A Glimpse Into the Philosophy of Jude the Obscure

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A Glimpse Into the Philosophy of Jude the Obscure

In Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure, the reader is offered a brief but lucid insight into Jude’s disposition and personality within the first few pages of the text. In the passage in question, Farmer Troutham has just concluded beating Jude for neglecting, or more appropriately, redefining his duties as a living scarecrow on Troutham’s corn field. As Jude progresses on his journey home to his great-aunt’s house, Hardy describes Jude’s feelings and anxieties concerning the harming of anything living, and, more generally, he reveals Jude’s “philosophy” of life. In doing so, however, Hardy also reveals a number of ideas common to his own philosophy, which become evident in the language and symbolism present in the text. As he escapes Troutham’s grasp and walks along the trackway, Hardy explains that Jude weeps “not from the pain, though that was keen enough; not from the perception of the flaw in the terrestrial scheme, by which what was good for God’s birds was bad for God’s gardener; but with the awful sense that he had wholly disgraced himself before he had been a year in the parish, and hence might be a burden to his great-aunt for life” (p. 15).

Jude feels anxiety over the possibility that, because of his disgrace in failing to accomplish such a simple task, he will not be able to find work to lessen the burden on his great-aunt. Although this was the most prevalent reason for Jude’s tears, the other two possibilities mentioned also play a role in the cause of his weeping. The pain from the beating, an obvious cause, would cause tears to well up in the eyes of any boy Jude’s age. Although Hardy writes that the perception of a flaw in the terrestrial scheme is not the reason for Jude’s tears, it is reasonable to assume that, like the pain, it is at least part of the reason. This assumption is reasonable for two reasons: first, because it coincides with the other characteristics of Jude’s character so closely; and, second, because Hardy would probably not have mentioned it, even as a possibility, if it did not have relevance to Jude’s particular disposition. In the following paragraph, Hardy describes the “roundabout track” which Jude takes home in order to avoid encountering the village.

The pasture behind the high hedge, which Jude chooses as his path home, is littered with “earthworms lying half their length on the surface of the damp ground” (p. 15). Hardy enhances the image of the vast numbers of earthworms in the final line of the paragraph: It was impossible to advance in regular steps without crushing some of them at each tread. (p. 15) In his use of “impossible,” Hardy presents the idea that the pasture was impassable unless a certain number of earthworms were sacrificed. Later, at the end of the passage, Hardy, in portraying Jude’s inability to harm, masterfully alludes to this i.............


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