Force of Nature: Storms in Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd

In Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy uses nature to influence the actions of his shepherd and shepherdess protagonists, Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oak, in two separate episodes involving rain storms. The conflict of Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd centers upon Bathsheba Everdene’s battle with and between her three suitors, Gabriel Oak, William Boldwood, and Francis Troy–and the battle involving the suitors themselves. Each of these four characters faces internal conflicts with his or her own desires, motives, and emotions, in addition to conflicts with each other. The plot follows Bathsheba’s relationship with each of these men and climaxes with a physical meeting of the three suitors, in which one is shot dead. Bathsheba and Gabriel seem to share the role of protagonist, but Gabriel is ultimately seen as the hero of the novel. The novel is set in the fictional area of Wessex, England in the equally fictional shire, Weatherbury. These places represent Hardy’s vision of the ideal rural setting. Though a time period is never specified, the reader assumes that the novel takes place during the late Victorian period, when Hardy lived and wrote. Hardy uses a third person omniscient narrator in order to provide the reader with insight into each character’s thoughts and situations. His characters are very in touch with nature, especially the main characters, who are a shepherd and shepherdess. Throughout the novel, nature acts as a driving force or a symbol of a character’s actions and choices. In Far from the Madding Crowd, Hardy uses parallel episodes that pertain to nature, such as fire in the hut and hayricks and rain on the farm and at the grave to compare and contrast character motives and development, as well as to accentuate the overall themes in the novel.

In both chapters mentioned, nature provides the outlet for certain character traits to be revealed. In Chapter XXXVII, the storm serves as an overarching symbol of Troy’s destructiveness in Bathsheba’s life. The physical storm, as well as the storm that Troy causes in Bathsheba, inspires a greater sense of protectiveness in the already devoted Gabriel. Additionally, these elements allow Bathsheba’s true feelings to shine through as she spontaneously confesses that she “…care[s] a little for [Gabriel’s] good opinion…” for “it would be dreadful that [he] should always think mistakenly of [her]” (p. 286). Chapter XXXVII covers the scenario in which a great storm approaches Bathsheba’s farm, where uncovered hayricks lie. The storm awakens Bathsheba and she heads to the ricks to find Gabriel thatching. She asks Gabriel where her husband is, as he had promised “‘…that the stacks should be seen to…’” (p. 282). However, “‘…they are all neglected!” (p. 282). While Troy neglected his duties to Bathsheba and the farm while getting the farmhands drunk in the barn, Gabriel took on responsibilities that were not his and saved the ricks from the storm. In this chapter, Hardy emphasizes the beauty of the destructive storm. Though it could have destroyed all of Bathsheba’s harvest, and did destroy Boldwood’s, the majesty of the storm is most highly revered. Through narration, the reader sees that Gabriel, in contact with the love of his life, realizes that during the storm, “…love, life, everything human, seemed small and trifling in such close juxtaposition with an infuriated universe” (p. 284). Also under the influence of the majestic storm, Bathsheba “[spoke] more warmly to [Gabriel that] night than she had ever done whilst unmarried and free to speak as warmly as she chooses” (p. 288). This chapter shows Gabriel’s heart of gold in the midst of turmoil and Bathsheba’s true emotions for Gabriel begin to show through her stern front. Gabriel’s protectiveness is shown through his willingness to sacrifice his own safety for the protection of the hayricks, and, in turn, the protection of Bathsheba’s harvest’s profit. Hardy’s narrator contributes, mentioning that Gabriel speaks to Bathsheba “gently as a mother” (p. 287). During their work upon the ricks together, Bathsheba says, “‘Gabriel, you are kinder than I deserve!” (p. 285). Additionally, upon Bathsheba’s final departure from the ricks and Gabriel, she says “‘Thank you for your devotion, a thousand times, Gabriel! Good-night—I know you are doing your very best for me’” (p. 287). This quote, nearing the end of the chapter, shows the emerging relationship between Bathsheba and Gabriel that the nature of the disastrous storm inspired.

The parallel chapter, Chapter XLVI, emphasizes not Gabriel as a suitor, but Troy. Though the courting and marriage between Bathsheba and Troy has ended, this chapter serves to emphasize Troy’s true character, undeserving of Bathsheba, or any woman’s true devotion. The two storms serve to contrast each of these suitors and foreshadow Bathsheba’s final destination of marriage to Gabriel. Chapter XLVI opens at the Weatherbury Tower, beside the graveyard in which Fanny Robin is buried, and describes in detail the gurgoyles with water spouts. In Chapter XLVI, a storm comes through the graveyard where Fanny Robin is buried. A gurgoyle’s spout from the Weatherbury Tower funnels a stream of water onto Fanny’s grave where Troy had prepared a shrine for her. In a matter of time, the storm destroyed all of Troy’s work and left the grave in shambles. Troy awoke to find the storm’s destruction and was immediately dismayed. He abandoned the grave and carried on, “eluding grief by simply adjourning it” (p. 359). However, upon Bathsheba’s visit to Fanny’s grave and realization that Troy had erected the monument for Fanny, she asked that Gabriel assist her in refurbishing the grave, moving the gurgoyle spout, and replanting the flowers in honor of Fanny. It is later mentioned that around Fanny’s grave are “…flowers so carefully planted by Fanny’s repentant lover…” (p. 357). This statement makes apparent Troy’s reluctance of his actions. However, the reader’s empathy is quickly revoked after the rain storm destroys his handiwork and he abandons all efforts. Hardy emphasizes Bathsheba’s newfound compassion. Though emotionally destroyed by Troy’s storm, she finds in her heart the motivation to rebuild Fanny’s grave. Later it is evident that Bathsheba had hope of Troy’s return. Bathsheba’s motives are clear, but her actions show a growing compassion. In addition to showing true character in these chapters, Hardy uses the same natural elements to motivate changes in his characters throughout the novel. Hardy uses these two chapters to exemplify a growing change in Bathsheba. In Chapter XXXVII, the reader sees an inkling of respect for Gabriel’s opinion on behalf of Bathsheba. The incident with Gabriel on the ricks serves as a catalyst for the transformation of Bathsheba seen in Chapter XLVI. In Chapter XXXVII, Gabriel’s natural instinct to protect is drawn out by the approaching storm. He questions himself, “Was his life so valuable to him after all? What were his prospects that he should be so chary of running risk, when important and urgent labor could not be carried on with such risk? He resolved to stick to the stack” (p. 281). Gabriel willingly puts himself in harm’s way to protect Bathsheba’s harvest. This parallels to his willingness and attempts to protect Bathsheba from Troy, the storm. Though Gabriel doesn’t change much during the story, Hardy uses nature and the changes in Bathsheba to emphasize Gabriel’s loyalty, honesty, and dedication. In this chapter, it is also apparent that Bathsheba’s coldness towards Gabriel is melting. The reader sees physical touch between Bathsheba and Gabriel as she “…clutch[es] him by the sleeve” and he is caught “…holding her arm” (p. 283). Here, as the intensity of the magnanimous storm is described, Hardy uses nature to draw Bathsheba and Gabriel into close contact. Originally, upon Gabriel’s proposal and then throughout the story, Bathsheba tends to push Gabriel away. However, during this storm, Bathsheba confesses her trust in Gabriel and draws both physically and emotionally closer to him. While Bathsheba’s changes in Chapter XXXVII pertain mostly to her relationship with Gabriel, Chapter XLVI relates those changes to her character as a whole. Bathsheba remains the same in that she continues to have a romantic interest in Troy, despite proof that he is untrustworthy and unworthy of her attention. Bathsheba does, however, change in her compassion. Throughout the story, the readers sees Bathsheba’s concern for Fanny after Fanny’s disappearance and then death. However, Chapter XLVI, physicalizes this concern as Bathsheba takes on the responsibility of refurbishing Fanny’s destroyed grave. When Troy’s work at Fanny’s grave was destroyed, Bathsheba, with the help of ever faithful Gabriel, replants the flowers, has the spout repaired, and cleans the gravestone. Bathsheba shows compassion and selflessness that she did not exhibit in the other sections of the novel. Additionally, in Chapter XLVI, the reader sees a lack of change in Troy. Though his love for Fanny is evident, his selfishness is shown even more strongly when he abandons her grave after his work was destroyed. However, Bathsheba’s compassion makes up for Troy’s lack of true caring. Troy, on the other hand, abandoned the grave and his previous efforts after seeing the destruction of the shrine. While Bathsheba’s growth is positive, Troy reverts back into selfishness. Changes in the characters, as well as their traits, lend to overarching themes and symbols within the novel as whole. Hardy uses nature to foreshadow events and thus nature acts as an element of fate.

As previously mentioned, storms, usually bringing destruction, tend to symbolize Troy. In both chapters analyzed, Troy is involved in actions transpiring during a storm. In Chapter XXXVII, the storm both symbolizes and foreshadows the destruction that Troy has and will have on Bathsheba’s personality and life. Chapter XLVI finds nature acting as fate and punishing Troy. During the storm on the hayricks, Troy is in the barn with the drunken farm hands whom he is responsible for. Troy was also responsible for protecting the ricks, but fails to do so. Essentially, his presence brought destruction to the farm, as the storm also did. Bathsheba’s affections towards Gabriel during the first storm also foreshadow her true feelings for him that become embodied in their marriage later on. While nature acted as both a symbol and element of foreshadowing in Chapter XXXVII, nature serves as an element of fate in Chapter XLVI. In Chapter XLVI, nature, by means of a rain storm, acts as fate punishing Troy for his wrongdoings to Bathsheba and in retrospect, Fanny Robin. The storm that comes after the burial of Fanny acts as a disciplinary by ruining Troy’s hard work on Fanny’s grave. It appears to be a sense of karma, to punish Troy for the way he manipulated Bathsheba. Bathsheba truly loved Troy, so in return for his wrongdoings, nature took from him his true love during natural birth and then nature destroyed the shrine he made for her. This incident seems to embody the idea that Troy himself is a destructive storm by yet again turning his actions into destruction. Nature, in the form of storms, ultimately shapes Troy and Bathsheba as characters, and in turn highlights the character traits of Gabriel.

Within the novel, nature serves to emphasize character traits, catalyze actions, and symbolize thematic elements. While Chapters XXXVII and XLVI focus mostly on Bathsheba’s changes as a character, Chapter XXXVII highlights Gabriel’s character traits and Chapter XLVI characterizes Troy. Both chapters also symbolize Troy’s influence over Bathsheba’s life. The storms become symbolic of Troy’s mistakes and wrongdoings. Nature, these storms, in particular, contribute to making Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd a pastoral novel. Nature is central and heavily described, lending to the importance of natural semblance in the novel; especially concerning Bathsheba and her suitors. Hardy also uses the contrast between Gabriel and Troy to emphasize the idealization of rural life.

Works Cited

Hardy, Thomas. Far from the Madding Crowd. New York: Bantam Dell, 1982. Print.

The Great Sacrifice: Happiness Versus Cultural Mores

Intrigue, murder, and suicide — by all accounts, Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure was a complete and terrible shock to the religiously conservative readers of the late nineteenth century, and this is exactly what he intended. These were, after all, the very people he was trying to criticize. Through the alienation of female protagonist Sue Bridehead, both self-imposed and outwardly-inflicted, Hardy lambastes the slavish and stoic nature of the society his era had created; women were slaves to men, all were slaves to God, and yet none were slaves to love. More than that, he uses Sue’s deteriorating mental condition to show the subsequent effects such harsh cultural standards have on all those who are forced to live under them. Perhaps Hardy thought his work would inspire contemporary readers to break their own chains and avoid a similar fate, or perhaps he simply wanted to write a scathing commentary on accepted Victorian morality. Regardless, Jude the Obscure is certainly an effective tool for conveying his message.

The idea that a person fallen on hard times would be unwelcome in her own parent’s home would be unimaginable to many, but not to Sue Bridehead, who said of a similar situation: “…I returned to Christminster, as my father […] wouldn’t have me back” (Hardy 119). Why? What happened between her and her father to soil their relationship? Though it’s never directly stated, Sue exhibits the signs of a woman sexually abused as a child. To begin, she has an innate desire to know that men find her appealing: “…how much I feel that I shouldn’t have been provided with attractiveness unless it were meant to be exercised! Some women’s love of being loved is insatiable…” (169). However, at the same time, she is utterly repulsed by the idea of intimacy, even jumping from a window to avoid a situation in which she feels she might be forced to have intercourse with Phillotson: “Before he had thought that she meant to do more than get air she had mounted upon the sill and leapt out” (189). These two attributes combine to torment those men with whom Sue has relationships, but in many cases, she seems to enjoy exacting such pain. During an earlier period of her life, she even stayed with a man for fifteen months in the tantalizing closeness of his sitting room despite being well aware that his unrequited love for her was slowly killing him: “He said I was breaking his heart by holding out against him so long at such close quarters; he could never have believed it of woman. I might play that game once too often, he said” (127). Finally, she is also prone to mood swings, once telling Jude that he must not love her, but then writing back almost immediately: “If you want to love me Jude, you may: I don’t mind at all; and I’ll never say again that you mustn’t!” (141).

Indeed, the evidence supporting a traumatic childhood is staggering, but what may not be immediately obvious is Hardy’s purpose for writing it in. That is, of course, until one realizes that what Sue lived through is actually a metaphor for, and indictment of, society’s treatment of women. Like the victims of abuse, women were not seen as real people with thoughts, feelings, and opinions, but simply as objects to satisfy the needs of those who had power over them. In this case, that meant handling the domestic affairs and indulging the sexual desires of husbands in a patriarchal country. Therefore, Sue’s constant attempts at alienating her sexuality to avoid reliving the past are symbolic of her trying to alienate herself from the parts of society that wish to enslave her — to pull away her independence of thought and deed. This is evidenced through her constant condemnations of institutions such as marriage, including her statement that: “The flowers in the bride’s hand are sadly like the garland which decked the heifers of sacrifice in old times!” (271).

That’s not to say, however, that even if Sue had wanted to be part of society, she could have been. Sue was a free thinker… an internal rebel, even. Never would she obstinately subscribe to the religious mores of the day. In fact, she sometimes experimented with religions outside of Christianity, once buying Roman idols and bringing them back to Christminster: “Occasionally peeping inside the leaves to see that Venus’s arm was not broken, she entered with her heathen load into the most Christian city in the country…” (82). Other times, she ridiculed Christianity in general, calling saints “demi-gods” in Jude’s “Pantheon” (152). Thus, to Sue, there was nothing wrong with her and Jude living together; she was simply following her heart. Yet, to the rest of the world, she and Jude were living in sin, both being adulterers. As a result, she would never be accepted in any social circle. Sue is even told at one point that she and Jude must no longer work together on the Ten Commandments mural they were commissioned to restore because it would, essentially, cast a cloud of sin upon the town.

This is where Hardy’s religious criticism comes in. Through the shunning of Sue Bridehead, he shows how Victorian culture had become so blinded by stringent, subjugating religion that it failed to recognize anything could exist between a man and a woman besides “animal desire” (153). It failed to recognize a higher feeling of love, one that was not simply biblical, contractual, or carnal, but was a deep, inter-personal attachment. And as this purely clinical view endured throughout the years, it grew into a great, black shroud of gloom that could cover even the beauty of nature. Majestic scenery was reduced to “human dwellings in the abstract, vegetation, and the wide dark world” (262), and there was no reason to stop and enjoy even a few roses, because “they’d be all withered in a few days!” (281). Worst of all, children were not regarded as beings to be nurtured and adored, but as burdens God expected a man and woman to bear. This view gives rise to the climax of the novel when Little Father Time, representative of society itself, commits suicide and murders Jude and Sue’s two sons just because they were “too menny” (319).

Sue’s story from that point on is not a joyful one. She has an utter breakdown, believing that God has punished her for her adultery to her first husband, and so she returns to Phillotson. But in the process of obeying what she believes to be God’s will and leaving Jude, she’s sacrificed her happiness, and as Arabella puts it at Jude’s funeral: “She’s never found peace since she left his arms, and never will again till she’s as he is now!” (394). And though this quote ends the novel, it is Hardy’s way of posing a subtle question of paramount importance: What truly civilized society would disregard intellect and happiness in the name of tradition and superstition?

Gender in Jude the Obscure and Sons and Lovers

In her book Towards a Recognition of Androgyny, Carolyn Heilbrum defines androgyny as “a condition under which the characteristics of the sexes, and the human impulses expressed by men and women, are not rigidly assigned (Heilbrum 10). In Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, Sue is depicted in a comparable gender-neutral way. In the novel’s introduction, Dennis Taylor describes Sue as being “distractible and unfocused in her sexuality” (Taylor xxvi). She seems to view men as comrades, or one of her own, rather than objects of sexual desire. Through descriptions, Sue is sometimes described in a manner that does not place emphasis on masculine or feminine qualities. In addition, Sue despises the restraints placed upon females during her era. Just as Sue struggles with her femininity and overcoming her gender’s norms, Paul Morel in D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers faces a similar battle in maintaining his masculinity. Mary Burgan writes that Paul Morel is one of the most “powerful twentieth century advocates of sexual liberation,” yet he is defenseless against a “woman’s power” as “mother of the artist” (Burgan 178). Paul Morel and Sue Bridehead’s lack of appropriate gender behaviors and characteristics results in their inability to have fulfilling and intimate relationships with members of the opposite sex. When Jude Fawley sees Sue Bridehead for the first time, he only remembers vague physical descriptions of her appearance. Instead of recounting her outstanding female qualities, Jude says that “she was not a large figure…That was about all he had seen. There was nothing statuesque in her” (Hardy 90). Without previous knowledge that this character is a female named Sue, this initial portrayal of her could be one for either a male or a female gender. In his book Hardy and the Erotic, T.R. Wright writes that Sue has a “curious unconsciousness of gender” and often combines with males “almost as one of their own sex” (Wright 120). After all, Sue could “do things that only boys do, as a rule I’ve seen her hit in and steer down the long slide on yonder pond, with her little curls blowing…All boys except herself” (Hardy 112). Sue is considered a tomboy because of her mannerisms. Even at twelve years old, she refuses to submit to female gender norms when her aunt sees her “walking into the pond with her shoes and stockings off, and her petticoats pulled above her knees, afore I could cry out for shame, she said: ‘Move on, aunty! This is no sight for modest eyes!'” (Hardy 110-111). The attempt to feminize and control Sue occurs shortly after she meets Jude’s friend (and her future husband), Richard Phillotson. Phillotson encourages Sue to enroll in the teachers’ Training College at Melchester. They make plans to marry in two years when she has completed her schooling, and then teach together at a large coed school in town. Sue becomes incredibly unhappy and lonely at Melchester. When Jude goes to visit her, he instantly notices that “all her bounding manner was gone; her curves of motion had become subdued lines…She had altogether the air of a woman clipped and pruned by severe discipline” (Hardy 132). Sue tells Jude about the difficulty of living “with all the bitterness of a young person to whom restraint was new” (Hardy 133). Even the clothing enforced at the school was “a nunlike simplicity of costume that was rather enforced than desired” (Hardy 136). Unaccustomed to the restraints of being a female, Sue runs away from the Melchester Training College to Jude’s house. She immediately changes out of her wet clothing, which she describes as “sexless cloth and linen,” into Jude’s suit (Hardy 145). During a conversation later that night, Sue tells Jude that she has “no fear of men” and that she has “mixed with them almost as one of their own sex” (Hardy 147). Though it is not clearly stated, she could be referring to the Oxford undergraduate whom she “used to go about together like two men almost” (Hardy 148). Sue’s “curiosity to hunt up a new sensation” guides her to experiments, such as unorthodox living arrangements with the undergraduate (Hardy 173). With “her strange ways and curious unconsciousness of gender,” Sue lives with him for fifteen months before she realizes that her comradeship was not what he was looking for (Hardy 149). The undergraduate wanted to be Sue’s lover, but she would have nothing of it. Sue assures Jude of her virginity by claiming that “I have remained as I began” (Hardy 149). Sue enjoys the company of men, but does not seem to be sexually involved or interested in any of them. This contradicts the characteristics and human impulses typically assigned to females. Even after she is married to Phillotson, Sue tells Jude that “though I like Mr. Phillotson as a friend, I don’t like him-it is a torture to me to-live with him as a husband!” (Hardy 212). Phillotson notices Sue’s “unconquerable aversion to myself as a husband, even though she may like me as a friend, ’tis too much to bear longer…They [Jude and Sue] seem to be one person split in two!” (Hardy 229). Later, Sue’s obvious disgust of her sexual relationship with her husband is seen when Phillotson is talking with his friend, Mr. Gillingham. He tells Gillingham that “owing to my entering of her room by accident, she [Sue] jumped out of the window-so strong was her dread of me!” (Hardy 230). On a separate occasion, Sue even attempts to sleep in a closet. Just as Sue was “something of a riddle” to Jude, Phillotson finds her to be “puzzling and unpredictable” (Hardy 134 and 224). Phillotson cleverly remarks that “her [Sue] exact feeling for him [Jude] is a riddle to me-and to him too, I think-possibly to herself” (Hardy 229). All of Sue’s relationships with men turn out to be unfulfilling. She cannot really make a decision whether to refuse or admit men in her life. This is seen in her self-description as a “cold-natured, sexless creature” for living with Jude, yet not wanting to marry him (Hardy 267). When Sue takes on the name Mrs. Fawley, she possesses a “dull, cowed, and listless manner,” which contributes to the notion of Sue’s aversion to her marriage (Hardy 298). Both as cousins and as two people that share many similarities, Jude and Sue complete each other. However, Sue continues to express her distaste for marriage when she tells Jude that “we ought to have lived in mental communion, and no more” (Hardy 352). Thomas Hardy frequently uses the term “sexless” to describe Sue. This is interesting because although Sue lives with men, and even has children with Jude, Hardy does not give the reader any reason to believe that Sue wanted or enjoyed sex. Conveniently, there is no mention in the text of the conception or birth of her and Jude’s three children. In Part Five, Sue tells Jude “I know that women are taught by other women that they must never admit the full truth to a man. But the highest form of affection is based on full sincerity on both sides” (Hardy 260). Thus, if women are not telling the full truth to men, yet highest affection can only exist with this truth intact, then these women must be achieving the highest form of affection with other women. Sue’s desire for friendship and comradeship with men is continuous throughout the novel; however, she is unable to attain a successful sexual relationship with any of them. This is a continuation of the fact that Sue does not seem to desire sex. Because of this contradiction with traditional female desires and impulses, it leaves the reader questioning Sue’s sexual identity. Through Thomas Hardy’s frequent comparisons of Sue with Voltaire, he creates a nonconforming woman whose sexuality and gender is unclear. In D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, Gertrude Morel latches all of her dreams and aspirations onto her sensitive and artistic son, Paul. His mother’s effect on him, combined with Paul’s hatred of his father, is so powerful that it could be classified as an Oedipal Complex. Even after his mother’s death, Paul remains unable to love anyone else. Gertrude Morel has the ability to denigrate Paul’s masculinity, which results in his inability to have fulfilling and intimate relationships with any of the other women he becomes involved with. When Paul is born, Mrs. Morel first feels guilty because he was an unwanted baby. However, her emotions soon change. As Lawrence writes, “She had dreaded this baby like a catastrophe, because of her feeling for her husband. And now she felt strangely towards the infant” (Lawrence 34). In an attempt to make up for her initial feelings, she exclaims that “she would love it all the more now it was here; carry it in her love” (Lawrence 35). However, the bond between Paul and his father was nowhere near as strong. “No one spoke to him [Walter Morel]. The family life withdrew, shrank away. But he cared no longer about his alienation” (Lawrence 39). The hypersensitive Paul “hated his father,” and often prayed for him [his father] to die (Lawrence 58). According to Graeme Russell’s report on the role of fathers and its relation to masculinity, paternal nurturing and the extent to which fathers participate in child rearing have been found to be associated with “the development of masculinity in sons” (Russell 1174). In reference to Sons and Lovers, Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson claims that Paul embraces his “feminine traits” and rejects patriarchal values (Lewiecki-Wilson 143). Paul’s lack of masculinity is present in some of his sexually inappropriate conversations with his mother. Combined with the hatred of his father, it clearly demonstrates an Oedipal Complex. When Paul and his mother are getting ready to go visit Mrs. Leivers, Paul says that Mrs. Morel’s new blouse makes her look like a “bobby-dazzler” (Lawrence 117). He continues to make remarks about his mother’s appearance, claiming that she is a “fine little woman to go jaunting out with!” (Lawrence 117). When Paul and his mother are on their way to Paul’s interview with Mr. Jordan, the pair feels “the excitement of lovers having an adventure together” (Lawrence 89). The young man’s comments on his mother’s appearance betrays clear sexual and feminine overtones. Part Two of the novel focuses on Paul’s attempt to break free from his mother’s grasp. However, it ends up being a contest between Mrs. Morel and Miriam Leivers as to who can possess Paul’s soul. When Paul is talking with his “womenfolk,” Mrs. Morel and Miriam “almost contested who should listen best and win his favour” (Lawrence 167). In many ways, Miriam is very similar to Mrs. Morel. She is pure and possessive. Yet, Paul “hated her [Miriam] because, somehow, she spoilt his ease and naturalness. And he writhed himself with a feeling of humiliation” (Lawrence 171). Mrs. Morel is resentful of the intimacy between Paul and Miriam, so she treats Miriam with contempt. She continues to tell her son that she disapproves of Miriam when she says “it is disgusting-bits of lads and girls courting” (Lawrence 154). The relationship between Paul and Miriam cannot work because Mrs. Morel stifles Paul’s manhood and ability to form a relationship with another woman. During an argument with Paul about Miriam, Paul begins to cry as he exclaims “No, mother-I really don’t love her. I talk to her, but I want to come home to you” (Lawrence 203). Following this remark, there is an intensely sexual scene between the continuously sensitive Paul and his mother. And I’ve never-you know, Paul-I’ve never had a husband-not really—- He stroked his mother’s hair, and his mouth was on her throat. “Well, I don’t love her, mother.” He murmured, bowing his head and hiding his eyes on her shoulder in misery. His mother kissed him a long, fervent kiss. “My boy!” she said, in a voice trembling with passionate love (Lawrence 203).Mrs. Morel controls Paul’s soul, and will not allow him to make room for anybody else in his life. When Paul meets Clara Dawes, he is attracted to the “sense of mystery about her” (Lawrence 252). They begin a love affair which fulfills a physical need that Miriam could not give him. However, Clara realizes that “she felt a certain surety about him [her husband, Baxter Dawes] that she never felt with Paul Morel (Lawrence 343). When Baxter and Paul encounter each other, Baxter wants to fight Paul. “But,” he [Paul] said, “I don’t know how to fight” (Lawrence 347). The narrator reiterates this only a few lines later saying “he could not fight, so he would use his wits…He was all bewildered” (Lawrence 347 and 348). In his inability to fight Baxter Dawes, Paul’s lack of traditional masculinity is apparent. Shortly after, “Clara realized that Morel was withdrawing from the circle, leaving her the option to stay with her husband” (Lawrence 387). By relinquishing Clara to Baxter, Paul is giving her to a more masculine and “crude” male. The death of Mrs. Morel gives Paul the opportunity for self-liberation. However, even at the very end of the novel, Paul “wanted her to touch him, have him alongside with her. She was the only thing that held him up” (Lawrence 400). Even though Paul does not give in to his suicidal thoughts, he is still under his mother’s possession. D.H. Lawrence leaves the reader wondering whether Paul will be able to overcome Mrs. Morel’s posthumous control, and therefore regain a sense of masculinity. Both Thomas Hardy and D.H. Lawrence are both considered pioneers in creating novels that went against conventional views of sexuality. Society now finds many of the notions that were considered radical during Hardy and Lawrence’s era to be more acceptable. However, readers of their novels are able to appreciate the “extreme” characteristics of their characters. The controversial sexuality of Sue Bridehead and the phallic desires of Paul Morel prohibit them from having any kind of a fulfilling relationship with a member of the opposite sex. Thus, readers of Jude the Obscure and Sons and Lovers are entertained by the flawlessly complex descriptions and detailing of the characters’ gender struggles. Works CitedBurgan, Mary. “Androgynous Fatherhood in ‘Ulysses’ and ‘Women in Love’.” Modern Language Quarterly. 44.2 (1983): 178-197.Hardy, Thomas. Jude the Obscure. New York: Penguin Classics, 1998.Heilbrum, Carolyn. Towards a Recognition of Androgyny. New York: Knopf, 1973.Lawrence, D.H. Sons and Lovers. New York: Signet Classics, 2005.Lewiecki-Wilson, Cynthia. Writing Against the Family: Gender in Lawrence and Joyce. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois UP, 1994.Russell, Graeme. “The Father Role and Its Relation to Masculinity, Femininity, and Androgyny.” Child Development. 49.4 (1978): 1174-1181.Taylor, Dennis. Introduction. Jude the Obscure. By Thomas Hardy. New York: Penguin Classics, 1998. xvi-xxxiii.Wright, T.R. Hardy and the Erotic. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989.

Irony in Jude the Obscure

In his work, Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy tells the tale of two people hopelessly in love, fighting against both internal and external conflicts to pursue that love and have some semblance of a normal life together. Set in England in the late 19th century, this story is about Jude and Sue’s struggle to overcome the harsh pressures of society’s strict class structure in order to live their lives together. From the day they meet, Jude and Sue experience countless setbacks that prevent them from attaining happiness. Though their bond is very strong and it appears that they are meant for each other, the pair is unable to remain together. Interestingly enough, many of the disasters that befall this ill-fated couple and the predicaments with which they are forced to deal are ironic. Hardy strategically uses irony in a subtle way throughout Jude the Obscure to develop the book’s overall marriage theme.The first way in which Hardy uses irony in correlation with the marriage theme is through the two main characters’ own personal experiences with marriage. Jude Fawley was slyly tricked into marrying Arabella at a very young age after she told him that she was pregnant with his child and had nowhere else to turn. This relationship quickly fell apart after Jude discovered that there was no child on the way and he realized that a life with Arabella would be an unhappy, confined existence in which he wanted no part. In a similar situation, Sue Bridehead was wed to Jude’s childhood schoolmaster, Richard Phillotson, also at a young age. This marriage was based more on convenience for Sue than it was on love, for Phillotson promised a sound financial future for his new wife. Sue entered into this union because she saw no other sensible candidate for marriage. Eventually, the commitments that Jude and Sue made to Arabella and Phillotson served as enormous barriers standing in the way of their lives together, causing both emotional heart ache and social alienation. The irony in this situation is quite profound. Neither Jude nor Sue truly wanted to be married to their mates, but rather wanted to follow their hearts and marry each other. They both married out of necessity and, ironically, it was these very marriages that kept them from starting a real family together. Hardy, by using this clever device, hints to his audience about implications of marriage and the effect it has on peoples’ lives.In an effort to further develop the marriage theme throughout the book, Hardy uses irony again regarding the children of Jude and Sue. The first child that comes into their lives is Little Jude, also known as “Little Father Time” or just “Time”. This child, ironically, is not even Sue’s. He is the byproduct of Jude’s dysfunctional marriage to Arabella, his very existence unbeknownst to Jude until the days immediately prior to his arrival. Little Jude, therefore, stands as a constant reminder to Sue of the illegitimate nature of her relationship with Jude, as if she did not have enough reasons to doubt that relationship beforehand. The child situation is further complicated after the birth of two more children, both mothered by Sue this time. This does not appear to be a problem until Little Jude, acting in what he believes to be a noble manner, kills his two siblings and himself in an effort to solve the problems facing Jude and Sue. Through the horror of this catastrophe, the irony of the situation is still clear. The child of Jude’s first marriage is responsible for the death of Sue’s only children. Not only did Little Jude’s actions take the lives of Jude’s two children, but they also caused the downfall of his quasi-marriage to Sue. These events, like a message from the heavens, serve as constant reminders to both Jude and Sue that they cannot be married to two people, stressing the marriage theme even more.Finally, to help develop his overall theme, Hardy uses irony in the very nature of Jude’s relationship with Sue. After a long, arduous relationship that eventually fails, Jude finds the one person with whom he wants to spend the rest of his life. Sue feels the same way about Jude. But after they both find their soul-mates, by some ironic twist of fate, they turn out to be completely wrong for each other; doomed from the start. Their first problem is the very nature of their connection: they are first cousins. Even the idea of having anything more than a platonic relationship with a cousin was seriously frowned upon by the strict, almost prude Victorian society of the time. Sue admits, “It depends on the sort of love; and yours-ours-is wrong” (Hardy, 345). This resulted in both Jude and Sue being practically shunned by society, which made finding work and lodgings quite difficult. To add to the irony of the situation, Jude and Sue are also from a family that is said to be cursed when it comes to marriage. So, doomed by both fate and society, the two lovers are not able to stay together, but forced to live out the rest of their miserable lives with people they do not love.In Jude the Obscure, there is one constant theme that rises above all the rest in significance. That theme is marriage. Throughout this novel, marriage is an issue that receives constant attention, playing a huge role in each of the main characters’ lives. Hardy, in an attempt to develop this overall theme throughout, uses irony in several key situations the characters face. By using irony subtly in these situations, Hardy is able to not only develop his theme, but he is also able to make a point about life in general. The truth is that life is not always fair. As the reader sees time and time again with Jude and Sue, things do not always end happily. Some things are not meant to be, like Jude and Sue. Regardless of their efforts, the two are unable to make their relationship work. As Sue puts it, “All the ancient wrath of the Power has been vented upon us… and we must submit” (Hardy, 342).