I'm still surprised when a certain auther resonates with me. Thomas Hardy is one of these authors. I read Far from the Madding Crowd last year and couldn't get the characters out of my mind. Their British stoicism, wit, charm and good sense still felt real. The late 19th Century English countryside was alive as Bathesba, Gabriel Oak and Farmer Boldwood fought for one another, yearned for one another and slugged through days of hard work, quiet and solitude. The country life, I have nothing to compare it to, I'm a city guy, but the twists of love and struggle for survival were all too familiar.
In Jude the Obscure, Hardy once again awakens my latent sensitivities. Jude Fawley strives to learn. Day and night he dreams of going to college in the city of Christminster. For nearly ten years he works as a stone mason, rebuilding churches and colleges, working feet away from the scholars he wishes to become. Along the way, Jude gets married, his wife leaves him for Australia, he moves to Christminster, falls in love with his cousin Sue Bridehead and still remains outside the cloistered walls of academia.
The trees overhead deepened the gloom of the hour, and they dripped sadly upon him, impressing him with forebodings - illogical forebodings; for though he knew that he loved her he also knew that he could not be more to her than he was.
At this stage in my life, I relate to Jude at a level that I know would have been missed if I had read the novel at any other time in my life. I'm not doing what I want to do for a living. I'm not living my dream. For good and bad, life has gotten in the way. Bills, loans, rent, are some of the obstacles that make earning a living the be all end all of my existence for the moment. I know I can change my life, but for the moment, like Jude Fawley, I'm still working to get there. The dreams may be receding into the horizon, but they're out there still.
Thomas Hardy Jude the Obscure
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