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Jude the Obscure

By Thomas Hardy (0)

The fate awaiting the protagonist of Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure reveals its author’s critique of Victorian morals. The young Jude Fawley dreams of enrolling at university, but is manipulated into marriage with the unscrupulous Arabella Donn. When she leaves him after two years, Jude moves to a university town to study on his own, while working as a stonemason. He meets his cousin Sue Bridehead, who marries Jude’s teacher Phillotson. The marriage is unsatisfying, and she eventually leaves him for Jude. After a time, the couple has two children, but their illegal union costs Jude employment, and the family becomes poor. When the eldest child recognizes and understands the situation, he kills his siblings, then commiting suicide to free his parents from poverty. Grieving, Sue returns to Phillotson, and the devastated Jude is again tricked into a union with Arabella, who leaves him on his deathbed to pursue her own amusements. Hardy’s meliorism is explored in this novel, suggesting the advantages of a society where education is available to all, divorce is free from stigma, and class is no barrier to happiness.

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