Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: rrnewneighbors.org [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]

Literary Events

Literary Events

What's New?__________

The Friends of the Georgetown Public Library’s Hill Country Authors Series events will be listed here.
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Round Rock Public Library Book Group meets monthly at 7:00-8:30 PM. Check the library website for more information, or ask Carla.
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Would Jude Have Surpassed Obscurity if He Had Married Sue?

Jude the Obscure was, apparently from our discussion, more miserably sad than most of Thomas Hardy's writings. This is an important concept for anyone who has not read any other Hardy books. I am one of those people; I had listened to an audio version of Jude the Obscure a few years ago and lost all interest in further adventures with Thomas Hardy. After our meeting Monday, I am interested in reading, or at least willing to entertain the thought of reading, Return of the Native. Our discussions bring out lots of take-home messages!

We had some enrichment materials at the meeting. Patty brought some photos from a literary tour through England that she took some years ago; she had visited Hardy's home and places of interest to the book. Linda had read F. B. Pinion’s Thomas Hardy: His Life and Friends about Jude the Obscure that said that there were three titles to the story that Hardy thought about using. The story was published in serialized form. We don't know exactly where Jude the Obscure came in as title, but the 3 previous titles were The Simpletons, Hearts Insurgent, and The Recalcitrants. I was somewhat surprised at the idea of The Simpletons. Was Hardy referring to Sue and Jude or maybe to everybody else? Were Sue and Jude free thinkers and intellectuals, or were they stupid? It certainly was frustrating to watch them suffer because of their stubborn decision to stay together without marrying. Nora went over Thomas Hardy's biography with us, showing how the story had autobiographical aspects. Probably the most blatant was that Hardy and his first wife lived together estranged, which was somewhat unusual, and he remarried, which was also unusual.

Themes that we identified in Jude the Obscure included marriage, religion, education, social classes, treatment of women as men's possessions, and feelings. The story gave us a historical vignette of the social structure of English small (and large) town society, and that structure wasn't pretty. We saw the dichotomy between religion and doctrine and the resulting hypocrisy. All of those who spurned Jude and Sue in the name of religion were blatantly ignoring the basic tenets of religion, such as charity. Someone pointed out that in the beginning of the story, Jude was the one who took religion literally, and Sue was more interested in education, and at the end Sue became hyper-religious and Jude had become less religious; so there was almost a changing of places on the issue of religion between them. We enjoyed the character Annabelle, always exemplifying the lower classes, poor upbringing, lack of education, and self-serving conniving. Phillotson was also an interesting character; someone noted that he was unusual in his leniency toward Sue, as he could have easily taken over her life and treated her as a possession as was the custom in that place and time. Perhaps Phillotson's leniency was an alter-ego form for Hardy, whose wife remained in his home, though not communicating much with him. Perhaps he often considered setting her free but couldn't bring himself to do it.

As often happens at our meetings, we time-traveled from the England of the 1800s of the book to modern times, and we talked about the restrictions society still places on individuals, e.g., those who are born in poverty tend to stay there. We talked about American society being much more open, with fewer class distinctions than English society even today, but we also noted that people in society tend to spend most of their social time involved with people of a similar socioeconomic background and level. We also marveled about those special individuals who, against all odds, rise far from their roots in life and achieve fame and fortune and even do good works.

This book was controversial in its time. It was mentioned that a number of people sent ashes to Hardy, representing their burning of his book. I suspect they sent ashes of the day's newspapers and kept the book to read again secretly!

submitted by Claudia
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