Literature / Jude the Obscure

A novel by English author Thomas Hardy published in 1895. This was his final novel.

Jude the Obscure tells the story of working-class man Jude Fawley, a dreamer with aspirations to become a scholar in the town of Christminster (modeled after Oxford). He learns the craft of stone masonry and has a poorly-chosen marriage as a teenager, which finally ends in separation. He moves to Christminister to pursue his dream, but is is ultimately rejected and is disillusioned from becoming a scholar. Jude meets and has an ongoing affair with his cousin Sue Bridehead, even after her marriage. He and his family face a never-ending series of hardships, tragedies and disappointments.

Some of the themes in the novel are the limits of class structure in Britain, ill-fated love and marriage, and adultery.

Filmed in 1996 by Michael Winterbottom as Jude starring Christopher Eccleston and Kate Winslet.

This Work Contains Examples Of:

  • Asexuality: Sue is apparently this; one of the tragedies is the love between a heterosexual man and an asexual woman.
  • Bowdlerise: the sex content has changed between editions, with one early critic calling the book 'Jude the Obscene'. Considering the amount of pregnancy real or at least plausible in the novel, taking it out entirely merely leaves the audience a little confused.
  • The Baby Trap: Arabella convinces Jude to marry her although she was not really pregnant.
  • Born Unlucky: It always gets worse for Jude. No matter how hard he strives, poor guy.
  • Bungled Suicide:
    • Both Jude and Sue fail spectacularly at committing suicide.
    • Their survival becomes bitterly ironic when their young children avert this trope.
  • Call to Agriculture: Subverted, as it turns out. Jude and Arabella raise a pig. In one of the novel's disturbing scenes, the butcher fails to show up and Jude has to kill the pig, which causes him great distress (and Arabella none at all, except that she would like it killed slower so the meat is less bloody).
  • Comedy of Remarriage: Couples made up and separated are joined together at the end again. Although there is nothing comedic in it.
  • Creepy Child: "Little Father Time" is a weird boy with very un-childlike and unsettling behaviour. He is treated nicely enough and with understanding, but it doesn't help and he stays really strange and creepy.
  • Downer Ending: Jude's children ended dead in a murder/suicide. Sue miscarried their baby. She also returned to her husband, utterly screwed up and beating herself up morally, convinced that she had been justly punished. Jude dies alone, having lost the love of his life, while his wife flirts with a doctor.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Jude drinks frequently, resulting in his famous scene, reciting the creed in Latin while intoxicated.
  • From Bad to Worse: Essentially the whole book.
  • Hysterical Woman: Sue. She gets worse as time goes on.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: At first, Phillotson helps Sue leave him for Jude, even though it means losing his job and social standing for abetting adultery. She does come back to him, but not to be happy.
  • Kissing Cousins: Jude and Sue are cousins, and furthermore their family has notoriously bad luck in marriages.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Sue keeps having children with Jude as a means of punishing herself, even though she is asexual.
  • May–December Romance
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Fawley sounds like "folly" and Jude is the patron saint of the impossible.
    • Bridehead is possibly a pun on maidenhead, which means virginity. Sue is asexual and disliked sex. Possibly a Darwinian message to say how the sensitive people are doomed never to survive and propagate descendants.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Jude's oldest son is known only as "Little Father Time".
  • Oxbridge: Christminster is a thinly veiled version of Oxford. He writes to Biblioll College, trying to study there, which sounds suspiciously like Balliol.
  • Pater Familicide: It's Jude's oldest son, not Jude himself, who kills himself and his siblings out of desperation, the family is already poor and there's another child on the way.
  • Poke the Poodle: After getting a snide rejection letter from Christminster, Jude is so depressed that he vandalizes the college by writing a Bible verse on the gates. In chalk.
  • Walking the Earth: Jude and Sue and their family cannot stay in one place for long, because when people realize they're not married, they're no longer welcome anywhere.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Jude refuses to step on earthworms, thinks birds deserve a share of the farmer's grain, and believes that a manual laborer who lacks a formal education, not to mention money, can get into Christminster if he asks nicely enough.

Alternative Title(s): Jude