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-  127   1 . Window-jumping William James tells a story in The Principles of Psychology of two university students who feel tempted to jump out a window, an anecdote he uses to consider the power of “bad” or “unpleasant” temptation and more generally the “impulses of the will”: In my university days a student threw himself from an upper entry window of one of the college buildings and was nearly killed. Another student, a friend of my own, had to pass the window daily in coming and going from his room, and experienced a dreadful temptation to imitate the deed. Being a Catholic, he told his director, who said, “All right! if you must, you must,” and added,“Go ahead and do it,” thereby instantly quelling his desire.This director knew how to minister to a mind diseased. But we need not go to minds diseased for examples of the occasional tempting-power of simple badness and unpleasantness as such . . . (II, 553–54) Perhaps what is most memorable about Sue Bridehead is that she jumps out a window—twice. Jude the Obscure, like all other Thomas Hardy novels, is remarkable for its insistence on impulse, for making impulse the primary mental state of its characters and its effects a primary motivating force of plot. On impulse, Michael Henchard sells his wife, Alec Stoke-D’Urbervilles rapes Tess, Sue Bridehead leaps out of windows, and Jude Fawley follows Arabella and “Now I Am Melancholy Mad” Mood and Jude the Obscure Chapter 5 n Part III: Thomas Hardy and Nonintrospective Consciousness -  128   her bantam egg upstairs to bed. None think of the consequences of their behavior; none when held by the force of impulse seem to think at all.1 And Hardy offers no explanations and no analysis to help us make sense of their acts or decisions. Instead, Hardy narrates how impulse functions as a complex motivating force because of how it drives the minds and behavior of his characters—none more so than Sue Bridehead. James uses his example of the window-jumpers—one who acts, the other tempted and then quelled of the desire to act—to reveal what he calls our “vertiginous fascination” for the “badness” of an act, or how it is that we can fall prey to “diseased impulses and pathological fixed ideas” (II, 553). Resisting the temptation to analyze why at times we are fascinated by what is diseased or harmful, James allows it to be part beneficial. Like Gwendolen Harleth who, in the moment of crisis, lets Grandcourt drown, Sue leaps. However, whereas Gwendolen, almost catatonic from trauma, manages after to have a lengthy exchange with Deronda about the significance of what she did by not acting, Sue Bridehead feels the need for no such later workingthrough . Threatened with solitary confinement for a week in the Training School she attends at Melchester, Sue, Hardy writes, “had got out the back window of the room in which she had been confined, escaped in the dark across the lawn and disappeared” (142). Later, when in Jude’s room, Sue reports what she did and what she felt prior to the leap, not what she thought or felt about making the leap itself: “‘Walked through the largest river in the county—that’s what I’ve done! They locked me up for being with you; and it seemed so unjust that I couldn’t bear it, so I got out of the window and escaped across the stream!’” (144). What motivates the impulse—“‘it seemed so unjust that I couldn’t bear it’”—is a feeling. Hardy writes that it is because of strong feelings that The Mayor of Casterbridge’s 1. Acting without thought, acting from some other energy, Hardy’s characters seem to many readers less minded persons than “embodiments of sensation or force.” Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, for instance, write that Hardy’s figures “are not people or subjects, they are collective sensations” (Dialogue 39–40). And William Cohen notes, “Hardy’s character is less a person, or a picture of a person, than a dynamic force, at once human and not” (“Faciality and Sensation” 441). Attention to what constitutes the mindedness of Hardy’s characters or to their absence of mind is what J. Hillis Miller first pays at the beginning of Distance and Desire, that critical work which for me marks the beginning of such attention:“‘A naturalist’s interest in the hatching of a queer egg or germ is the utmost...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780814270929
Related ISBN
9780814251744
MARC Record
OCLC
868220158
Pages
218
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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