Jude The Obscure And Dead

Guilt, Duty, and Unrequited Love: Deconstructing the Love Triangles in James

Joyce’s The Dead and Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure "It’s no problem of
mine but it’s a problem I fight, living a life that I can’t leave behind.

But there’s no sense in telling me, the wisdom of the cruel words that you
speak. But that’s the way that it goes and nobody knows, while everyday my
confusion grows." --New Order, Bizarre Love Triangle, from Substance, 1987

Most people who have watched a soap opera can recognize that the love triangle
is a crucial element to the plot. In fact, the original radio broadcasted soap
operas seemed to consist almost entirely of love triangles. The love triangle,
for plot purposes, seems to be a popular technique employed to change the
dynamic, add dimension, and generally ‘spice up’ an otherwise stagnant
monogamous relationship. It would make for a pretty dull and quite unpopular
show if such popular daytime soap characters as Luke and Laura or Bo and Hope
had enjoyed a smooth courtship, uncomplicated marriage and then grew old and
gray together without a single conflict. The viewers watched them go through
many conflicts, some of which involved the classic love triangle. Such conflicts
as the love triangle keep the story moving. Common elements of triangles in
today’s soaps consist of lust, greed, jealousy, any of which are
interchangeable with the conflicts resulting from situations involving lovers
coming back from the dead or paternity uncertainties. Yet love triangles,
whether in the soap opera or in the novel, are not all uniformly constructed.

James Joyce’s The Dead and Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, both modernist
novels, each contain love triangles as an integral element of the story. The key
triangles I will focus on are comprised of Michael, Greta and Gabriel, and,

Philotson, Sue, and Jude. Although not absolutely identical, deconstruction
reveals guilt, duty, and unrequited love as essential components to the
construction of both. Besides the most obvious similarity that both triangles
are composed of one woman and two men, guilt also figures prominently. Although
the men of the triangles may have their own guilt-related issues, it seems as
though it is the guilt felt by the women that presents the most conflict. In The

Dead, Greta has to live with the knowledge that it is because of her, although
indirectly, that Michael died. It is likely that because of this guilt that she
pauses on the staircase to listen to The Lass of Aughrim, a song that, as she
tells Gabriel later, reminds her of Michael. At the time, her husband interprets
her expression on the staircase as one of "grace and mystery...as if she were
a symbol of something."(Joyce 2028). He was correct, except not in the way
that he thought. All the way to the hotel, the lingering memory of that sight of
her incites his passion. However, he experiences a terrible upset as Greta tells
him about the song and what it means to her. This is the critical moment where

Michael, or rather his memory, enters and completes the triangle, although he
may have been there all along without Gabriel’s knowledge. To Gabriel, this
turn of events casts a different light on his entire marriage to Greta as he"thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many
years that image of her lover’s eyes when he told her that he did not wish to
live"(Joyce 2035). He wonders "how poor a part he, her husband, had played
in her life"(Joyce 2035). Although it is a bit peculiar for one of the members
of this bizarre love triangle to reside beyond the grave, we see here that

Michael plays a significant role, perhaps altering Gabriel and Greta’s
relationship forever, with Greta’s guilt as the instigating factor. As for

Sue, in Jude, her guilt operates on a completely different level, a religious
one. Like Greta, Sue also had a sick man die after braving the elements just to
see her. Yet, unlike The Dead, this event has no great impact on the love
triangle between Jude, Sue and Philotson. This three-cornered romantic disaster,
because of Sue’s return to Philotson, had already reached it’s climax. If
anything, Jude’s death made Sue’s promise never to see him again easier. But
because Jude’s death happens at the end of novel, the reader does not find out
if this adds to or detracts from her guilt. All we are told is that she is"tired and miserable," "years and years older," "quite a staid