Jude the Obscure Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2110 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

Intolerance and preference for difference in "Jude the Obscure" by Thomas Hardy

Jude Fawley's attempt to "fit in"

Nineteenth century was marked as the transitional period wherein traditional society gave way for the modern one. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, a corresponding change in social structures occurred, thereby influencing and changing the norms and values of societies as well. This is the social condition that Thomas Hardy found himself in when he wrote the novel, "Jude the Obscure." True to its title, the novel depicted the life of the individual in a society that was undergoing a radical change from traditionalism to modernism, from the rigidity of norms to the loosening of social standards. In 1895, society was challenged to endure the shift in ideologies, beliefs, and values among people. During this period, society was torn between people who chose to live life the conventional or traditional way, while others opted or was forced to live life in the prevalently more radical and modern manner.

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The character of Jude Fawley in the novel is the example of the individual who was forced to live the new modern life, despite his aspiration to become an educated man and become part of the exclusive elitist society in the English community he lived in. In this paper, discussion and analysis center on Jude's and his community's responses to the rapidly modernizing life and loosening of moral standards in the society. This paper argues that society's intolerance to change -- that is, the modern life -- led to Jude being labeled as a deviant in the society, as he was forced to live a life devoid of any education, opportunities, and privileges. However, despite Jude's deviance, he still aspired to become an educated and privileged man, since he was also intolerant of the change happening in his social environment. The texts that follow puts into the novel's context the theme of intolerance to social change, and the dynamics between Jude Fawley and his traditional community.

Term Paper on Jude the Obscure Assignment

Hardy's portrayal of Jude as a young man showed him believing that there are limitless opportunities for him, that, like his mentor Phillotson, he would eventually become a parson, be educated, and receive the opportunities and privileges given to learned people. He dreamed of studying in Christminster, a place which he considered as the accomplishment of his dreams. For him, Christminster "is a city of light," "[t]he tree of knowledge," "a castle, manned by scholarship and religion," and "a place that teachers of men spring from and go to." These glowing descriptions of Christminster reflected Jude's awe of the exclusive elitist's life, his aspiration to become part of this sector of the society. These glowing descriptions, however, foreshadow the fact that he would eventually be placed on the opposite pole of the elitists, a man who does not only live in poverty, but is also known for his loose morals and deviant behavior, engaging in an extra- marital affair with Sue.

Indeed, the hopeful Jude is more aptly identified as the "traditional" Jude, an individual who believed in the inherent goodness of people, people who would help him achieve his dream of acquiring an education and achieving the privileges life has to offer. The traditional Jude was the individual who resorted to religion and social norms as his comfort and strength, for he believed that in religion comes learning and privilege, while subsisting to social norms meant living the straight or correct path to life.

Jude's predilection to create ideal assumptions about life in general is considered his 'character flaw,' the factor that led to his downfall towards poverty and deviance. In an analysis by Harvey (2003), Hardy's characterization of Jude was interpreted as follows:

Jude's fundamental error is his rejection of a moment of realistic insight into the worthwhile nature of his labour as a stonemason, and the opportunities afforded by town life. In any case, he is an impractical dreamer, who has not even found out how to apply for admission to a college. Instead he scrawls his anger on its walls, and in despair recites the Nicene creed in Latin in one of the town's public houses. Jude self-consciously regards himself as a symbol of the intellectual and social restlessness of the time.... It is a naive, self-indulgent gesture, but the disillusion from which it proceeds is realised symbolically as the brutality of the social order is seen in the cruelty of the cabman kicking his horse.

Harvey's analysis highlighted the fact that Jude has become the victim of the social order of his traditional society, which puts premium on socio-economic status, particularly among people from religious institutions. Jude was indeed a victim of the society he lived in, primarily because he did not fit in it. However, the fault was not to be blamed on Jude's society alone. Jude was also partly at fault because he chose to cling and believe in the social order that oppresses him, instead of fighting it or at least actively do something to eradicate his oppression. In effect, Jude "exists in a space between societal frames...(he) searched for a way of life that can fit within the established structures...of his society" (Crangle, 2001).

What made Jude cling to his hopes for a promising future as an educated man was his firm belief that he belonged to the privileged class, and, like any other religious stories, he is supposed to find success in life through sheer hard work and sacrifice. However, Hardy set Jude's social environment as hostile and non-receptive to the ideas and dreams of a poor young man like him.

Early on in the novel, Hardy described June's community as rustic, a place where hard work is the child's first and last exposure to education. Jude, thinking that he did not fit in a place where hard work is preferred over education, expressed his dislike for his rustic surroundings. In a place where poverty and hard work are the ways of life, education and religion are foreign concepts at Wessex:

the original church, hump-backed, wood-turreted, and quaintly hipped, had been taken down, and either cracked up into heaps of road-metal in the lane, or utilized as pig-sty walls....In place of it a tall new building of modern Gothic design, unfamiliar to British eyes, had been erected...The site whereon so long had stood the ancient temple to the Christian divinities was not even recorded

Interestingly, Jude's rustic community seemed to be more modern and realistic in its portrayal of life than the privileged life of educated people. Gradually, Jude was witnessing the changes happening in his community, in the same way that he was about to change as he grows up learning life through hard work and poverty. Religion and education have no place in Wessex, and Jude felt that he, too, had no place in this rustic community. Christminster for him was the only place that "suits him," perceiving himself as a learned individual.

Like Jude, his society remained unresponsive to the changes happening in their social environment. They continued to cling to their values and beliefs, despite its contrasting nature to their changing lifestyle and culture. Modernism made people think more liberally about norms, values, and beliefs in the society; however, Jude and his community thought they were not susceptible to these changes, fearing it instead of entertaining the thought of these changes happening in their lives.

Thus, the people were unable to accept the fact that Jude and Sue dared to engage themselves in a relationship outside of their marriages. Their complete isolation in their community was comparable to Jude's situation when he was still young, when he first experienced isolation and rejection from the very people whom he wanted to respect him as an educated man:

They seemed, like himself, to be living in a world which did not want them. Why should he frighten them away? They took upon more and more the aspect of gentle friends and pensioners -- the only friends he could claim as being in the least degree interested in him, for his aunt had often told him that she was not. He ceased his rattling, and they alighted anew.

In this passage, he likened himself to the birds' condition, which seemed to be unwanted yet existing in the world. As a young man, his ideals were a stark contradiction to his reality as a poor individual, leading him to question whether his perception of himself was correct. As an adult, he learned to accept the fact that he would not be able to achieve his dream to become a parson and be educated in Christminster. Instead, he learned to move on and accept the reality that he is only human, and flawed enough to commit mistakes and sins, actions and behavior that are considered violations of the religion he wished to serve.

Jude's reflections as a married man mirrored his acceptance that he was now part of the modern society, believing in his personal philosophy of life… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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