Monday, July 5, 2010


Beds have a very selective appearance in Jude the Obscure. People - Jude's great-aunt Drusilla, Jude himself - take to them when they are sick or dying. The seventy young women in the Melchester teacher training establishment lie in their cubicles, their tender feminine faces upturned to the flaring gas-jets - but the narrator, although mildly, condescendingly voyeuristic here, only really stops to gaze, like the mistress in charge, at Sue's empty cot. People sleep in armchairs, put bedding on the floor. When Sue arrives dripping wet in Jude's Melchester lodgings, it seems like in even in - especially in? - a very confined space, the narrator, and characters, will look every which way but at the bed - except when Jude thrusts Sue's drying clothes underneath it, out of the sight of his landlady. Sue visits Phillotson, sick in his lonely bed, and uses the mirror to show him the glowing sun, and pats his pillow - the nearest she can come to intimacy at this point. Beds and sex? The narrative always stops on the stairs, or with a euphemism - Jude kissing Sue on one side, and then the other, and then rebolting the front door. This is all, I think, a little more than necessary Victorian self-censorship: it's Hardy flirting with his reader, and with her or his interest, or rather curiosity about sex - not unlike the can't-help-herself flirtatious Sue.

My hotel bed is not remotely flirting with me, except as an instrument for sleeping in - I am quite unbelievably tired, after our excellent first seminar session ...

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