Jude the Obscure Study Guide

Jude the Obscure Study Guide

“Jude the Obscure” was published as a complete book 1895, being broken down into magazine series before that. It has brought its author, Thomas Hardy, both fame and critical persecution. Some of the copies of the book were even withdrawn from libraries. 

The novel is about Jude Fawley, who is a young bricklayer in a provincial town. He has a big and sincere wish – to become a scholar and attend a prestigious university, something like the Oxford of our times. When he was younger he managed to combine working at a bakery and teaching himself Greek and Latin. 

But his intentions to become a priest are intervened by a love story. He married a girl who has been fond of him for a very long time – Arabella, who soon after leaves him. Can you imagine that happening a hundred years ago? 

The protagonist soon discovers feelings for his cousin Sue. He makes the mistake of introducing her to his schoolteacher and the two get engaged. However, Sue experiences reciprocal feelings towards Jude and feels miserable in her marriage. Sue leaves her husband and starts living together with Jude, they have children. 

They face enormous pressure from the society but deal with it. Their calm and tranquil life is interrupted when Jude’s son from the first marriage murders his other children and his new wife Sue and then commits suicide. 

The characters of the book are very open minded and ahead of the thinking of their time. They doubt the limits imposed on them by the society: they break the sacredness of the marriage, step away from the sexual morality and get involved in the life that was far beyond acceptable in the 19th century. 

Their views on accessibility and function of education, appropriateness of religion and austerity of marriage are provoking, innovative and uncomforting. They simply don’t fit and that’s what makes readers relate to them – because we all have felt that way at some point in our life. 

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