Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure

Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure

Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure

Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure

Synopsis

The last novel Thomas Hardy wrote before turning permanently to poetry, Jude the Obscure is considered by many to be his masterpiece. A dark and unrelenting tragedy of unfulfilled aims and thwarted desires, the novel explores the passion of Jude Fawley and Sue Bridehead, their love and their suffering. Hardy's frank presentation of his bleak subject led to contemporary condemnation from critics who found the book too powerful to endure - that power continues to hold readers today.

Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure is one of over 100 volumes in the "Modern Critical Interpretations" series, edited and introduced by Harold Bloom and published by Chelsea House. Taken together, these volumes represent a comprehensive collection of the best current criticism of the most widely read poems, novels, stories, and dramas of the Western World.

Excerpt

For Arthur Schopenhauer, the Will to Live was the true thing-in-itself, not an interpretation but a rapacious, active, universal, and ultimately indifferent drive or desire. Schopenhauer’s great work, The World as Will and Representation, had the same relation to and influence upon many of the principal nineteenth- and early twentieth-century novelists that Freud’s writings have in regard to many of this century’s later, crucial masters of prose fiction. Zola, Maupassant, Turgenev, and Tolstoy join Thomas Hardy as Schopenhauer’s nineteenth-century heirs, in a tradition that goes on through Proust, Conrad, and Thomas Mann to culminate in aspects of Borges and Beckett, the two most eminent living writers of narrative. Since Schopenhauer (despite Freud’s denials) was one of Freud’s prime precursors, one could argue that aspects of Freud’s influence upon writers simply carry on from Schopenhauer’s previous effect. Manifestly, the relation of Schopenhauer to Hardy is different in both kind and degree from the larger sense in which Schopenhauer was Freud’s forerunner or Wittgenstein’s. A poet-novelist like Hardy turns to a rhetorical speculator like Schopenhauer only because he finds something in his own temperament and sensibility confirmed and strengthened, and not at all as Lucretius turned to Epicurus, or as Whitman was inspired by Emerson.

The true precursor for Hardy was Shelley, whose visionary skepticism permeates the novels as well as the poems and The Dynasts. There is some technical debt to George Eliot in the early novels, but Hardy in his depths was little more moved by her than by Wilkie Collins, from whom he also learned elements of craft. Shelley’s tragic sense of eros is pervasive throughout Hardy, and ultimately determines Hardy’s understanding of his strongest heroines: Bathsheba Everdene, Eustacia Vye . . .

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