Friday, 6 April 2012

Giles Winterborne and Good Friday

Warning - Spoiler of two great stories

There's a scene towards the end of Hardy's Woodlanders where Grace, having run from her evil philandering husband, ends up hiding in the woodland hut of Giles Winterborne.

Giles is suffering from one of those unspecified diseases that tended to wipe out Victorians if they so much as got their feet wet. But because it would be improper - and a smudge on Grace's character were it ever to be discovered - he refuses to stay in the hut with her and instead stays outside, in a leaky shelter, with non-hilarious consequences.

Giles is one of those Hardy heroes I like. The smug, prissy, spoilt Angel Clare and the earnest, gormless Clym Yeobright are a couple that I don't. But I still want to slap Giles, because he's a fool and he's so obviously wrong. He could marry the natural, impulsive Marty South - she'd make a great wife. He'd never know social graces and refined conversation - so what? What did they ever achieve? But he loves Grace. She makes a fool of him, and it kills him.

I feel a bit like that as Jesus drags that cross down the Via Dolorosa. If you're God's Son - why did you want to make us? When at the beginning of Creation you defined the Logic of the Universe - as your Father breathed Life into it - with all that perfection and beauty why did you envisage this scruffy race polluting such a beautiful blue island in the void?

Maybe you've a billion beautiful, talented, peaceful races strung like the sands of the sea shore across the dark of infinity - maybe they don't need saving, maybe they do. But if you had all that choice - why would you fall in love with us? Even if we're alone in the universe - why would you do it? Why love us? Who would do something so foolish? Why not go off and build another race - a less foolish one, on a planet less blighted? A race that won't demand the life of its noblest, finest member but instead would bow down and worship without all that sacrifice?

Well, it is as it is. Like Giles, you've made your bed, Jesus, and you're going to have to lie in it. There's nothing more human than a senseless, heroic gesture. But then there's nothing more divine than knowing which one to make.

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