Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy and "Lost Illusions," by Honore de Balzac. Specifically, it will compare the theme of illusions in these two texts, citing textual evidence. The two protagonists, Jude and Lucien, are spurned into action because of their illusions; however, along their journeys of becoming a poet and a scholar, Lucien loses his illusions, whereas Jude does not.
THE ILLUSIONS OF LUCIEN AND JUDE
Poor Jude, he is a tragic victim of his illusions from the first page of "Jude the Obscure" until the last. Everything he has sought in his life has been nothing but an illusion. From the moment his teacher leaves Marygreen and tells him about the university in Christminster, Jude is doomed. He longs to study at the university, and this is his first illusion, that Christminster is the wonderland where his future will become complete. His aunt adds to the already growing illusion, by telling him he should have gone with the schoolmaster, and education runs in the family.
Why didn't ye get the schoolmaster to take 'ee to Christminster wi' un, and make a scholar of 'ee,' she continued, in frowning pleasantry. 'I'm sure he couldn't ha' took a better one. The boy is crazy for books, that he is. It runs in our family rather. His cousin Sue is just the same, so I've heard, but I have not seen the child for years, (Hardy 8).
The university in Christminster remains a beautiful and alluring illusion to Jude as he grows older, somewhat like a carrot on a stick, always urging him closer to the town, and to his downfall. Even his first view of the town, from a rooftop some distance away, seems like a beautiful illusion to the boy. "Some way within the limits of the stretch of landscape, points of light like the topaz gleamed" (Hardy 17). His cousin Sue lives in Christminster, and he has been warned by his caustic aunt to stay away from her. Indeed, the city takes on such a romantic notion for the boy that all his hopes and dreams are pinned on going to Christchurch and making something of himself. "It is a city of light,' he said to himself.
The tree of knowledge grows there,' he added a few steps further on" (Hardy 21).
His relationship with Arabella is just as illusionary. He meets her totally by accident, and she sets her sights on him immediately. She lies about being pregnant to get him to marry her, and when he finds out she lied, his illusions about their life together are ruined.
But it was not the sort of life he had bargained for, and it was a long way to walk to and from Alfredston every day. Arabella, however, felt that all these makeshifts were temporary: she had gained a husband; that was the thing -- a husband with a lot of earning power in him for buying her frocks and hats when he should begin to get frightened a bit, and stick to his trade, and throw aside those stupid books for practical undertakings (Hardy 57).
Because Jude is a slave to his illusions, he traps himself in many unwanted situations, such as his becoming a stonemason instead of studying at Christminster, and marrying Arabella. He has romantically endowed Phillotson, the schoolmaster, with a successful career, and wants to emulate him, but when he finally makes his way to Christminster, he discovers Phillotson failed in his dream to graduate from the university. This foreshadows the failure of Jude's dreams too, because his has pinned so many of his hopes on his former schoolmaster.
The illusions continue as Jude blunders through his time in Christminster. He falls in love with his cousin Sue, even though he is still married to Arabella, even if she has deserted him. He and Sue find jobs with Phillotson, and Sue eventually marries him, even though she says she loves Jude. Their relationship becomes much more convoluted, and eventually Sue tells Phillotson she wants to live with Jude, and the schoolmaster allows her to go with him. However, even now, Jude cannot shake off his illusions. He expects this relationship to be happy, but Sue will not marry him, even when they are both free of their spouses, and his aunt tries to again warn him to give up his illusions about her, but he cannot. "Don't say anything against her, aunt! Don't, please!'" (Hardy 114). Meanwhile, his one illusion that he still hangs on to, attending the university, has been crushed. Professor after professor warns him he will not succeed there. "I don't care a damn,' he was saying, 'for any Provost, Warden, Principal, Fellow, or cursed Master of Arts in the University! What I know is that I'd lick 'em on their own ground if they'd give me a chance, and show 'em a few things they are not up to yet'" (Hardy 123). He decides to study theology instead, and take up the ministry, but that fails too. He is consistently drawn into Sue's path, and they end up living together and having children.
Part of the tragedy of Jude's life is his inability to make rational decisions because his life has been based on so many illusions. Eventually, his dependence on his illusions catches up with him. His child by Arabella comes to live with them, and kills Sue and Jude's own children then commits suicide. Sue sees it as a message about her living in sin with Jude, and returns to Phillotson, even though they were divorced. "They were sin-begotten. They were sacrificed to teach me how to live! -- their death was the first stage of my purification. That's why they have not died in vain!" (Hardy 384).
Arabella tricks Jude again into marriage, but this time, Jude is a broken man, and cannot support her. He dies soon after, the illusion of happiness completely gone from his life. In his last coherent move, he travels to see Sue even though he is ill, and effectively commits suicide. "I have seen her for the last time, and I've finished myself -- put an end to a feverish life which ought never to have been begun'" (Hardy 413). Therefore, the illusion has come full circle. Nothing Jude hoped for has materialized, and his life seems to have been all for nothing. His dreams and his hopes were all run over by his illusions, which meant nothing in the end. "Stupid fancies. I see, in a way, those spirits of the dead again, on this my last walk, that I saw when I first walked here!'" (Hardy 413).
In "Lost Illusions," just as Jude, Lucien has his illusions, but his life does not revolve around them, because eventually he becomes disillusioned when he is duped by his protectors M. And Mme. de Bargeton, and others who call themselves friends but really are only interested in themselves. At the beginning of the novel, Lucien is young and highly impressionable. "Just now these tendencies of ambition were held in check, partly by the fair illusions of youth, partly by the enthusiasm which led him to prefer the nobler methods, which every man in love with glory tries first of all" (Balzac and Saintsbury 27).
Lucien's illusions come with his introduction to Mme. De Bargeton, for she introduces him to high society, and he believes he, a provincial, can hold a place there. "For Lucien those three hours spent in her presence went by like a dream that we would fain have last forever" (Balzac and Saintsbury 51). Of course, when it comes right down to it, he cannot keep up appearances, and it does not last forever. He tries to keep up the illusion of being a worldly poet as long as possible, but his lack of funds finally catches up with him. He tries to help his best friend David with an invention, but both he and David's lack of funds drive him to despair, almost to suicide, until he meets the corrupt priest.
I believe in God, but I have a still greater belief in our Order, and our Order has no belief save in temporal power. In order to strengthen and consolidate the temporal power, our Order upholds the Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church, which is to say, the doctrines which dispose the world at large to obedience. We are the Templars of modern times; we have a doctrine of our own. Like the Templars, we have been dispersed, and for the same reasons; we were almost a match for the world. If you will enlist as a soldier, I will be your captain (Balzac and Saintsbury 320).
Gone is another illusion, that of the goodness and holiness of the Church. Lucien literally sells himself to release David from debtors' prison, and becomes the priest's "secretary," or his lover. He has plenty of money and prestige, but inside, he is still the impressionistic youth, and he is…