty: it is compatible neither with obedience, jealousy, nor fear." Similarly, Sue argues that "'it is foreign to a man's nature to go on loving a person when he is told that he must and shall be that person's lover'" (V i 271). In desperation, to prevent her and Jude's marriage going ahead, Sue questions him: "'Don't you dread the attitude that insensibly arises out of legal obligation? Don't you think it is destructive to a passion whose essence is its gratuitousness?'" (V iii 286). This calls to mind Shelley's idea that love is "most pure, perfect, and unlimited, where its votaries live in confidence, equality, and unreserve."
Sue's views of marriage, though, have different origins from those of Shelley. Shelley's "free-love" policy was more for the sake of sexual gratification, whereas Sue's ideas stem from a fear of the marriage contract and the sexual act itself. The famous lines from "Epipsychidion" show Shelley's dislike of the Christian idea of marriage:
Likewise, he justifies his lack of monogamy by arguing (also in "Epipsychidion"),I never was attached to that great sect, Whose doctrine is, that each one should select Out of the crowd a mistress or a friend, And all the rest, though fair and wise, commend To cold oblivion. (ll. 149-53)
As I have previously mentioned, Sue fears that marriages kill love, and to her, marriage feels like a sacrifice: while observing a wedding, she comments to Jude that, "'The flowers in the bride's hand are sadly like the garland which decked the heifers of sacrifice in old times'" (V iv 301). She is liberal in her divorce views, saying "'I am certain one ought to be allowed to undo what one has done so ignorantly'" (IV ii 226), and radical in her thought that "'Fewer women like marriage than you suppose, only they enter into it for the dignity it is assumed to confer'" (V i 272). These ideas are clearly similar to Shelley's, expressed in the notes to "Queen Mab." Here Shelley argues that, "A husband and wife ought to continue so long united as they love each other: any law which should bind them to cohabitation for one moment after the decay of their affection would be a most intolerable tyranny, and the most unworthy of toleration."... Narrow The heart that loves, the brain that contemplates, The life that wears, the spirit that creates One object, and one form, and builds thereby A sepulchre for its eternity. (ll. 169-73)
Hardy's Interpretation of Shelley - Undercutting the IdealDespite the profound influence of Shelley, Hardy's use of him is not solely imitative. Rather, Hardy judges his own society against that of the Romantics, and finds that the values of the Romantic age have no place now. To show this Hardy is very suggestive in his choice of settings, uses Biblical allusions out of context (to show that the decline of Romantic ideals is exceedingly troubling), as well as undercutting his somewhat idealised portrait of Sue by showing her inconsistencies.
Hardy suggests that Christminster is a faithless town, despite its name and pretentions, by having Jude live in a suburb of Christminster called Capharnaum. Patricia Ingham has noted that Capharnaum is "a town referred to in the Gospels usually as a scene for Christ's ministry. The condemnation here may be based on a prophecy about its destruction for wrong-doing in Matthew 11: 23" (notes, 449-50). Shaston, too, is shown as being degenerate. The corruption of the town is summed up in the three "consolations" to man: "It was a place where the churchyard lay nearer heaven than the church steeple, where beer was more plentiful than water, and where there were more wanton women than honest wives and maids" (IV i 210). And by the time Jude has moved to Aldbrickham, his ideal Christminster has degenerated into the gingerbread cakes he makes to sell at the fair, which are "'reminiscences of the Christminster Colleges'" (V vii 328).
There are several instances in the novel of Hardy using Biblical allusions in a secular situation. In Book Two, for example, Jude is aware of his increasing passion for Sue, and although wanting to ask for deliverance from temptation, he finds this impossible "when your heart's desire was to be tempted unto seventy times seven" (II iv 99). The allusion is to the gospel of Matthew, and the phrase is used in the context of persistence in forgiveness; so Jude is contradicting the spirit of what he cites. In Melchester, the narrator reports that "The sensual hind ... lived carelessly with his wife," which is in blatant defiance of the injunction in Ecclesiastes that husbands must live joyfully with their wives (III i 133). And in Aldbrickham, Jude physically repairs the Ten Commandments in the church, unaware of the irony that he has broken one of the commandments ("Thou shalt not commit adultery"). It is Sue who points this out: "'It is droll ... that we two, of all people ... should happen to be here painting the Ten Commandments ... [and] in my condition'" (V vi 318). A more cruel example of a Biblical reference being used ironically occurs immediately after the death of the children: Sue and Jude hear the chapel organist playing "'Truly God is loving unto Israel'" (VI ii 356).
The most enduring way in which the ideal is undercut is in the character of Sue. Sue's inconsistency causes confusion and frustration in Jude because in his imagination she is ideal, but in reality she does not live up to this ideal. Rather, she is a psychologically complex woman, with flaws and inconsistencies, and she therefore does not fit into the mould that Jude has made for her. One way of accounting for Sue's caprice is to see it as stemming from the contradiction inherent in her name, Bridehead. While the first syllable suggests her suitability for marriage, the second cautions her to preserve her maidenhead. This explains why she consented to live with the undergraduate (who she met before knowing Jude), to whom she would not surrender herself. Likewise she cannot bear "'the necessity of being responsive to [Phillotson] whenever he wishes'" (IV ii 223 -- and Victorian values dictate that it is her role to be responsive to her husband). There are countless examples of Sue's caprice in the novel: after her escape from the training school, Sue says almost in one breath that Phillotson "'is the only man in the world for whom I have any respect or fear'" and then that "'I don't care for him ... I shall do just as I choose!'" (III v 160); in the same scene, Sue forbids Jude to love her, but then immediately sends a note saying "'if you want to love me, Jude, you may'" (III v 161 -- Hardy's emphasis). Jude feels vexed with Sue, deciding she is capricious (III v 164) and seeing "the elusiveness of her curious double nature" (IV ii 219). But it is this double nature which renders Sue such a memorable and interesting character, and her inconsistencies, therefore, show that it is Jude's idealisation of her which is inappropriate, not her character (which is totally credible).
One final way in which Hardy points to the fragmentation of the ideal is in the elopement of Sue and Jude. Like that of Stephen and Elfride in A Pair of Blue Eyes, the elopement of Sue and Jude does not bring them the happiness they expect. Although (unlike Elfride and Stephen) Sue and Jude remain together for some time, they do not immediately become lovers as Jude had imagined. In the train when Jude tells Sue that he has booked one room for them both, Sue cries, "'O Jude. ... But I didn't mean that!'" and Jude murmurs, "'This is a queer elopement!'" (IV v 250-52). Romantic elopements, such as that of Madeline and Porphyro in Keats' "The Eve of St Agnes," are ostensibly more successful. The imagery surrounding the elopement of Madeline and Porphyro is, however, foreboding enough to suggest that all may not be as good as the lovers imagine. And so Hardy may not be as different from the second generation Romantics as he at first appears, considering the disillusionment present in some of the poetry of Shelley and Keats.
ConclusionIt should be evident from this discussion that Jude is not a Romantic novel. Rather, Hardy takes the Romantic premises of Wordsworth and Shelley, and shows in quite a brutal way how Victorian society cannot tolerate Romanticism. Jude's idealism is ultimately undercut -- he neither achieves the academic success he desires, nor does he gain Sue's love in the way that he had hoped.
It is a mark of Hardy's admiration of Shelley that in such an anti-Romantic novel the Shelleyan influence is so profound. Hardy was unable to "purge" Shelley from his life - to the extent that Shelley appears again and again in Hardy's novels. Hardy's final novel, The Well-Beloved, continues this close association.
BibliographyThomas Hardy, A Pair of Blue Eyes. Ed. Alan Manford. Oxford: OUP, 1985.
- - - Jude the Obscure. Ed. Patricia Ingham. Oxford: OUP, 1985.
- - - The Woodlanders. Ed. Dale Kramer. Oxford: OUP, 1985.
Hassett, Michael E. "Compromised Romanticism in Jude the Obscure." Nineteenth Century Fiction 25 (1970-71): 432-43.