Sue was silent. "Is it wrong, Jude," she said with a tentative tremor, "for a husband or wife to tell a third person that they are unhappy in their marriage? If a marriage ceremony is a religious thing, it is possibly wrong; but if it is only a sordid contract, based on material convenience in householding, rating, and taxing, and the inheritance of land and money by children, making it necessary that the male parent be known --- which it seems to be --- why surely a person may say, even proclaim upon the housetops, that it hurts and grieves him or her?"In the above passage, Sue (who is apparently a New Woman, that turn-of-the-last-century participant in and beneficiary of first-wave feminism) bemoans the simultaneous crass economic underpinnings and strict rules of etiquette in marriage, which conspire to cut the married person off from frank and emotionally satisfying discourse, and isolate her in her own doubts, discontents and anxieties.
Jude, will you give me away? ... I have been looking at the marriage service in the prayer-book, and it seems to me very humiliating that a giver-away should be required at all. According to the ceremony as there printed, my bridegroom chooses me of his own will and pleasure; but I don't choose him. Somebody gives me to him, like a she-ass or she-goat, or any other domestic animal. Bless your exalted views of woman, O churchman!This hardly needs explanation; I do like that, though much of Jude is told from a male point of view, and accordingly most of its condemnations of patriarchal marriage issue from male characters' mouths, a female character writes these lines complaining of marriage's role in keeping alive the idea that women are property.
"What --- you'll let her go? And with her lover?"(I love that last line, and the highly entertaining mental picture it leads me to conjure of this "Lord Harry" character. I imagine a pipe, a dressing gown and an expression of refined astonishment).
"Whom with is her matter. I shall let her go; with him certainly, if she wishes. ..."
"But if people did as you want to do, there'd be a general domestic disintegration. The family would no longer be the social unit."
"Yes --- I am all abroad, I suppose!" said Phillotson sadly. "I was never a very bright reasoner, you remember. ... And yet, I don't see why the woman and the children should not be the unit without the man."
"By the Lord Harry! --- Matriarchy! ... Does she say all this too?"
Finally, Jude himself (whom I have not quoted yet --- the speakers above are Jude's cousin Sue in the first two passages and Sue's husband Mr. Phillotson in the third) has this to say about the nuclear family:
The beggarly question of parentage --- what is it, after all? What does it matter, when you come to think of it, whether a child is yours by blood or not? All the little ones of our time are collectively the children of us adults of the time, and entitled to our general care. That excessive regard of parents for their own children, and their dislike of other people's, is, like class-feeling, patriotism, save-your-own-soul-ism, and other virtues, a mean exclusiveness at bottom.Let's compare this last passage with some of Shulamith Firestone's thoughts on child-rearing; she, too, thought communal child-rearing* would be a more humane scheme:
But what about children? Doesn't everyone want children sometime in their lives? There is no denying that people now feel a genuine desire to have children. But we don't know how much of this is the product of an authentic liking for children and how much is a displacement of other needs. We have seen that parental satisfaction is obtainable only through crippling the child: The attempted extension of ego through one's children --- in the case of the man, the "immortalizing" of name, property, class, and ethnic identification, and in the case of the woman, motherhood as the justification of her existence, the resulting attempt to live through the child, child-as-project --- in the end damages or destroys either the child or the parent, or both when neither wins, as the case may be.
I shall now outline a system that I believe will satisfy any remaining needs for children after ego concerns are no longer part of our motivations. Suppose a person or a couple at some point in their lives desire to live around children in a family-size unit. While we will no longer have reproduction as the life goal of the normal individual --- we have seen how single and group nonreproductive life styles could be enlarged to become satisfactory to many people for their whole lifetimes and for others, for good portions of their lifetime --- certain people may still prefer community-style group living permanently, and other people may want to experience it at some time in their lives, especially during early childhood.
Thus at any given time a proportion of the population will want to live in reproductive social structures. Correspondingly, the society in general will still need reproduction, though reduced, if only to create a new generation.
The proportion of the population will be automatically a select group with a predictably higher rate of stability, because they will have had a freedom of choice now generally unavailable. Today those who do not marry and have children by a certain age are penalized: they find themselves alone, excluded, and miserable, on the margins of a society in which everyone else is compartmentalized into lifetime generational families, chauvinism and exclusiveness their chief characteristic. (Only in Manhattan is single living even tolerable, and that can be debated). Most people are still forced into marriage by family pressure, the "shotgun," economic considerations, and other reasons that have nothing to do with choice of life style. In our new reproductive unit, with the limited contract (see below), childrearing so diffused as to be practically eliminated, economic considerations nonexistent, and all participating members having entered only on the basis of personal preference, "unstable" reproductive social structures will have disappeared.
This unit I shall call a household rather than an extended family. The distinction is important: the word family implies biological reproduction and some degree of division of labor by sex, and thus the traditional dependencies and resulting power
relations, extended over generations; though the size of the family --- in this case, the larger numbers in the "extended" family --- may affect the strength of the hierarchy, it does not change its structual definition. "Household," however, connotes only a large grouping of people living together for an unspecified time, and with no specified set of interpersonal relations.
Though the two books approach the same problem from opposite angles --- Firestone's is a purely structural and political analysis, while Hardy's characters, lacking political consciousness, have only their own thoughts, feelings and experiences to guide them. They feel trapped by marriage laws and social strictures, and suspect that a freer, humaner way of life might be possible.*At least, to the limited extent Firestone believed in childhood and the need of children to be reared at all, she felt it would best be handled communally, with the child hirself choosing which adults would feature most prominently in hir life.