Plot Construction of the Novel Jude The Obscure

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      A conscious artist. In the matter of the construction of the plots of his novels Hardy is reputed for being a conscious artist whose plots are compact and adequately integrated. Usually Victorian novelists, and more so in the case of the earlier ones, keep their plots loose and rambling. They do not take pains to secure symmetrical perfection in plot construction. They do not mind loose ends here and there. Meredith and others like him for example have no fixed idea of plot construction and therefore they are compelled to shift from scene to scene and to proceed rather hastily to come to the concluding part.

      Economical in words and liberal in details. Hardy is a prolific writer without being lavishly profuse. Detailed working out of every scene and scrupulousness in developing the characters make him somewhat prodigal in regard to plot construction. At the same time he is very economical in the use of words. Take out a word from a phrase or a phrase from a sentence or a sentence from a paragraph, at once there is an injury to the overall sense and the finish of the whole unit.

      Traditionalistic tendencies. There had been an established convention among the famous novelists who preceded the Victorian writers in regard to the unity of action. Like them Hardy emphasised unity of action thereby making the character the logical outcome of circumstances even to the extent of making the character a mere tool in the hands of circumstances. Irony of circumstances turns the characters into mere puppets. There is no wonder if a single event changes the entire course of their lives.

      Wholeness and perfection. Hardy can claim a place by the side of Flaubert, Turgenev and other great artists in regard to the wholeness and perfection of his plots. The architectonic powers of his plot construction are the products of the author's long apprenticeship in the realm of architecture with an eye on symmetry. A good architect brooks no loose ends anywhere. He does not consider even the smallest stone or the tiniest of slabs insignificant. Similarly Hardy is scrupulous about every word, phrase, sentence, paragraph and ultimately every chapter and makes each contribute its share to the grand execution of the stately plan of his conception.

      Well-designed and complete. The fact that Hardy's plots are not simple does not mean that there are complications. Even if there are some complications they can be easily explained away. Hardy is very particular in making his works sweepingly simple and hence favours instinctively a measured and ordered design in them. A quality of adjustment can be easily felt even in single isolated passages and pages of his novels and more so in the case of collective impressions made by their definite outline. Extraneous ideas are not introduced and hence our interest in the story is not marred nor is the progress of the narrative checked in the middle.

      Balanced plot. In an important aspect the plot of Jude is linear; that is, it begins with the boyhood of Jude and continues in an orderly fashion until his death, dwelling on the most significant events of his adult life. Hardy selects those incidents which form a pattern; instances of Jude's tender-heartedness, his vulnerability to women, and his readiness of pursue ideals. Therefore the plot of Jude is made up of repeated events: Jude and his son are both abandoned by a heartless parent, Jude like his mother attempts suicide by drowning, Arabella twice forces Jude to marry her, Sue and Jude go to one another in their disgrace, Sue hides from her husband in a cupboard, and it is in a cupboard that she finds her children dead. These episodes are more than coincidence; they show that the characters know that they are in the power of the past, of heredity, or traits in character that cannot be rooted out. The plot of Jude is carefully balanced in the manner of an hourglass, in that Sue and Jude exchange their intellectual positions in the course of the action. Jude begins as a devout if rather naive Christian, and dies cursing an unmoved God; Sue begins as a fashionable agnostic, and ends devoting herself to an imaginary God of Wrath who she believes has destroyed her children to bring her to repentance. Sue's retreat into fanaticism shows her pathetic vanity and her refusal to admit that she cannot control her life; Jude, on the other hand, has been ‘educated’ by his terrible sufferings and has emerged with a stronger sense of his own identity. Finally, the plot of Jude is based on contrast, with the pairs too long to list; Sue and her heathen gods, Jude and his Greek Testament, Jude the theological student and Jude the adulterer, the earthy Arabella and the saintly Sue, the colleges and slums of Christminster....and so one.

      Elementary passions the source of plots. Elementary passions such as love, greed, ambition, thirst for knowledge give rise to these plots and the story is sustained through those passions. The coarse, vulgar passion of Arabella, her over-eagerness for monetary security, the romantic attachment of Sue sans all sexual exhibitionism, the ambition and thirst for knowledge of Jude together with his strong sensuality and addiction to liquor, the insipid but inoffensive innocuousness of Phillotson—all these emotions and passionate eruptions do support the grand edifice that Hardy has built up.

      Love tragedies. Hardy is a perfect master at the art of writing love tragedies. The eternal triangle with one man and two women or one woman with two men and even “eternal rectangle” with two men and two women with the flow of love in a haphazard manner are portrayed by him with superb skill. Love has been tragic in the case of all the characters in this novel, Jude the Obscure His other novels also are tragic tales ol a group of persons who inhabit the countryside and who are capable of strong passions, while Jude the Obscure is the story of one man in the main who is adversely affected by many persons.

      Essentially psychological. Hardy’s plots are essentially psychological. In his novels the construction has as much significance as the psychological plan of the novel. Jude is a psychological study in relation to environment and the environment exercises a potential effect in the moulding of his fate. Hardy cannot be called a great psychologist like many of the novelists of today who delve deep into the workings of the mind. But it is definite that he has exhibited his keen interest in this branch of science that had taken its roots even during his days.

      Psychological nature of the scenes. The scenes that Hardy describes show how things happen. Hardy does not depict too many crises. There are some scenes in Jude the Obscure which can be called psychological especially the sences regarding Sue's matrimonial adventures with Phillotson and Jude by turns. The deathbed scene is a study in psychology although it is but elementary. The happenings of the unexpected and unforeseen and the no occurrence of the expected have great psychological potentialities. The great events in the novels of Hardy—the crises and the denouements—are governed and determined by chance-happenings which can be sombre and ironical on occasions.

      Conclusion. We can say that another characteristic quality of Hardy’s plots is that they grow and develop with the idyllic charm of folksongs with the characters cherishing vehement passions. The symmetrical development of the plots in his novels must be commended though Hardy lacks the inventive power of such great writers as Scott, Dickens or Thackeray. It is as an artist that Hardy depicts life, especially its tragic side. Hardy's temperament has conditioned his tragic outlook on life. Like an empiricist Hardy maintains that happiness is merely an episode in the general drama of pain. This attitude to life has influenced his plot construction very much. Jude is over ambitious and therefore he cannot influence his own actions because the external environment is too powerful for him. Hardy is lacking in humour and this has influenced his plot construction remarkably. He is quick to grasp the grotesque and the absurd wherever it is found. To sum up we can say that Hardy's plot construction has its own individuality and it is superb in its own way.

University Questions also can be Answered:

Consider with special reference to Jude the Obscure the view that “Hardy’s plots are not simple. They grow out of elementary passions, ambition, greed, love, jealousy, the thirst for knowledge and the springs which move them are psychological”.

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