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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Two poles of Jude's personality - and the 2 women in his life

The two women in Jude (the Obscure)'s life are polar opposites, or in a sense they represent the polarities of his strange personality. Arabella Donn, his estranged wife, was physical, sexual crude, and devious - from the moment she catches Jude's attention by hurling a pig's penis at his face (!) to the gruesome scene in which she slaughters a pig while the more sensitive Jude cringes to her abandonment of the marriage w/out a touch of remorse or regret. Sue Bridehead, his 2nd romance is annoyingly moralistic without being devout or doctrinaire (she lived with her previous partner for more than a year but she makes it a point to tell Jude that they never had sex, if you can believe or imagine that), in some ways a-sexual - she gets engaged to the elderly (well, he's probably no more than 50, but seems older than that by today's measure) schoolmaster, definitely not a sexual attraction there, exceedingly honest - she tells Jude all about her previous relations and he has not (yet) copped to the fact that he's still married - and actually quite boyish, or, in the word Hardy uses, epicene: after she flees from her strict convent-like school and takes refuge in Jude's apartment she sheds her wet clothing and spends the night in Jude's best Sunday suit, and he admires her "epicene" beauty. So that's another side of Jude, not homosexual per se but definitely an attraction to an a-sexual woman (or maybe it's a repulsion after his terrible relationship with the highly sexual Arabella?). All readers I'm sure are rooting for Sue Bridehead, who along with Jude seems to know what's what - telling off the tyrannical leaders of her abandoned school and recognizing the honesty of workers and the dubious intelligence of those stowed away in the colleges of Christminster, aka Oxford - or many universities up to this day.

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