Craftsmanship of Nature, Character & Life in Jude The Obscure

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      (a) Descriptive artist. In the VIII chapter of Part III of Jude the Obscure there is a significant sentence. “And then Jude again easily saw as he had latterly seen with more frequency the scorn of Nature for man's finer emotions and her lack of interest in his aspirations”. This gives a hint to us about Hardy’s view of Nature as being almost hostile to human beings. But like the pagan Greek and Roman writers, Hardy revels in the mere description of Nature. As we have seen before, his imagination finds its fullest expression when he presents to his readers the rustic scenes and rural mannerisms. His scenes and descriptions have been painted in all their details. The novel Jude the Obscure opens with a vivid picture of the village of Marygreen and its surroundings. Hardy does full justice to his well-known reputation for his descriptive gift besides the power of narration. Later in the novel, we have glimpses of nature in various places while describing the agricultural show, Jude's and Sue's walks through the villages, Christminster, etc.

      Personal and local love. Hardy shows how intense his love for Earth is. It is highly personal and local. His own native district and its surroundings in South Wessex have been described with a sure hand. His warm feelings for the heaths and pastures of Wessex are very remarkable. We have to know and then ponder about the relationship that exists between the life of nature and the life of a man if we desire to comprehend fully Hardy's view of nature which is extremely invested with human significance. In his opinion, the drama of humanity can be seen incessantly being played against the background of the natural world. The stage is permanent, whilst the characters move in and move out. The continuous process of death and birth in the mundane world does not affect the eternity of Nature, the grand spectacle of which is sure to thrill those who happen to witness it for the time being.

      Not passive and lifeless. The natural world appears as an animated character that never loses its power of animating others. Then how can it remain passive and lifeless? It can potentially affect the destinies of men and women and also animals and birds. Hardy invests Nature with individuality and personality peculiarly and intrinsically its own. As a descriptive artist gifted with poetic imagination he can reveal the dormant spirit in the objects of his description and make it speak for him - Like the characters of his creation in the novels, nature is also compelled by Hardy to assume a role and play its part throughout the story he narrates. The titles of some of his novels also reveal the author’s innate love for the natural world. Under the Greenwood Tree, Woodlanders, etc, Witness the living presence of Nature in the garb of heaths, woods, pastures, etc.

      Does Hardy recognize the supremacy of God? Hardy cannot be called a conventionally devout and religious person recognizing the overall supremacy and omnipotence of God. But he views Nature as a potential molder of the destinies of men and women. He worships nature in the pagan fashion seeing its manifestations in various objects. See how Hardy describes the rising sun....“a golden-haired, beaming mild-eyed God-like creature gazing down in the vigor and intentness of youth upon an earth that was brimming with interest for him.”

      The happy blending of scientific observation and poetic feelings. In Hardy’s works, the description of nature reveals the happy blending of his scientific power of observation and the imaginative feelings of the poet in him. If he makes the inanimate objects of Nature capable of being sentient with the powers of feeling, thinking, and acting we need not wonder at all.

      Hardy’s blindness to Nature’s Holy Plan. Many a time Hardy has described Nature as cruelly hostile to man and his aspirations. To him, Nature is not a transcendental force as it was for Shelley and Wordsworth who craved for a benevolent rewarding personal God. This explains the fact that Hardy’s view of nature in the main is truly sad and pessimistic. Hardy cannot and does not see “every flower enjoying the air it breathes” like Wordsworth who was able to do so thanks to his mysticism. Hardy can hardly view Nature as some brooding spirit that compels mankind to pay homage to it.

      Interpretation of Nature. Thus it is clear how Hardy interprets Nature. To him, Nature is sometimes inspired by a boundless love for the chosen few. If we dare to oppose it, it may be cruel and indignant to us. This does not prevent it's being mild and tolerant. His novels must be read with the utmost care that they deserve to get an intimate knowledge of the human significance of Hardy's writings.

      (b) The analytical artist. A novelist who is an analytical artist must and does have a mastery of character. No one can question the greatness in this direction that Hardy possessed. His best characters are never subtle and complex because unless portrayed subjectively their reality cannot be seen in the proper light. But the artist in Hardy is sometimes subtle because he can record the minutest fluctuations of emotional experience and make them realistic to the core.

      Elemental forces. Hardy's characters should be viewed as elemental forces on a background of still greater elemental forces. Intellectual complexities do not find favor with Hardy as in thy case of some novelists. Hardy's creations in his novels are very vividly actualized when they are simple and primal, the rural folks and persons with rustic background and upbringing. Hardy had earned estimable success in portraying his female characters. Instinctive life sways women far’ more and Hardy's success in female characterization illustrates the fact that Hardy is adept at dealing with primal types.

      Born a villager brought up in the atmosphere of rustic life. Hardy was born in a village as the son of a stonemason. He had been associating with the country folk with their petty hates, silly loves, and other insignificant passions. As a consequence, Hardy's characters are very few and they are different types instead of different individuals. Take two separate characters of Hardy. You will notice that the difference between them is that of the classes or types they have been considered to represent. You will fail to spot temperamental differences in them. If their classes characterize anything good the characters also do the same.

      (c) The philosophic artist. Somewhere Hardy has said thus: “Happiness is an occasional episode in a general drama of pain”. All the characters of his creation invariably lead wretched miserable lives of acute suffering, virtually steeped in a state almost of damnation. Of course, they are described as persons striving hard for the betterment of their lives, improving the fundamental characteristics by striving very hard. Their endeavor unfortunately produces at best some alleviation of the acute suffering. Of course, there is a tinge of humor in his narratives but even that sinks to the level of being a handmaid to the overall tragedy he aims at.

      The struggle of man against the Omnipotent Fate. As a philosopher, Hardy may have advocated unquestioned acceptance of what is pre-ordained by Fate. He might have hinted that human effort for happiness and glory is sure to be futile unless backed by Providence. It is not proper to defy the all-powerful destiny. We must humbly see that life is lived resignedly rather than enjoyed boisterously. But Hardy's real advocacy is of something in between the extremes of dogged defiance and abject surrender. If we say that Hardy wants us to be realistic in our reaction to what befalls us it is but the real truth.

      Trials and tribulations in his personal life. Hardy had experienced in his life estrangement of lovers, the frustration of aspirations, nonoccurrence of the desired, and the occurrence of the undesirable. Nature according to him is hostile to our intentions and expectations. Because of his
own pessimistic bent of life he has critically opposed and vehemently castigated many a social system that works to the detriment of the weaker sections of society...

      Interpretation of Life. As an artist primarily Hardy depicts the tragic side of life. It is Hardy’s temperament that has conditioned his tragic outlook on life. Hardy says in another context—“To have a complete picture of life it exacts a full view of the worst” and thereby justifies what he has said before viz. happiness is merely an episode in the general drama of pain. It is of course consoling to an extent that Hardy's conception of tragedy is not to include the possibilities of happiness. No one can deny that the possibility of happiness kindles hopes in the human bosom.

      Elevation of the ordinary people. Hardy does not select big personages of wealth and nobility of rank as heroes and heroines of his novels. Ordinary people of humble walks of life are selected by him and spiritually elevated and sublimated. The democratic outlook in the realm of literary output has enabled him to discover the hero in man. Jude and Sue are representatives of the lower strata of society. They are compelled to feel vague that there is a sort of antagonism in the things around them. The latent hostility in these things is beyond their comprehension. The ordeal through which Jude, Sue, and many other characters of Hardy pass through appears to us as a course of suffering imposed on them rather than a conflict that they had themselves volunteered to court. Hence the tragedy may not be genuine in the opinion of some. The only ethical thing in such a helpless tragedy is the noble endurance of pain. Of course, those who suffer heroically do get our praise.

University Questions also can be Answered:

“Hardy’s work may be considered under three aspects—(a) as an interpreter of nature—the descriptive artist, (b) as an interpreter of character—the analytical artist, (c) as an interpreter of life—the philosophic artist”. Elucidate with illustrative references from Jude the Obscure,

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