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ORDER AND DISORDER IN JUDE THE OBSCURE By David Sonstroem (University of Connecticut) In his thought-provoking "A propos de la construction de Jude the Obscure,"1 Fernand Lagarde presents Hardy's novel as a rigidly balanced quasi-architectural construction, within which characters dance an intricate "ronde" or quadrille. In support of his view he points to the symmetrical disposition of chapters within each Part of the novel and among the six Parts, to the placement of a crisis at the precise center of each Part, and to many other such structural harmonies. He notes, too, the extensive network of similarities and contrasts among the personalities and careers of the four leading characters - implicit relationships that Hardy carries into even minute details: "Le roman tout entier est un subtil entrelacs de correspondances" (211); "On n'en fimirait pas de dresser une liste de ces rapprochements, de ces rSpé titions de l'exp érience" (208). In short, for Lagarde Jude the Obscure is a thoroughgoing "recherche de la symétrie" (I9I). At least one critic takes issue with his reading, finding it "remarkable " but "ultimately resistible."2 I suspect that Michael Millgate's wariness is due to the abiding impression of disorganization conveyed by Jude - an impression of messy randomness that no skillful, extensive demonstration of order can dispel. Nor is he alone in sensing a chaotic streak: Ward Hellstrom, for example, has noted that "Jude*s movement from place to place is a dramatic illustration of 'the modern vice of unrest,'" and Ian Gregor has similarly observed, "our sense of the form of the novel in reading it, is of something . . . turbulent, a sense not of imposed design but of vexed movement . . . ."^ For my part, I find Lagarde's reading of Jude irrefutable but incomplete . The intricate design that he describes is demonstrably present in the novel, and he deserves thanks for opening our eyes to the remarkable extent of it. But in discerning narrative symmetries and thematic designs, he scants the erratic emotional , intellectual, and especially physical vagaries of the leading characters , those of Jude especially. At one point Lagarde does recognize a strain of disorder in this aspect of the book: referring to Vilbert, he remarks, "sa ronde immuable, placée comme elle l'est au début et à la fin du roman, vient à point nommé souligner la déroute de ceux qui osent tenter d'organiser à leur guise leur destinée." But within a few lines even Jude's peregrinations are included in what Lagarde calls "les mouvements de la danse" (199)· I would maintain that Lagarde is at his weakest in considering simple movement of characters from place to place - the aspect of the novel from which other readers gain their impression of it as chaotic . To right the balance, I wish to examine Jude*s itinerary in detail. I shall then proceed to a brief consideration of the relationship between the extraordinary order and the extraordinary disorder that Hardy depicts in Jude the Obscure. Jude's journeys take place in and about "Wessex" - southwestern England overlaid with Hardy's fictive place-names, contracted somewhat , and suffused with his significances. We are led to assume that Jude is born in Marygreen. After his mother's death he lives for a time with his father in Mellstock, South Wessex. When his father, too, dies, the ten-year-old orphan returns to Marygreen to be reared by his great-aunt Drusilla. In this drab hamlet Jude reaches young manhood while nursing an obsessive, unrealistic vision of Christminster, the university town he worships from a distance as "the heavenly Jerusalem" (I1 iii, p. 18). Jude's next move is to Alfredston, where he learns stone-masonry to support himself while preparing for entrance to Christminster. On one of his weekly walks between Alfredston and Marygreen he encounters Arabella Donn. An onrush of animal passion prevails, and shortly he finds himself married to her and living in a cottage between Alfredston and Marygreen. Even in geographical terms he has taken a backward step on his way to Christminster. But Arabella soon leaves him, and he returns to Alfredston. Three years later he finally goes to Christminster, taking a room in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 6-15
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Ceasing Publication
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