Sunday, May 17, 2015
Sex positivity Victorian style
Jude the Obscure is a book about how everything sucks when people can't fuck the people they want to fuck. Now, considering that they're first cousins there may be some issues of biology when it comes to Sue and Jude "knowing" one another, but I can't help but think if they're consenting adults there's no problem with them doing the horizontal bop.
But I'm not someone who was raised during the Victorian era. Apparently everyone who was born and raised under the rule of the great Regina was of the opinion that divorces were just the worst shit ever, and boning when you weren't married to the partner of your pants-games meant that everyone basically expected your children to murder one another.
I'm not going to lie, I didn't get this book. I mean, I understood what was happening and the social/political context of the novel, but it was really hard to relate to people in a culture so constrained that they basically accepted that they could never be happy.
I did appreciate a lot of the commentary about education and its availability, though. Jude's lifelong attempts to define what he wanted to learn and figure out how to go about doing it are difficult to read and easy to understand as a member of a generation that's suffocating under school debt and essentially told that we can't have careers unless we commit to taking a financial hit that could otherwise purchase a home. That Jude's family and relationships get dragged into the mess of his education and thwarted hopes seems to be just a bridge too far to me: Jude is too frustrated, too few things go right in his life, too much stuff gets fucked up, and Hardy becomes as ridiculous as Dickens in the misery that he imposes on his characters.
Jude the Obscure isn't a bad book, it's just a book that's hard to approach from all the angles it offers and is even HARDER to approach after a century of significant social changes. I want to be sympathetic, I want to understand the plights of the characters, but maybe it speaks well of the book that I can't - maybe fiction made an impact on society and society is better precisely because stories like Jude's were written and discussed by the people who had the power to change things.
Fuck if I know, though. I'm not sure I would read this again, but I'd be willing to read more Hardy if I came across it.
Hardy, Thomas. Jude the Obscure. Bantam Classics. New York: New York. 1989. (1896).