• Jude the liminal: A catastrophic pursuit?

    Gulsah Gocmen (see profile)
    TM Literary Criticism
    English fiction, Nineteenth century, Group identity, Literature and anthropology
    Item Type:
    liminal, identity, victorian, Victorian novel, Cultural identity, Anthropological approaches to literature
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    Thomas Hardy's last novel Jude the Obscure (1895) is centred on its working-class protagonist Jude Fawley's efforts first to become a scholar, then his experiences of resisting the orthodoxies of his society and lastly defying Christianity as a restrictive social force on the individuals. This paper aims to discuss Jude's liminal character from the cultural perspectives on liminality respectively developed by the French ethnographer Arnold van Gennep and the British cultural anthropologist Victor Turner. Jude as a liminal character experiences similar transitions or rites of passage as defined and categorized by van Gennep. Yet, Jude's liminality remains permanent in each stage of his life since he cannot thoroughly perform the transition rites to leave one social position behind and undertake a new one. Also, analysed as a liminal character from Turner's understanding of the term, Jude fails to use the potential that his liminality provides him with to challenge the societal dogmas. However, he terribly suffers from the consequences of his liminal identity throughout the story. Jude's tragic end displays how he is punished for his lifelong liminality that prevents him from moving either to the centre or the margins of his Victorian society. This essay argues that Hardy's portrayal of Jude as a liminal figure reminds the defnitions of the term, developed by van Gennep and Turner, but produces a literary example that is quite antithetical to their conceptions particularly due to his apparent pessimism. For, Hardy depicts Jude's threshold identity as an obstacle in his efforts to belong to any particular social, cultural, economic, or intellectual group rather than an opportunity to challenge each social position.
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    6 years ago
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