Father Time: Character Analysis in - Jude The Obscure

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Father Time
      Highly precocious and remarkably morbid. Arabella gives birth to a boy after reaching Australia and she avers that he is the son of Jude. The boy exhibits traits of a morose, thoughtful, gloomy philosopher who wants to see only the melancholy side of life. Hardy calls him "a boy with an octogenarian face, Age masquerading as Juvenility." His words and behaviour were indicative of a distorted vision of life as though saying: "All laughing comes from misapprehension. Rightly looked at, there is no laughable thing under the Sun."

      Pessimism with a vengeance. Hardy has infused a large dose of pessimism in this character of his. When Mrs. Edlin recounts the sad tale of an ancestor of Jude and Sue, whose marriage was disastrous, Father Time comments thus: "If I was you, mother, I wouldn't marry father". The flowers in the Agricultural Show failed to interest Father Time because "they would be all withered in a few days." His remark on seeing the college building of Christminster namely "Are the great old houses jails?" is typical of the precocious child and very relevant to the trend of the story as conceived by Hardy. A brooding undemonstrative horror seemed to have seized him when he heard of the difficulty that Jude and Sue experienced in finding accommodation for them and the children.

      Murderous tendencies. Homicidal tendencies in certain abnormal children are not rare in society. "Father Time" represents those people. They do have sufficient justification for their abnormal procedure. Here he feels compelled to hand his stepbrothers as well as himself justifying it by saying - "Done because we are too many"

      Role of Father Time in the novel. The fact that the boy hangs his stepbrothers and himself marks the turning point in Sue's life. She sees this as the punishment meted out to her by Providence for her sins in having violated the sacrament of her marriage with Philotson through her liaison with Jude. Sue says: "Arabella's child-killing mine was a judgment - the right slaying the wrong". Hardy makes us understand that Fate is sometimes hostile to human beings. Father Time is only an instrument in the hands of Fate. He casts a shadow in the lives and loves of Jude and Sue. He is an agent of destruction in their life of sin out of wedlock. The roots of the misfortune are in the hostility of Fate. Father Time is sadness and gloom personified. Perhaps Hardy's troubles in his married life might have been responsible for the portrayal of such a character as Father Time. Hardy might have been influenced by the German pessimistic philosopher Schopenhauer who died when Hardy was a youth of twenty.

      An ignorant child with the philosophical background. Father Time was hardly a teenager with an impulsive emotional nature. But in the background, he possessed the faculty of cool reasoning of a confirmed philosopher. Utter ignorance of the facts of life is blended with an inductive reasoning power that cannot rest with the particulars - it must follow the sequence and end with a generalization of everything!

      Conclusion. On the whole, we can conclude that Father Time is unbelievable as a child, unconceivable as a philosopher, unwelcome as a character in realistic fiction, and unsatisfactory as a portrayal of a precocious child. Precocity is welcome if it is constructive but dangerous if it takes the path of destruction.

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