Ashley Anne Fairbank: John Durbeyfield’s Facebook Status

Hardy’s passage from Tess of the D’Urberville:

“I’m thinking of sending round to all the old antiqueerians in this part of England,” he said, “asking them to subscribe to a fund to maintain me. I’m sure they’d see it as a romantical, artistical, and proper thing to do. They spend lots o’ money in keeping up old ruins, and finding the bones o’ things, and such like; and living remains must be more interesting to ‘em still, if they only knowed of me. Would that somebody would go round and tell ‘em what there is living among ‘em, and they thinking nothing of him! If Pa’son Tringham, who discovered me, had lived, he’d ha’ done it, I’m sure” (346).

John Durbeyfield’s Facebook post (remediation):

Dear Friends,

As you all should know by now, as I’ve updated my status several times about this remarkable topic, I am of the great D’Urberville family. So, I am encouraging my fellow respectable (and wealthy) friends to contribute to my GoFundMe account. I must continue to live comfortably in order to maintain the D’Urberville family name, and I am sure you see it as a romantical, artistical, and proper thing to do. I know you noble people already financially help sustain museums with their old ruins, bones, and artifacts, and I can assure you that I, the living Sir John D’Urberville, is more extraordinary than any of those dusty, lifeless things. I do not think you would be happy if you sat idly by while a relic like my fine self faded away without support from you honorable and upright people. Parson Tringham, may he rest in peace, would be contributing to my GoFundMe if he were still alive, I’m sure! So, don’t miss your chance!!

P.S. Although I encourage my fellow respectable and rich men to make generous contributions, I am not opposed to any of my other Facebook friends who desire to donate. You will not be disappointed!

www.gofundme.com/sirjohnd’urberville

 

Reflection:

As someone who interacts with Facebook more than almost any other form of social media, I knew that a Facebook post would be one of the most fun and creative mediums for me to play with. I also knew that I wanted to remediate a passage from Tess of the D’Urbervilles because it was my favorite novel we read this semester. However, if Tess were to live in 2016, I do not think it would be in her character to make any Facebook statuses regarding the sorrow and tragedy she faces, or to make any Facebook statuses at all. For Tess, I think the medium of the novel with a third person narrator fits well to tell her story. Therefore, I knew the passage I chose would have to be appropriate to translate into a public space. Once I arrived at this conclusion, I knew John Durbeyfield would absolutely be the most likely character to update his status, and in fact I think he would have abused his access to Facebook and wide audience if it had been around in the 19th Century. Not only is he an individual who likes to talk a lot and hear the sound of his own voice, but he also shares the “news” that he is of D’Urberville descent to as many people as he can; therefore, I think it is in line with his character to translate one of his dialog passages to a Facebook status.

Ultimately, I chose the passage near the end of the novel, soon before he dies, where he tells Tess and his family that he plans on asking other old English families to “fund” and “maintain” him, a ludicrous idea that demonstrates how unaware and delusional he is. However, had he lived and his family struggled financially, I imagine he would have put more effort into persuading people to support him rather than helping to provide a living for his family.

Thus, when writing the Facebook status, I took some liberty in translating his thought into action: although my status suggests that he proposes the idea to his Facebook friends, in the novel he never formally asks anyone. I think the medium of Facebook would more easily allow lazy John Durbeyfield to ask people to financially support him than would have been possible in the 19th Century. I think, and hope, that overall I maintain the integrity of his character, as I strongly believe he would have updated his status (several times) about this topic. Moreover, although it is unfortunate to the Durbeyfield family how unhelpful, lazy, and entitled he is, there is some tragic comedy that his character provides. I think the medium of Facebook, especially now with all the “emotions” available to react to comments, would be uncomfortable but funny to watch unfold.

Lastly, although I am not too familiar with GoFundMe, I imagine John Durbeyfield would have liked the idea and website. From the little I have seen of it in my own Facebook feed, it seems that people tend to use it to do productive and helpful things (such as buying a plane ticket to help restore houses somewhere after a natural disaster). Therefore, John Durbeyfield would have misused the purpose of GoFundMe, and again this inappropriate behavior would follow in step with his other inappropriate actions throughout the novel. Overall, not only was this one of the most fun assignments I have done at Georgetown, but also it helped shed light on how mediums, including some that are incredibly new to the world, lend limitations and freedom when translating a text. I wonder what future mediums will be invented that could even better capture the lazy, inappropriate, and uninformed character that is John Durbeyfield.