I packed two of my favorite novels this week. Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy, and Middlemarch, by George Elliot. (George Elliot, as you probably know, was a woman. She just changed her name to George because it was easier to get published that way). Have you read them? No? I’ll summarize.
Jude the Obscure is about this guy named Jude. You probably figured that much. He’s poor. But he longs for truth and transcendence, and all he wants is to be part of the university. But they don’t want him. I guess he isn’t a competitive enough candidate or something. Thank goodness our universities aren’t like that these days. So life tosses Jude around for a few hundred pages and then he comes to a tragic end.
Middlemarch is about a woman named Dorotea. She longs for truth and transcendence as well. And it seems as if she’s going to come to a tragic end, but then she gets to marry the man she loves and they end up poor but transcendent and happy.
So I wonder if this is a male/female thing? Can a person be poor and transcendent and happy? Thomas Hardy says well, not so much. But Mary Ann Evans (George’s real name) says YES.
I’d like to side with Mary Ann. (Maybe I should change my name to George. But I don’t think that really helps in getting published anymore). And what Jude needed, you see, was to be married to Dorotea. Now that would have been an interesting story . . .