The flesh versus the spirit : Lawrence's Study of Thomas Hardy and Sons and lovers, and Hardy's Jude the Obscure



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In the Study of Thomas Hardy, D. H. Lawrence states that "Most fascinating in all artists is" the "antinomy between Law and Love, between the Flesh and the Spirit, between the Father and the Son." Lawrence explores the ramifications of this hypothesis with respect to Hardy's novels, Biblical history, and European art history. Of the Hardy novels, Lawrence focuses primarily on Jude the Obscure. Looking mainly at "the antinomy ... between the Flesh and the Spirit" in Jude, he proposes a radical reinterpretation of it, such that most critics claim that Lawrence violates the spirit of the work; however, a close inspection of the major thrusts of Lawrence's interpretation of Jude reveals that this is untrue. Shortly after writing the Study, Lawrence wrote Sons and Lovers, which is in many ways similar to Jude. Perhaps the most striking similarity between Jude and Sons is the depiction of the relationships which the main character of each of the novels has with women. Jude Fawley and Paul Morel, the protagonists of Jude and Sons, respectively, find that they are sexually attracted to a woman for whom they have little regard, and spiritually attracted to a woman for whom they have the utmost regard. Consequently, each finds that he can can relate to the former only in a physical way, and to the latter only in a non-physical, or spiritual, way. Consequently, it appears as if both Jude and Paul are victims of a syndrome which Sigmund Freud delineated in "The Most Prevalent Form of Degradation in Erotic Life." In this essay, Freud explores "the painful opposition which arises in some men between tender and sensual love—an opposition which may be so extreme that 'Where such men love they have no desire and where they desire they cannot love.'"