George Gillingham: Character Analysis in - Jude The Obscure

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      Just as we have become entirely absorbed in the emotional tension between Jude, Sue, and Phillotson, Gillingham is introduced to give us the outsider's point of view; the plain man's opinion of such reckless goings-on. His attitude is the one that the ordinary reader probably brings to the novel, but Hardy forces us to change our worldly wisdom for a more sympathetic understanding of the central characters. Gillingham is essentially coarse-minded; he ignores the subtleties of Sue's predicament which Hardy has been at pains to present; he believes that Sue should be smacked and brought to her senses, which is a better-bred version of Arabella's famous claim that 'there is nothing like bondage and a stone deaf task-master for taming us, women. He cannot understand Philotson attempts to behave sensitively, and can only remind him of the social position he has lost. Yet Gillingham is needed in the scheme of the novel as the one person to whom Phillotson can talk candidly - he is a boyhood friend presenting the attitudes of normal society.

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