Monday, 8 June 2009

Veggie Books: Jude the Obscure

Early on in the book, Jude gets interested in the selfish and practical Arabella, who employs pigs in a lot of her flirting tactics. In this extract, the pigs have escaped, and she's instructed Jude to help her catch it:

He set himself to assist, and dodged this way and that over the potato rows and the cabbages. Every now and then they ran together, when he caught her for a moment and kissed her. The first pig was got back promptly; the second with some difficulty; the third, a long-legged creature, was more obstinate and agile. He plunged through a hole in the garden fence, and into the lane.

'He'll be lost if I don't follow'n!' said she. 'Come along with me!'

I much prefer Arabella to Sue, or to Jude, to be honest. Arabella gives orders. She gets what she wants, and discards it when she's through. I don't think she's immoral - after all, she decides to lawfully marry her second husband (rather than live as a bigamist) because she feels he is her 'proper' husband and it's only fair. And she doesn't have a stroke every time she has to make a decision like that.

Jude and Sue are the opposite. And you just know they'd be a really annoying couple in modern life. They'd be fruitarians. They'd only wear hemp clothes and tell everyone how any form of marriage is slavery, and rant about Gap at dinner parties, and feel superior. And deep down, they'd still be really, really sad about something. Anything. Because life's not perfect, and we can't all be morally angelic.

Bum to it, I say. Life's too short to load your guilt on to your kids and then watch them hang themselves about it.

And yes, I am aware that I may have oversimplified this book.


Tim Stretton said...

Aliya, this is the best review of Jude the Obscure I've ever read...

I did an entire module on Hardy as part of my degree. I've never been able to read his stuff since. *shudder*

Aliya Whiteley said...

One does one's best.

I've liked some of his novels. Just not this one.

Tim Stretton said...

Spending a whole year poring over them in obsessive detail is enough to kill any liking I might once have had (and this wasn't one to start with).

Far From the Madding Crowd is about the only one I don't get palpitations thinking about now - and this is 20 years later!

Alis said...

The only Hardy I genuinely enjoyed was the little 'Under the Greenwood Tree' which is simply delightful and will probably, one day, be discovered not to have been written by Hardy at all. I mean, no horrendous co-incidences, no grinding fateful tragedy, no wish in the reader to slit their wrists while there's still time... Surely it can't be by him, can it?

Frances Garrood said...

I adored Hardy in my teens - perhaps that's the time to read him, with all those hormones and all that tragic angst - and wept for half an hour after finishing Jude. But I haven't tried any of them since. My grandmother - who was prone to this kind of mistake - once went into a bookshop and asked for 'Jude the Obscene'. Perhaps Tim will sympathise with that?

Aliya Whiteley said...

I love it! 'Jude the Obscene' might well have been my kind of book.

Tim Stretton said...

The best thing about Jude the Obscure is that the critical reaction to it was so overwhelmingly negative that Hardy gave up writing novels for ever - concentrating for the last 30 years of his life on his poetry.

I think his poetry is pretty good and agree with his own assessment that he was a better poet than novelist.

Tara said...

I loved Jude The Obscure but that's probably because I'm a sucker for a sob story, and pretty annoying myself. The more wretched Hardy gets, the more I enjoy him. Your revew is great though, he deserves a bit of irreverence now and then.