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Jude the Obscure (Centaur Classics) [The 100 greatest novels of all time - #72]

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"His style touches sublimity." —T. S. Eliot "There is no other novelist alive with the breadth of sympathy, the knowledge or the power for the creation of Jude." —H. G. Wells Jude Fawley’s hopes of a university education are lost when he is trapped into marrying the earthy Arabella, who later abandons him. Moving to the town of Christminster where he finds work as a stonemas "His style touches sublimity." —T. S. Eliot "There is no other novelist alive with the breadth of sympathy, the knowledge or the power for the creation of Jude." —H. G. Wells Jude Fawley’s hopes of a university education are lost when he is trapped into marrying the earthy Arabella, who later abandons him. Moving to the town of Christminster where he finds work as a stonemason, Jude meets and falls in love with his cousin Sue Bridehead, a sensitive, freethinking ‘New Woman’. Refusing to marry merely for the sake of religious convention, Jude and Sue decide instead to live together, but they are shunned by society and poverty soon threatens to ruin them. "Jude the Obscure", Hardy’s last novel, caused a public furor when it was first published, with its fearless and challenging exploration of class and sexual relationships.


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"His style touches sublimity." —T. S. Eliot "There is no other novelist alive with the breadth of sympathy, the knowledge or the power for the creation of Jude." —H. G. Wells Jude Fawley’s hopes of a university education are lost when he is trapped into marrying the earthy Arabella, who later abandons him. Moving to the town of Christminster where he finds work as a stonemas "His style touches sublimity." —T. S. Eliot "There is no other novelist alive with the breadth of sympathy, the knowledge or the power for the creation of Jude." —H. G. Wells Jude Fawley’s hopes of a university education are lost when he is trapped into marrying the earthy Arabella, who later abandons him. Moving to the town of Christminster where he finds work as a stonemason, Jude meets and falls in love with his cousin Sue Bridehead, a sensitive, freethinking ‘New Woman’. Refusing to marry merely for the sake of religious convention, Jude and Sue decide instead to live together, but they are shunned by society and poverty soon threatens to ruin them. "Jude the Obscure", Hardy’s last novel, caused a public furor when it was first published, with its fearless and challenging exploration of class and sexual relationships.

30 review for Jude the Obscure (Centaur Classics) [The 100 greatest novels of all time - #72]

  1. 5 out of 5

    karen

    i have just discovered betterbooktitles.com, so i am including this, but it is a total spoiler, so be warned. (view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] jude the obscure is one of my favorite books of all time. and reading the biography of him now is making me very antsy to reread this. it used to be part of my "summer reruns" ritual; to reread all my favorites each and every summer. then i got old and realized that kind of thing was a luxury i would have to give up, or risk missing out on all kinds of b i have just discovered betterbooktitles.com, so i am including this, but it is a total spoiler, so be warned. (view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] jude the obscure is one of my favorite books of all time. and reading the biography of him now is making me very antsy to reread this. it used to be part of my "summer reruns" ritual; to reread all my favorites each and every summer. then i got old and realized that kind of thing was a luxury i would have to give up, or risk missing out on all kinds of books that are currently crowding my shelves and toppling over on my floor. jude the obscure was introduced to me at the tender age of 13. i was taking some stupid study skills class, and the teacher, always prone to leaving the topic and talking about her life on the streets of lean mean central falls and imparting life lessons/knife lessons to all of us was musing one day and said... "if you ever want to read the most depressing book of all time -read jude the obscure." well, i am a title -collector (to this day) and i squirrelled it away in my little notebook, and came across it at the more perfect jude-age of 15. man, she wasn't kidding. what an amazing piece of writing. poor jude and his ambitions, his poor choices in love (if a woman throws a pig's penis at you and you take it as a declaration of love, you are on the road to some pain, my friend)but it has everything - the hypocrisy of the church and the delicacy of woman's place in academia and the danger of breeding super-precocious children. it's hardy, so everything ends poorly for all involved, but it is done with such a stunning touch, you find yourself panting at its beauty. "somebody might have come along that way who would have asked him his trouble, and might have cheered him... but nobody did come, because nobody does." i mean, really. it just chills for me. and my knife skills are top-notch. come to my blog!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    If you like sunshine, unicorns, and lollipops, then you probably won't like this book. If it's raining and you're vaguely manic depressive or if you just want to sit around for a few hours and feel sorry for someone other than yourself - well, Jude's your man. I can't fault Hardy's talents at controlling the mood. Even before it became horrendously horrendous, there was a pall of doom that hung over everything that poor Jude touched.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    Thomas Hardy ended his brilliant career writing novels with this book, Jude the Obscure because of the adverse reaction in Victorian England , this was thought unseemly immoral not a decent product , you didn't parade such filth to the public but he did, almost fifty years too early yet liking poetry more , it was not a hard decision for him to stop back to his first love making exquisite poems.... In the tail end of the 19th century two intelligent but undisciplined rather immature first -cousi Thomas Hardy ended his brilliant career writing novels with this book, Jude the Obscure because of the adverse reaction in Victorian England , this was thought unseemly immoral not a decent product , you didn't parade such filth to the public but he did, almost fifty years too early yet liking poetry more , it was not a hard decision for him to stop back to his first love making exquisite poems.... In the tail end of the 19th century two intelligent but undisciplined rather immature first -cousins, meet and fall in love, Jude Fawley and pretty, independent Sue Bridehead Jude's great ambition is to better himself attend the university at Christminister, (Oxford) studying alone , friendless for ten long years Latin, Greek and ancient classical literature, in the small country village of impoverished Marygreen, the orphan living with an unsympathetic cold , great-aunt Drusilla the spinster, she warns him about the many bad marriages in the family, not caring but instead seeing the far distant glorious lights of the fabled city, the poor boy has the gift but lacks money or family connections, in a class conscious society he wouldn't be welcomed at school...Before encountering Sue, her mother dead and estranged from the father, Jude makes a tragic error in judgement marrying the scheming, coarse Arabella Donn, the daughter of a pig farmer she forces him to the altar by a lie, she was in trouble... sorry a mistake...he pursues a profession he hates being a stonemason, having learned earlier the skill as a boy still all his hopes, dreams, fantasies are crushed scattered to the wind his detested life in poverty will always be, for the would be scholar. Arabella exits, to the other side of the world Australia, they are not compatible no surprise, too many disagreements and Sue enters for a short time until Mr.Richard Phillotson Jude's old schoolmaster, mentor in Marygreen and only friend, gives Sue a job as a teacher in a nearby town, at the urging of Mr.Fawley she needed the job, people are not comfortably the cousins living together innocently they say, especially in the Christian city of Christminister...The school instructor twenty years Sue's senior asks her to marry him she agrees, even as her love for Jude grows, Miss Bridehead thinks it will be for the best into a respectable situation, live as a decent woman and not being a burden to Jude just one little problem arises, she loathes the kindly, thoughtful, unattractive gentleman something makes her skin crawl when he touches her and the feelings won't leave. Sue and Jude constantly meet, talk and kiss the passion is there but the complications are too . Every time Jude passes the university on the street, his sad eyes observe, the mind wonders the ache begins for what might have been, he can never forget...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    799. Jude The Obscure, Thomas Hardy Jude the Obscure, the last completed novel by Thomas Hardy, began as a magazine serial in December 1894 and was first published in book form in 1895. Its protagonist, Jude Fawley, is a working-class young man, a stonemason, who dreams of becoming a scholar. The other main character is his cousin, Sue Bridehead, who is also his central love interest. The novel is concerned in particular with issues of class, education, religion and marriage. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ر 799. Jude The Obscure, Thomas Hardy Jude the Obscure, the last completed novel by Thomas Hardy, began as a magazine serial in December 1894 and was first published in book form in 1895. Its protagonist, Jude Fawley, is a working-class young man, a stonemason, who dreams of becoming a scholar. The other main character is his cousin, Sue Bridehead, who is also his central love interest. The novel is concerned in particular with issues of class, education, religion and marriage. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نخست ماه آگوست سال 1984 میلادی جود گمنام - تامس هاردی (گل مریم / شقایق، فرهنگ نشر نو) ادبیات دو مترجم کتاب را از انگلیسی به فارسی برگردانیده اند، هر دو بسیار محترم، نخست روانشاد ابراهیم یونسی (سیروان آزاد)، نشر نو در 400 ص، چاپ نخست سال 1362، و سپس فریدون زاهدی، نشر شقایق در 600 ص، چاپ نخست سال 1372 هجری خورشیدی از کتاب ص 7، برگردان: ابراهیم یونسی رویه ­ی گندمگون مزرعه، دورتادور، به سوی آسمان تن می­کشید، و در تماس با آن، کم­ کم، در میان مهی که حاشیه را محو می­کرد، و بر تنهایی و خلوت محل می­افزود، گم می­شد. تنها چیزی که در این صحنه­ ی یکنواخت و یک شکل به چشم می­خورد، تایه ­های سال گذشته بود که در میان مزرعه سر برافراشته بودند، و کلاغانی که با نزدیک شدن او پر می­کشیدند، و نیز باریکه راه منشعب از زمین­های آیش، که از میان مزرعه می­گذشت - و او از طریق همین باریکه راه آمده بود. این باریکه راه را اکنون مردمی زیر پا می­گذاشتند، که او به زحمت می­شناخت، هرچند روزگاری، بسیاری از خویشان متوفای او بر آن، راه سپرده بودند، زیر لب گفت: «چه جای زشتی است اینجا»؛ شیارهای مازو کشیده ­ی مزرعه، همچون میله ­های راهراه مخمل کبریتی تن می­کشیدند، و قیافه­ ای سودمند اما ناخوشایند به دشت می­دادند؛ زیر و بم و درجات تغییر حالات، آنرا از بین برده و بجز عوارض چند ماه گذشته، آنرا از کلیه ­ی آثار تاریخ عاری ساخته بودند، هرچند هر کلوخه و سنگی از آن، رشته­ ای از خاطرات و یادها را در خود نگه می­داشت: طنین آوازهایی از روزهای برداشت خرمن، از سخنان گفته شده، از کارهای سخت، هر وجب از زمین صحنه ­ی آغاز یا انجام، توش و تلاش، شادی و شادمانی، بازی­های خشن، ستیز و پرخاش، و خستگی و ملال بود. در هر مترمربعی از این زمین، گروهی از خوشه­ چینان چمبک زده بودند؛ وصلت­های مبتنی بر عشق و دلدادگی که جمعیت روستای مجاور را تشکیل می­داد، در همین جا، به هنگام درو، و بازبردن محصول به خانه، آغاز شده بود. در زیر پرچینی که این مزرعه را از کشتزار دوردست جدا می­کرد، دخترانی خود را تسلیم دلدادگانی کرده بودند که در برداشت محصول سال بعد حتی سر برنمی­گرداندند تا به لطف، نگاهی بر ایشان بیفکنند، و در همین کشتزار دراز عمر، ای بسا مردهایی که عاشقانه به زنانی وعده وصل داده بودند، که در فصل بذرپاشی بعد - آنگاه که به آن وعده ­ها در کلیسای مجاور عمل کرده بودند - از صدایشان بر خود می­لرزیدند؛ اما نه «جود» و نه کلاغ­هایی که در پیرامونش بودند به این چیزها توجهی نداشتند. اینجا برای آنها جایی تنها و دل آزار بود برای یکی محل کار، و برای کلاغان جای تغذیه. پایان نقل از متن. ا. شربیانی

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lizzy

    “But his dreams were as gigantic as his surroundings were small.” I realize wistfully that I cannot revisit all books I read and loved a long time ago. Oh, how I regret not having an endless existence to go back and revisit my most precious memories. However, I have so many new celebrated novels yet to explore. I read Jude the Obscure when I was in college, I was so young but used to read whenever I did not have class or did not have to study. If I remember correctly, I discovered it in an En “But his dreams were as gigantic as his surroundings were small.” I realize wistfully that I cannot revisit all books I read and loved a long time ago. Oh, how I regret not having an endless existence to go back and revisit my most precious memories. However, I have so many new celebrated novels yet to explore. I read Jude the Obscure when I was in college, I was so young but used to read whenever I did not have class or did not have to study. If I remember correctly, I discovered it in an English Literature class. I was exposed to marvels through it that are never far away. Yes, I loved Thomas Hardy’s appealing protagonist. I liked that he wanted to advance himself, but no effort would be enough for him to rise above his social status in those times. He is continually knocked out in his aspirations. His love life is no more successful, as he seems to choose unsuitable women. “People go on marrying because they can't resist natural forces, although many of them may know perfectly well that they are possibly buying a month's pleasure with a life's discomfort.” Thus, Jude represents almost every men of his time in England or maybe many other places. From the title we understand that he is an obscure man for his choices make no sense. If I remember correctly, all along we are reminded of what could have been. Nothing could be more melancholic. Despite my lack of maturity at the time I read it and the gloom that involves the novel, a feeling of amazement still rises in me when I think of it. Thomas Hardy must have been a master to inspire me so at my youth. “Somebody might have come along that way who would have asked him his trouble, and might have cheered him by saying that his notions were further advanced than those of his grammarian. But nobody did come, because nobody does; and under the crushing recognition of his gigantic error Jude continued to wish himself out of the world.” I might one day yet decide to go back to this great book. ___ Note: quotes from Goodreads.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    Finallly read it! This one was so often interrupted and left for dead... & I guess it was better to keep straining the eyes and pausing after glorious upon glorious sentence for better understanding. Yeah- he's one of those authors often times associated with Greatness, & with good reason. "The Return of the Native" is another interrupted and altogether discarded novel which had incredible prospects. This one rollercoasters from Dickensian beginnings (Jude the pauper and dreamer) to omnipresent tr Finallly read it! This one was so often interrupted and left for dead... & I guess it was better to keep straining the eyes and pausing after glorious upon glorious sentence for better understanding. Yeah- he's one of those authors often times associated with Greatness, & with good reason. "The Return of the Native" is another interrupted and altogether discarded novel which had incredible prospects. This one rollercoasters from Dickensian beginnings (Jude the pauper and dreamer) to omnipresent tragedy (yes--Shakespearean & modern, too). Jude is an Everyman cursed by an even larger figure: the pre-feminist minx. In the case of Jude, being associated to a woman in a then-bizarre two-in-one-ness is The Fatal Flaw. & not just to any woman: Sue Bridehead, a Bovary-ian counterpart, is ambivalent and mean and unromantic. Of course she will singlehandedly betray Jude's affections, break his heart. She is a sad drama queen, & every woman in this novel is an antagonist! There is a downfall to this modest Everyman, sure, and though it is propagated by his unfortunate mistake of falling for a BITCH, there are outside influences which too contribute to the misery that pervades. Jude is an idiot, of course, and the moral is clear, though other themes insert themselves with automatic ambition, themes such as Marriage (this book should be mandatory for anyone studying the rituals of the [dreadful:] lawful union), Christianity, Urban Sprawl, Social Decay, Shattered Dreams, Lowly Expectations. It is a difficult read, and I am happy to put it behind me. It is a sure fire classic, as grand a production as any writer can produce. I will read it again when I have more time & patience... I predict within the next ten-15 years.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    3.5/5 To read of Tess or Jude? I was completely undecided, so took the action of a coin toss to decide for me. Problem, had not a penny in my pocket, so whisked out a visa card and launched it across the room. Frontside up - Tess Backside up - Jude Jude it was then... (Don't worry Tess, you will have your day!) He might have won my card toss but there is no winning in Hardy's final novel. A novel of such bleak and devastating intensity it's little wonder he finally called it a day. Stirring up a feel 3.5/5 To read of Tess or Jude? I was completely undecided, so took the action of a coin toss to decide for me. Problem, had not a penny in my pocket, so whisked out a visa card and launched it across the room. Frontside up - Tess Backside up - Jude Jude it was then... (Don't worry Tess, you will have your day!) He might have won my card toss but there is no winning in Hardy's final novel. A novel of such bleak and devastating intensity it's little wonder he finally called it a day. Stirring up a feeling of failure and disappointment in life, the protagonist Jude Fawley is a scholarly chap who aspires from an early age to study in the university town of Christminster, situated in Hardy's fictional county of Wessex, become a clergyman, and distinguish himself in the world. But two women would enter his life, Arabella and cousin Sue, to ruin everything..... His tragic story moved me in such a way that was almost unbearable, too painful to comprehend, the light at the end of the tunnel didn't even exist. Jude is brought up by his old Aunt and is devoted to a local schoolmaster, Phillotson, and dreams of following in his footsteps after he moves to the Oxford-like town of Christminster. He builds a fantasy life for himself, and believes this is based on his entire destiny, well, that is until the selfish Arabella Donn enters the frame, followed by unhappy Sue Bridehead. What happens next?, we have murder-suicide, failed marriage, a miscarriage, deathly illness and loss of faith, could a novel be more depressing.Hardy skewers the cruelty and hypocrisy of the way society works. He shows how, even in moments when men attempt to do something about the injustice of it all, they end up merely papering over the problem so that they don’t have to see what’s amiss. I have to say it's very well written, and clearly see why Hardy is regarded so highly, you take all three central characters to heart, it's impossible not to, and his portrayal of the villages and countryside evokes such feelings within, however, I am unconvinced that Hardy’s critiques of Christianity and marriage are altogether just and reasonable, but do recognize the truth for love in the hearts of Sue and Jude, through their anguish and hopelessness, their anxiety and grief. Of the other earthy characters in it, dare I say they actually made me laugh at times, but generally any cheerfulness is on a very small level to say the least. As for Hardy’s career as a novelist, it’s a shame that he ended it so soon, he here proves himself to be one of the great creators of complex characters with emotionally devastating problems, grabbing the readers attention in a very short period of time, I didn't think it was the masterpiece some might see it as, but did leave a very strong impression on me....I even felt sorry for the Pig.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dolors

    “God had created woman for the sole purpose of tempting and testing man. One must not approach her without defensive precautions and fear of possible snares. She was, indeed, just like a snare, with her lips open and her arms stretched out to man.” Guy de Maupassant, Clair de Lune. I wonder who the real tragic protagonist in Hardy’s tale of doomed love and transcendental disillusion is. What seems evident according to the incriminating behavior of the female characters in the story is that wome “God had created woman for the sole purpose of tempting and testing man. One must not approach her without defensive precautions and fear of possible snares. She was, indeed, just like a snare, with her lips open and her arms stretched out to man.” Guy de Maupassant, Clair de Lune. I wonder who the real tragic protagonist in Hardy’s tale of doomed love and transcendental disillusion is. What seems evident according to the incriminating behavior of the female characters in the story is that women are not to be trusted for their either manipulative or gullible nature. Many might easily consider Sue Bridehead, Jude’s alma mater, the major villain of this wretched story. A perverse seductress full of inessential stratagems and provocative pouts, whose tribulations ruin the lives of two good-hearted men, tantalizing them with sharp mind and incorporeal beauty. One can throw stones at this treacherous creature based on false social embodiments of love and despise her impetuous rebellion or choose to dig deeper and endure acute spiritual turmoil in an inner battle of wills between abstract ideology and constrained reality. One can focus on Sue’s ellusive actions and self-centered individualism or see her as a token of the transition between the new and the old mental frame of the semi-liberated female in Victorian society, whose entanglement in centuries of sexual enslavement and intellectual repression brings her to continuous inner conflict. One can choose to condemn those who attempt to struggle against centuries of subjection or be forgiving for the inconsistencies that define humankind and its perplexing contradictions. Because when human nature is tamed by oppressive convention or shackled by fundamentalist morality, abrupt and almost unpardonable reactions can unchain from the most emancipated and spiritually untainted individuals. “There is something external to us which says, “You shan’t” First it said, “You shan’t learn!”, Then it said, “You shan’t labour!”, Now it says, “You shan’t love!” (357) In the end, Sue’s gravest betrayal is to turn against her own convictions when her willpower fails under the pressure of social stigma and the corrosive guilt that comes from horrific calamity. Call me biased but I choose not to condemn Sue Bridehead. I choose to embrace her obscure mystery and all the ambiguity of her complex psyche instead. If Sue evokes the torn nature of humanity trapped between turbulently opposed tides, Jude’s genteel and innocent morality arises as the soothing balm for the restless soul in the still pool of rationality. Jude’s rootless origins are as inert as Marygreen, the place where he grows up as part of the emerging tradesmen class. His uncommon sensitiveness and his sense of ideal justice nurture this dreamy laborer’s aspirations to attend College in Christminster, the alluring cultural town next to Marygreen, to become a learned scholar and a man of wisdom. But the the law of nature can’t be fooled indefinitely and lofty ideals need to be confronted with animal instinct when the allure of the flesh surpasses the call of the mind. Arabella, the merciless huntress and the archetype of Victorian female in search of economic security through marriage, lures Jude into a permanent contract based “on a temporary feeling which has no necessary connection with affinities” and a marital life of shared misery leads the couple to walk their separate ways. Free from his conjugal ties, Jude starts treading the path of his dreams and moves to Christminster, where he finds work as a stonemason refurbishing the phantasmagorical walls of the same elitist Colleges that turn him down because of his humble origins. When the stagnant medievalism of Christminster’s cultural hollowness becomes evident, Jude finds in ethereal Sue the perfect substitute for his idealistic aspirations, clinging blindly to a body-and-mind consuming passion that can’t be fully reciprocated by a woman who identifies physical sexuality with submission to social convention. “We ought to have lived in mental communion, and no more”. (372) Who commits the greater sin? The sightless or the guileless? The one who clings to ghostly reflection of the idealized mirage or the one who fumbles with faltering candlelight amidst the engulfing darkness of moral hypocrisy? The devotedly religious or the unredeemed pagan? The ethical collectivist or the self-destructive individualist? The law of men might seem crueler than the law of nature but Hardy’s equally haunting and lyrical prose oozing with symbolic realism shows otherwise. Nature is as astonishing a miracle as it is an inescapable curse. Two pure doves are liberated only to be hunted down again to have their hearts ripped out to produce a fake love potion by a perfidious quack, a rabbit caught in a gin bellows in agony bleeding to a slow and agonizing death, a compassionate man dies alone with a feeble blessing on his cracked lips, a heedless woman punishes herself masochistically with a long lasting self-debasement and spiritual corruption. Only the pig is spared an excruciating suffering with a fast kill in the hands of clement Jude, whose fate won’t grant him the same luxury. Nature is the bleak mirror of doomed existence and certain obliteration. A mirror that Hardy turns around to us proving we are all characters of his dire novel and that the world is a too much obscure place for those visionaries whose ephemeral light glows ahead of their time, regardless of hollow social constraints and racking tragedy. The rawness of nature will eventually find all the characters in this novel called life and their only choice will be whether to face her with bitter damnation or with a forgiving blessing on their lips. I choose not to condemn. I choose to embrace. I choose to absolve. I choose to be merciful. What will your choice be? “But no one came. Because no one ever does.”(45)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)

    A few days ago I finished Thomas Hardy's last novel, Jude the Obscure. I was completely overwhelmed and truly needed a few days to reflect upon the experience and collect my thoughts before attempting a review. Bear in mind too, that this is the first time that I have read Jude, and I sincerely believe that this novel may require a lifetime of reading and study in order to fully tease out and understand the import of Hardy's message. First, a little background about the novel. This novel took Har A few days ago I finished Thomas Hardy's last novel, Jude the Obscure. I was completely overwhelmed and truly needed a few days to reflect upon the experience and collect my thoughts before attempting a review. Bear in mind too, that this is the first time that I have read Jude, and I sincerely believe that this novel may require a lifetime of reading and study in order to fully tease out and understand the import of Hardy's message. First, a little background about the novel. This novel took Hardy sometime to write. He started with an outline in 1890, and did not complete the book until 1894. It was first published serially in Harper's New Monthly Magazine from December 1894 to November 1895, and then it was published in book form. Hardy took a lot of heat for the novel from reviewers and critics, other authors, as well as the general public. It developed a reputation as Jude the Obscene. The relentlessness and vitriol of the negative criticism caused Hardy to forsake ever writing another novel of fiction; and he spent the remaining thirty some odd years of his life concentrating on his poetry. I also want to include, at this point, a strong 'Spoiler Warning.' In crafting this review, and discussing Hardy's authorial intent, I am finding it quite impossible not to discuss some relatively important plot points and elements. Therefore, continue reading at your own peril. All I can observe is that regardless of what I can say, or what you may have heard about this novel, it is a monumentally huge novel that simply must be read by any and all students of great literature. Okay, consider yourself forewarned. In some respects, Jude the Obscure can be looked upon as the coming-of-age story of Jude Fawley. Others have postulated that it is also an anti-bildungsroman as it documents, as we shall see, the slow and torturous destruction of Jude and his ideals. Interestingly, this is the only Hardy novel, that I am aware of, that starts with the protagonist as a child and follows him through his life. In Jude the Obscure, Hardy addresses the prevailing Victorian attitudes associated with social class and standing, educational opportunities, religion, the institution of marriage, and the influence of Darwinism on modern thought. Throughout the novel, Jude, Sue Bridehead, and Arabella Donn are used by Hardy to explore and develop the all-encompassing portrait; and to some degree, indictment; of the society and time that Jude and Hardy reside in. It seems that the novel sets up an examination of the contrasts between the idealistic romanticism of the second generation poets, John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley (Hardy truly admired Shelley!), and the more modern cultural movement of social Darwinism. First and foremost, this is a novel of ideas and ideals. Jude is a sensitive young fellow, always concerned with the lot of the animals and people around him. As a child he is even dismayed at seeing trees cut down, and can't bring himself to scare away the 'rooks' (crows) that are eating the seed from a newly planted field that he's been paid to protect. Later, as an adult he is compelled to leave his bed late at night and find the rabbit, screaming with pain, that has been caught in a trap and dispatch it as an act of mercy. These are some of the first signs of Jude-the-romantic, and Jude-the-dreamer. The ideals he has formed are something really quite different from that of the world around him, and this can't bode well for him. The first third of the novel focuses on Jude's desire to become an educated man and become admitted to the great colleges of 'Christminster' (loosely modeled on Oxford) in Hardy's 'Wessex' countryside. Jude, like Hardy, is an autodidact and teaches himself Greek and Latin, and views Christminster as the "city of lights" and "where the tree of knowledge grows." Jude's romantic visions and ideals suffer a terrible blow when he is denied admittance to the colleges and is advised that "remaining in your own sphere and sticking to your trade..." is his best course of action. Idealism aside, Jude now begins to understand that his social class and standing will continue to strongly influence his future. Issues associated with Love and Marriage also dominate much of the novel's landscape, and can be quite painful to read and consider. Early on, Jude is essentially trapped into a truly disastrous marriage with the attractive, but coarse young woman, Arabella Donn, the daughter of a pig-farmer. Trust me, she can slaughter the animals that Jude cannot. Arabella's 'unique' method of introducing herself to Jude is to throw a bloody pig's penis at him as he walks by while she is cleaning and sorting the offal of a slaughtered hog! Simply put, Arabella is the 'Delilah' to Jude's 'Samson.' Jude's young cousin, Sue Bridehead, on the other hand, is at times, one of the most erudite and intellectual women of the fiction of the late-Victorian. Ethereal and fairy-like, Sue is an idealist too, but her idealism tends towards a more modern view; even though some its roots reflect that of the second generation Romantics too. For example, Sue quotes to Jude, several lines from Shelley's great poem, Epipsychidion (Three Sermons on Free Love). At first blush, it seems easy to assume that Sue endorses the Shelleyan view of 'Free Love' and not binding oneself contractually and exclusively to only one other. While Shelley meant this from the perspective of sexual gratification, Sue has developed her own brand of romantic idealism that leads her to believe that it is only the iron-clad contract (marriage) that dooms the relationship. I had to spend some time thinking about Sue and her beliefs, but I have come to the preliminary conclusion that neither she, nor Hardy, are anti-marriage, but that it is the nature of the contract of marriage in the Victorian age (i.e., with all of its trappings of submission, subjugation, and so forth) that doom its likelihood of long-term success in her view. In fact, in support of this notion, Hardy made a notebook entry in 1889, in which he writes, "Love lives on propinquity, but dies of contact." It seems that Hardy's development of the character of Sue Bridehead and the novel's storyline may reflect a portion of his own troubled relationship with his wife Emma and her increasing religious beliefs through the years of their own marriage. Also, it may well be that Sue's character reflects a bit of Hardy's cousin, Tryphena Sparks, a woman that he is rumored to have had an affair with in 1868, and who later died in 1890. Hardy, in the Preface to the 1895 edition of Jude, stated that the novel was partly inspired "by the death of a woman" in 1890. Even though Sue Bridehead bears children with Jude, sexual relations and intimacy remains a very difficult proposition for her. For example, when married to her first husband, Richard Phillotson, she is startled awake by him entering her bedroom absentmindedly (they slept in separate rooms), and she leaps from a second story window into the night rather than sleep with him! Again, much of the time she is with Jude, they also sleep in separate bedrooms, which has the effect of keeping Jude's passions for her quite 'hot'. This is not, however, the romantic ideal of the loving wife and life-mate that Jude has envisioned for his dear Sue though. It is also not the picture of romantic idealism for Sue either, as she is truly looking for a partner through which she can fully experience Love's spiritual and intellectual bonds, and not just the contractual or the sexual. Toward the end of the novel there occurs such a shocking event that finally and irrevocably alters the lives of Jude and Sue, and largely severs their tenuous emotional and spiritual bonds to one another. The romantic ideals of both are smashed hopelessly and simply cannot be reassembled. Modernization has come and displaced the old world romanticism of Jude Fawley and Thomas Hardy. Jude-the-Dreamer and Jude-the-Idealist have no place in this new order, because to transcend to his ideals means that he must die as Keats and Shelley so eloquently discovered. Unfortunately for Jude, even Arabella is present to witness his final suffering and agony. Jude's story has become, in a very real sense Hardy's modern retelling of the 'Book of Job.' [Note the word play too -- the "J" from 'Jude' and the "Ob" from 'Obscure':] As I said above, I have a sense that I have probably only just scratched the surface of this titanic novel, and that there is much, much more to glean. It is full of allusion and metaphor, and rife with biblical references and nods to Hardy's literary ancestors, Milton, Wordsworth, and Shelley. Before I tackle Jude again, or re-read any of his other novels for that matter, I want to first read Claire Tomalin's recent biography, Thomas Hardy (2006); Rosemarie Morgan's Women and Sexuality in the Novels of Thomas Hardy (1988); and also delve into Thomas Hardy: The Complete Poems (1981), edited by James Gibson. Read this novel! When you are through, let me know; for I'd love to discuss it with you and see what you think too. Five out of five stars for me.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    Read this if you're looking for that final push towards suicide.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jr Bacdayan

    This is a review shrouded in misery and gloom, a meditation on life’s sadness and bleakness. Let those who read this derive their little satisfaction from the beauty that we sometimes discern springing from the melancholy, otherwise one should not partake this endeavor at all. Happy Halloween? Sometimes in the morning, I wake up and ask myself “why carry on?” Sometimes you’re filled with this immense pressure and wish to just stay lying in bed forever. Sometimes people tell themselves that they’ This is a review shrouded in misery and gloom, a meditation on life’s sadness and bleakness. Let those who read this derive their little satisfaction from the beauty that we sometimes discern springing from the melancholy, otherwise one should not partake this endeavor at all. Happy Halloween? Sometimes in the morning, I wake up and ask myself “why carry on?” Sometimes you’re filled with this immense pressure and wish to just stay lying in bed forever. Sometimes people tell themselves that they’re tired of everything. Sometimes we just give up. Jude the Obscure is a book for those some. Thomas Hardy’s final masterpiece is a beautiful and tragic tale of what reality is and what it means to love and to dream. Our hero or victim, whichever light you choose to see him, Jude, finds misfortune in Hardy’s Wessex due to a love that does not adhere to society, and a dream that is crushed by it. Jude is a dreamer, an orphan, and a pauper, the worst combination in a man. It is as if, from the very beginning, his life was meant for sadness. He does suffer, and he endures much. “Somebody might have come along that way who would have asked him his trouble, and might have cheered him by saying that his notions were further advanced than those of his grammarian. But nobody did come, because nobody does; and under the crushing recognition of his gigantic error Jude continued to wish himself out of the world.” It is irresponsible to talk about Jude and ignore one of its central themes, marriage and divorce. “People go on marrying because they can't resist natural forces, although many of them may know perfectly well that they are possibly buying a month's pleasure with a life's discomfort.” Personally, I have always taken a pro-choice stance in this matter. Coming from a Christian country where divorce is not legalized, I am aware that people refer to the option of divorce as a smear to the sanctity of marriage. However, I’m inclined to believe that people are not all Christians and that whatever people choose to practice and believe should be respected. Let love shared be through and torn upon the whims of the two involved and no one else. Jude and Sue, visionaries ahead of their generation, were meant to suffer for a belief that reflected the encroachment of the modern, developing world on the traditions of rural England. Like Galileo, Copernicus, and Newton before them harbingers of change are always burdened with the wrath of the world. They are sacrificial lambs to mark the dawn of a better era, doomed pigs slowly bled to death at the cruel hands of the unmerciful world. “But his dreams were as gigantic as his surroundings were small.” Jude’s unrealized dream of going to the university and being a scholar or vicar through the great halls of the Christminster colleges reflects Hardy’s critique of the institutions of higher learning and his compassion for rural England’s underprivileged. A view inspired by real life events in Hardy's life that reflects this world’s defectiveness. Let me now talk about the relationship between Sue, Jude and Phillotson. I have always discerned that there is much allegory in Thomas Hardy’s writing and here I see one as well. A lot of readers do not understand why Sue, one of literature’s greatest female figures, one of such intellect would be able to abandon Jude and succumb to society’s creed and return to Phillotson. I see it as thus, Sue is Hardy’s representation of the intellectuals. She is smart, young, beautiful, unaffected by creed. Sue must choose between Jude and Phillotson. This represents an intellectual’s choice between dreams and reality. Jude represents the intellectual’s noble dreams. A man who dreams of learning, of mastery, of changing the world, of sacrificing one’s self for the good of all. While Phillotson represents reality, he who has given up on his dreams and has settled himself into a conceded position. Sue at first chooses Jude, for like young scholars, we all in our youth pursue noble ambitions and dreams of grandeur. But social order affects and time flies, people are forced to turn to reality, and thus Sue leaves Jude for Phillotson no matter how she detests it. In the end, we all leave our dreams and settle into this reality we face. “I am in a chaos of principles—groping in the dark—acting by instinct and not after example. When I came here first, I had a neat stock of fixed opinions, but they dropped away one by one; and the further I get the less sure I am. I doubt if I have anything more for my present rule of life than following inclinations which do me and nobody else any harm, and actually give pleasure to those I love best. There, gentlemen, since you wanted to know how I was getting on, I have told you. Much good may it do you! I cannot explain further here. I perceive there is something wrong somewhere in our social formulas: what it is can only be discovered by men or women with greater insight than mine--if, indeed, they ever discover it-- at least in our time. 'For who knoweth what is good for man in this life?--and who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?” Somehow I find myself agreeing to this particular nugget from the novel. As I age, I realize that I believe less and less in worldviews and ideas which when I was younger, I was quite passionate about. Now I would not bother much with noble things like religion, social democracy, world peace, nationalism, and even justice. Do not get me wrong, I admire these social constructs but I do not consider them as a something I can devote my life to. I am of their cause, but now I am a pragmatic. I am a selfish cynic with nothing but my own satisfaction in mind. Let the innocent devote their lives to their grand causes, let me not suffer. For my field of vision is getting narrower as time passes and darkness consumes. For like Sue, I have abandoned Jude and have commingled with Phillotson. “Jude continued his walk homeward alone, pondering so deeply that he forgot to feel timid. He suddenly grew older. It had been the yearning of his heart to find something to anchor on, to cling to—for some place which he could call admirable. Should he find that place in this city if he could get there? Would it be a spot in which, without fear of farmers, or hindrance, or ridicule, he could watch and wait, and set himself to some mighty undertaking like the men of old of whom he had heard? As the halo had been to his eyes when gazing at it a quarter of an hour earlier, so was the spot mentally to him as he pursued his dark way.” “As you got older, and felt yourself to be at the center of your time, and not at a point in its circumference, as you had felt when you were little, you were seized with a sort of shuddering, he perceived. All around you there seemed to be something glaring, garish, rattling, and the noises and glares hit upon the little cell called your life, and shook it, and warped it.” In the end we all stop dreaming and we face this reality. But let us not give up no matter how dreary things may seem. For every failure is a victory against hopelessness, every slip-up a success against utter defeat, every mistake a light unto the inevitable darkness, and every fall a cry of rebellion against this life that only brings disappointments saying “you will not tear me down, not yet.” We try, and we try again for it is the only thing we can do. For to hope is human, and to suffer more so. And though in the end we are all defeated by ‘that final dreamless sleep’ called death, we can at least cling to those little triumphs of fortitude along the way.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    My uncle called me from France because he'd heard third-hand that I was about to read Jude the Obscure and he felt he needed to warn me away from it. I was going through a divorce; he felt that I was too fragile for Jude. He was trying to save me, like warning your friend who just got out of traction against dirtbiking down the Matterhorn. This is the bleakest book from the bleakest author, a serious contender for Bleakest Book Ever Written, a book so dire that almost everyone hated it when it c My uncle called me from France because he'd heard third-hand that I was about to read Jude the Obscure and he felt he needed to warn me away from it. I was going through a divorce; he felt that I was too fragile for Jude. He was trying to save me, like warning your friend who just got out of traction against dirtbiking down the Matterhorn. This is the bleakest book from the bleakest author, a serious contender for Bleakest Book Ever Written, a book so dire that almost everyone hated it when it came out, not just hated it but were furious at Thomas Hardy for producing it; their response was so vitriolic that he never wrote a novel again. Hardy in order of bleakness Less bleak Return of the Native Far From the Madding Crowd Mayor of Casterbridge Tess of the D'Urbervilles Jude the Obscure Most bleak I mean, it turns out that one of the messages of the book is that one shouldn't stay in a marriage that's not the right marriage, so from a certain perspective, what's the problem, right? One of the other messages is "But society will beat you down no matter what you do, and then everyone dies alone and miserable," so I guess there's that. Hardy was a free thinker, a realist and a radical. Like Dickens, he was concerned with the lives of the poor - rural poor, mostly, as opposed to Dickens' London poor. He was pro-women's rights. He was some weird homebrewed species of agnostic. Sue Bridehead is a fascinating, complicated character: skeptical, rebellious, self-destructive. (view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] Hardy has this flair for vivid scenes. At one point two characters break up, and the whole thing is carried out via notes passed by schoolboys between classrooms. It's fantastic. He's melodramatic and overwrought and super entertaining, even at his most depressive, which, again, is right here in this book. It's either this or King Lear for Bleakest Book Ever. I don't know what my uncle was so worried about, I thought it was great.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    “I can't bear that they, and everybody, should think people wicked because they may have chosen to live their own way!” This is my third reread in recent weeks of one of the four central Thomas Hardy novels; the first two were Tess and Far from the Madding Crowd, and I will also reread Return of the Native and (maybe) The Mayor of Casterbridge. Each of them feature strong, independent and passionate women who are flawed, but are seriously interesting in their challenging of Victorian mores. All o “I can't bear that they, and everybody, should think people wicked because they may have chosen to live their own way!” This is my third reread in recent weeks of one of the four central Thomas Hardy novels; the first two were Tess and Far from the Madding Crowd, and I will also reread Return of the Native and (maybe) The Mayor of Casterbridge. Each of them feature strong, independent and passionate women who are flawed, but are seriously interesting in their challenging of Victorian mores. All of the novels are beautifully written, deserving of being named classics, and are (in some sense) all romantic tragedies, but this one, Jude, Hardy’s last novel, published in 1895 and like the others castigated for being obscene and immoral, is probably the most miserable of the three: “Somebody might have come along that way who would have asked him his trouble, and might have cheered him by saying that his notions were further advanced than those of his grammarian. But nobody did come, because nobody does; and under the crushing recognition of his gigantic error Jude continued to wish himself out of the world.” Boom! Jude Fawley is a working-class young man, a stonemason, who dreams of becoming a scholar, is largely self-taught, and is denied admission to a school very similar to Oxford (Hardy was himself rejected by Oxford). The other main character is Jude’s cousin, Sue Bridehead, who is also his central love interest. The novel mainly addresses themes of class, education, religion, morality and marriage: “People go on marrying because they can't resist natural forces, although many of them may know perfectly well that they are possibly buying a month's pleasure with a life's discomfort.” Jude early on marries Arabella, who leaves him; he introduces friend Sue to his (loveless) teacher and (for some unknown and completely baffling reason) she marries him (anyone who reads or writes romances knows: You don't marry dull; you may marry hot and rich and stupid and come to regret that, too, but marrying dull has its own punishment), though she truly loves the (legally married) Jude. They do live together for a time and have children together, but society condemns them, and Sue in particular, once the free, rebellious spirit, turns conservative and religious and actually, dutifully goes back to her unlovable husband (like Sue, Hardy's first wife went from being free-spirited to becoming obsessively religious as she got older). Both Sue and Jude are complex characters. I “liked” Tess and Bathsheba better, but Sue is a more complicated woman. Here she is outlining the development of her feelings for Jude: “At first I did not love you Jude; that I own. When I first knew you I merely wanted you to love me. I did not exactly flirt with you, but that inborn craving which undermines some women's morals almost more than unbridled passion--the craving to attract and captivate, regardless of the injury it may do to the man--was in me; and when I found I had caught you, I was frightened. And then I couldn't bear to let you go--possibly to Arabella again--and so I got to love you, Jude. But you see, however fondly it ended, it began in the selfish and cruel wish to make your heart ache for me without letting mine ache for you." But Sue’s feelings for Jude change all the time, especially in the lead-up to the (hard) conclusion. And so how does it all work out? Well, let me say, amidst lots of lively social commentary and debate, you will read about murder, miscarriage, suicide, despair: Misery. I needed something happier to read, probably, with the dark days of winter settling in, so I take a star off what is probably a five-star book. Allow me to have Jude summarize the book, in a way: “Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, ‘There is a man child conceived.’” But as bleak as it can be, it can be devastatingly majestic, too. Misery, yes, but within a sadly beautiful indictment of Victorian morality that crushes individual joy and happiness. Hardy is worth reading, for sure.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Laysee

    I read Jude the Obscure years ago in an undergraduate Literature course and remembered feeling emotionally devastated. Time has erased almost all memory of the setting and plot except that of a young child who made a brief appearance. He is called Father Time because he seems perpetually melancholic and aged from having lived a storm-tossed life despite his tender years. My heart broke when I met him again and encountered the hopelessness he must have felt. Father Time is the son of Jude Fawley, I read Jude the Obscure years ago in an undergraduate Literature course and remembered feeling emotionally devastated. Time has erased almost all memory of the setting and plot except that of a young child who made a brief appearance. He is called Father Time because he seems perpetually melancholic and aged from having lived a storm-tossed life despite his tender years. My heart broke when I met him again and encountered the hopelessness he must have felt. Father Time is the son of Jude Fawley, the lead protagonist, in this 1895 classic story that is set in fictional Wessex in the southern part of England. I lost count of the times I said to myself “Oh Jude!” or “Poor Jude!” I finished reading this book on Valentine’s Day, a day romantic love is celebrated, and was struck by how Jude the Obscure must be one of the saddest love stories in classical literature. Love, ostensibly between individuals who profess to love each other, is sorely tested and cruelly blighted by a confluence of factors that are insurmountable: core character traits/flaws, deprivation marked by poverty and lack of education, traditional values surrounding morality and marriage, and the stronghold of social opinion. Hardy painted a worldview that was irredeemably bleak as the lives of the characters seemed to be driven by Fate, leaving them no autonomy to chart their own future. Hardy first introduced us to Jude as an 11-year-old orphan weeping by a well as he bids farewell to his teacher (Mr. Phillotson) who is heading to Christminster to further his studies. Jude lives with his Great Aunt Drusilla who dutifully raises him but regards him as a burden. To earn his keep, Jude works on a farm as a human scarecrow! This tenderhearted child ends up feeding the birds and getting beaten. To young Jude, the birds ‘seemed, like himself, to be living in a world which did not want them.... A magic thread of fellow-feeling united his own life with theirs.’ Jude aspires to go to university in Christminster like his teacher in hopes of one day becoming a member of the clergy. How can one not feel protective toward Jude, cheer him on, and hope he realizes his dreams? Jude’s tender-heartedness and honesty are his areas of strength as reflected in his readiness to help others (e.g., find storage for Phillotson’s piano, advertise wonder pills for a money-faced village doctor who promised him Latin grammar books but forgot them; run errands for his Great Aunt’s bakery). However, they also constitute his greatest weakness and render him susceptible to manipulation and deceit. (view spoiler)[In his youthful naivety, Jude (barely 19 years old) is dubbed into marrying Arabella Donn, a coarse and morally lax pig farmer’s daughter who seduces him and feigns pregnancy. His plans for Christminster vanish as he finds himself rearing and slaughtering pigs instead. Arabella soon abandons Jude for greener pastures but returns to hound him several times, each time diverting him yet further from his aspirations. She thrusts their son Father Time (a son he does not know he has) on him, which upsets his relationship with Sue Bridehead, Jude’s true love. Jude yields to Arabella’s importunity and manipulation time and again, including marrying Arabella a second time. Oh Jude! How stupid can you get? (hide spoiler)] Jude’s soft-hearted nature also means that he is easily moved by others’ distress, defers to others’ opinions, and readily caves in to their demands against his better judgment and needs.(view spoiler)[ Sue is a seemingly unconventional, asexually frigid woman who holds him at arms-length, and refuses to marry him. Jude concedes to all of her reasoning for not wanting a permanent relationship. Alas, Victorian society does not look kindly on couples who live together without a marriage license. In one horrific episode, the couple is denied housing when they show up with their children; a hyper-sensitive Father Time takes the hostility to heart with tragic consequences. (hide spoiler)] Add to Jude’s gentle nature his passive tendency to wait on the sidelines instead of taking prompt action, and we have a slow cooking crockpot of disaster - unfulfilled dreams and a sequelea of events that culminate in tragedy. He has too many scruples for his own good and is his own worst enemy. Another tragic character flaw is perhaps Jude’s low sense of self-efficacy that has its roots in his humble beginnings. Jude clearly values education and the high calling of the church. In his own words, ”I care for something higher.” However, he has doubts about his ability to succeed given his lack of access to books and tutors. Circumstances such as the snobbery of the university elite also pose huge roadblocks to his quest for betterment. (view spoiler)[The one time he picks up courage to write for admission to the Christminster colleges, he is rebuffed and rejected. Poor Jude! There is nothing more deterrent than being humiliated for taking a step forward. (hide spoiler)] What upsets me the most is how the story rewards the bad and punishes the good. Shallow and unprincipled characters like Arabella who are unscrupulous in furthering their own agenda end up getting what they want and having their own way. In contrast, characters with integrity like Jude get short-changed. Similarly, unconventional characters like Sue who value independence suffer because society is not ready for them. Religion too is cast in an extremely poor light with guilt gnawing at the conscience, bringing destruction. (view spoiler)[Sue regards her children as deserving death because they are begotten of sin; she perceives their death as punishment for breaking her marriage oath to Phillotson whom she does not love. The loss of her children precipitated a reinstatement of her marriage and conjugal rights to a man she loathes as penance for longing after a man she loves. (hide spoiler)] I hated how Hardy gave opportunistic and lying Arabella the last word in this novel. It is grotesquely unfair. How could you, Mr. Hardy? The tragedy that unfolds in this story feels overblown and melodramatic. By design it is perhaps Hardy’s indictment against life in Victorian England that despises the working class, ‘the so-called self-taught’ with their ‘laboured acquisitions’ and denies them opportunities to better themselves. Hardy criticizes the Church whose religious conventions constrict rather than liberate the human soul. Likewise, he criticizes the institution of marriage. One of my GR friends, Ken, astutely observed that Hardy likely used his characters “as a foil against society, the Church, and other harsh monoliths. In other words, the characters aren't the point themselves so much as they're used to MAKE a point." Jude the Obscure turned out to be an absorbing but difficult read. Hardy wrote a strong prose that was itself a pleasure. I had the privilege of reading it with a group of extremely well-read and erudite Goodreads members and learned so much from our group discussion. There are religious allusions and literary conventions that are an inherent part of this novel’s richness and complexity, which I will not go into. Suffice to say, Jude the Obscure is a well written classic that showcases Hardy’s profound understanding of human nature and empathy for individuals who are trapped by circumstances beyond their control.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    He began to see that the town was a book of humanity infinitely more palpitating, varied, and compendious than the gown life. These struggling men and women before him were the reality of Christminister, though they knew little about Christ or Minister. That was one of the humours of things. The floating population of students and teachers, who did know both in a way,were not Christminister in a local sense at all. The above quote really reminds me of my university town for my B .Ed program. T He began to see that the town was a book of humanity infinitely more palpitating, varied, and compendious than the gown life. These struggling men and women before him were the reality of Christminister, though they knew little about Christ or Minister. That was one of the humours of things. The floating population of students and teachers, who did know both in a way,were not Christminister in a local sense at all. The above quote really reminds me of my university town for my B .Ed program. The population was quiet in summer, but managed to triple in the fall. But I digress.... A number of years ago, I was sitting on a train discussing books with a fellow English teacher. I told her that I recently had "discovered" Thomas Hardy and was left emotionally drained by Tess of the D'Ubervilles. She then asked me "Have you read Hardy's "Jude the Obscure?" I confessed that I hadn't. She smiled and told me not to forget about it. I did go on to read many of Hardy's books, such as; Far from the Madding Crowd, The Woodlanders, and The Return of the Native. However,"Jude" remained in my TBR pile crying out to be read. I just wasn't listening. Well, I FINALLY decided that March Break 2016 was the time to get into it. Boy, am I glad that I did! Jude Fawley, an orphan, raised by his elderly aunt is growing up in a small English village. His life at first glance,appears to be nothing special nor any different than any other young boy. However, when our story opens the village schoolmaster, Richard Philliston(who I kept calling Philistine)is packing up to move to the larger centre of Christminister. No one is more devastated than young Jude, who has come to appreciate the pleasure of books. Jude dreams of one day also being able to make his way to this place of higher learning and applies the remainder of his youthful pursuits to reading Greek, Latin, and other classical texts. Jude, we also see is no stranger to hard work and applies himself to an apprenticeship. Things seem to be be leading Jude to make his dreams come true. Except that Jude meets Arabella Donn. A young woman who sees the innocent Jude as a potential husband. Hardy presents Arabella as an opportunistic and cunning woman who takes advantage of the good natured Jude, who does fall head over heels with youthful affection. In fact, it's Arabella's female friends that guide Arabella in how to ensnare Jude into matrimony. Just like all the soap opera characters, Arabella announces that she's pregnant and Jude does the noble thing and marries her. It is not too long after that Arabella reveals her fib and the young couple almost appears to drown in their misery. Married life seems to plod along and both wonder what's to become of it. Until Arabella leaves Jude behind and emigrates to Australia. Keep in mind they're still married. Oh, and we will meet up with Arabella again! Jude, not wanting to stay in a town that knows his story sets out for Christminister. Before his departure his aunt cautions Jude to not contact his cousin, Sue, who lives in that city. It is revealed that there is a history between the two families and that no good would ever come of the two young people being friends or more. Of course, Jude and Sue do meet and discover a mutual attraction to one another. Over a matter of years, their relationship will evolve from friend to lovers. Both the characters and readers will be sent on a very emotional roller coaster taking place over a number of years. I won't say anything more regarding all the details. But like its predecessor, "Tess", this book isn't going to have a Walt Disney ending. So why read it? First, it's the last book Hardy ever wrote and coupled with Tess, the most controversial books that he wrote. Who doesn't like a little controversy? The 19th century was pretty shaken up by Hardy's flexible manner on marriage, religious beliefs, sexuality, class division, access to education, etc. Although we like to consider ourselves further evolved than the Victorians, there is plenty of what Hardy discusses then that is incredibly relevant today. Second, Hardy's characterization of men and women is multi-faceted. Hardy doesn't expect us to like his characters in everything they do. Hardy just allows them to be who they are. I knew from the moment that Jude was warned about Sue, I was going to be sitting up and paying attention to every detail. I grew fearful and irritated,but not always at the same time. "Jude the Obscure" is definitely worthwhile reading, especially if you're in search of dialogue and not just happy endings. Is it wrong,Jude, for a husband or wife to tell a third person that they are unhappy in their marriage? If a marriage is a religious thing,it is possibly wrong; but if it is only a sordid contract, based on material convenience to householding, rating, and taxing, and the inheritance of land and money by children, making it necessary that the male parent should be known- which it seems to be - why surely a person may say, even proclaim upon the housetops, that it hurts and grieves him or her?

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    If I remember correctly, this book is a real laff riot, with a touchingly sweet and uplifting message. I think I read somewhere that Hardy was feted in the streets of his hometown Christminster and given the Feelgood Author of 1895 Award for this baby, and rightly so! What a heartwarming gift for someone who's feeling down, such as a student who's just lost his financial aid, or someone you know who's trying to make an unconventional relationship work despite social strictures. Okay, full disclo If I remember correctly, this book is a real laff riot, with a touchingly sweet and uplifting message. I think I read somewhere that Hardy was feted in the streets of his hometown Christminster and given the Feelgood Author of 1895 Award for this baby, and rightly so! What a heartwarming gift for someone who's feeling down, such as a student who's just lost his financial aid, or someone you know who's trying to make an unconventional relationship work despite social strictures. Okay, full disclosure, I read Jude the Obscure in college and honestly remember little about this book, except for the warm fuzzy sensation I got when I finished it: a wonderful, comforting feeling that wrapped all around me, like the soft yellow blanket my grandma knitted for me when I was a baby. A special, safe feeling like I knew no matter what happened in anyone's life, things would eventually work themselves out just fine. And isn't that truly why we read literature? For such comfort and solace in an uncertain world? If you love stories of working-class heroes and close loving families fighting hard in the face of adversity to triumph in the end over all obstacles, this book is for you. Have fun!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alok Mishra

    I will certainly call it Hardy's Masterpiece as he designed it in a way that it posed a serious challenge to the society at that time. Later, though, denied the due for his artistic intelligence, the author had to shun the writing (many believe so). Jude, whatever be said by whoever, is a character who is sincere and honest and brave enough to accept what is thrown at him as a challenge, could not defeat the society and today, we have overcome that. When Shakespeare said that love knows no bound I will certainly call it Hardy's Masterpiece as he designed it in a way that it posed a serious challenge to the society at that time. Later, though, denied the due for his artistic intelligence, the author had to shun the writing (many believe so). Jude, whatever be said by whoever, is a character who is sincere and honest and brave enough to accept what is thrown at him as a challenge, could not defeat the society and today, we have overcome that. When Shakespeare said that love knows no bound and east can overturn itself into the direction where Juliet be, why deny Jude his Sue! I loved reading this novel and I liked the idea of getting out of the Hardian shelf and writing something unHardy.

  18. 4 out of 5

    TBV

    This was the second time that I read this novel, and this time around it impressed me a great deal more. The first time I was certainly devastated by the story, and the story remains devastating, but this time I read it for the superb writing and what a rewarding exercise this was. Jude sets out with such lofty ideals, but he makes bad decisions and is ultimately his own worst enemy. The result is that he never achieves what he wants, but is always on the outside looking in. One mistake in parti This was the second time that I read this novel, and this time around it impressed me a great deal more. The first time I was certainly devastated by the story, and the story remains devastating, but this time I read it for the superb writing and what a rewarding exercise this was. Jude sets out with such lofty ideals, but he makes bad decisions and is ultimately his own worst enemy. The result is that he never achieves what he wants, but is always on the outside looking in. One mistake in particular spirals into a lifetime of misery and tragedy. This novel is as bleak as it gets and there is no silver lining to be seen. Although his novel writing was at its peak it was the last novel that Hardy wrote; the novel was so badly received that he devoted the rest of his writing career to poetry. It’s not difficult to see why he got so much flack over this novel. It is very well written, but Victorians might have felt uncomfortable reading about the burning of religious writings, men and women cohabitating without being married, bigamy, adultery, separation and divorce, suicide, a woman with a greater intellect than her husband... Hardy tackles the institutions of religion and marriage, criticising religion and essentially asking whether an unhappy couple should remain married, or indeed whether a couple could live together decently without marriage. Nope, the Victorians didn't like that at all!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Apatt

    “Hey Jude, don't be afraid You were made to go out and get her The minute you let her under your skin Then you begin to make it better” I would caution anyone against taking romantic advice from Sir Paul McCartney, splendid music legend that he is. This is especially true for a Thomas Hardy protagonist. Certainly Jude Fawley did let a certain lady under his skin and proceeds to make things much worse (spoiler? Hardly, Thomas Hardy’s protagonists are not in the habit of making things better). If you “Hey Jude, don't be afraid You were made to go out and get her The minute you let her under your skin Then you begin to make it better” I would caution anyone against taking romantic advice from Sir Paul McCartney, splendid music legend that he is. This is especially true for a Thomas Hardy protagonist. Certainly Jude Fawley did let a certain lady under his skin and proceeds to make things much worse (spoiler? Hardly, Thomas Hardy’s protagonists are not in the habit of making things better). If you are interested in reading a Thomas Hardy’s novel, but his reputation as a writer of bleak and tragic novels makes you feel reluctant to try one then Jude the Obscure is not for you. Read Far From the Madding Crowd instead, that is a comparatively positive book not dominated by tragedy. The opening chapter of the book depicts a poor little orphan boy bidding farewell to his favorite schoolteacher who is moving to another town nearby. In most novels you would expect this to be the beginning of a rags-to-riches story, but with Hardy you can reasonably expect rags-to-even-more-rags (sorry about the hyphens, they seem to be required for some reason). Jude is a very appealing protagonist, a poor stonemason who wants to advance himself above his given social situation through obtaining higher education. Unfortunately, he is "knocked about from pillar to post" by the social mores of the time (no opening in academia for poor plebeian types), and he also stacks the odds higher against himself by getting involved with unsuitable women who completely derail his life plan. First Arabella, a manipulative and scheming woman whose special talent is creating faux-dimples on her chubby cheeks*. When she departs for greener pastures Jude attempts to get back on track is foiled by his own lust for his cousin Sue Bridehead. Sue is a great girl actually but at least a century before her time in outlook, especially with her willingness to “live in sin” in spite of the social norm. Both Jude and Sue are very likable, complex and sympathetic characters but you must try very hard not to like them because their situation goes from bad to worst, and even make a pit stop at horrifying. Hardy’s prose is as awe-inspiring as ever and there are loads of pithy bits you can quote out of context at parties. I feel I ought to put in a "but" at this point but I can't think of any reservation to follow it with. If you are up for a heartfelt critique of societal norms through a tragic love story that makes you reflect on the unfairness of life (or if you are a goth) then this book is definitely for you. __________________ * As well as being a hiss-boo antagonist Arabella is also the book's sole comic relief with her dimples manufacturing. Audiobook credit: I listened to the free Librivox audiobook version, beautifully and passionately read by "Tadhg". Thank you! Whovian Corner (Hi Cecily!): Christopher Eccleston as Jude Fawley. FANTASTIC!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    Finally! Finally I have finished this book! This has to be one of the bleakest, unhappiest novels ever written. The 3 stars are generous on my part, mainly because I take some of the blame for my lack of enjoyment. It just happened to be the wrong book at the wrong time. This was an eventful month for me, and reading time was almost non-existent, so bad choice on my part. Still, Mr. Hardy, what the heck? Is life really that bad?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    “But I don’t admit that my failure proved my view to be a wrong one, or that my success would have made it a right one; though that’s how we appraise such attempts nowadays—I mean, not by their essential soundness, but by their accidental outcomes.” This is a true tragedy, but didn’t feel sad, exactly. Instead, the tragic events happen as a matter of course. There was a feeling of predestination in the prose, from the very beginning of the story. I found myself mumbling while reading, like multip “But I don’t admit that my failure proved my view to be a wrong one, or that my success would have made it a right one; though that’s how we appraise such attempts nowadays—I mean, not by their essential soundness, but by their accidental outcomes.” This is a true tragedy, but didn’t feel sad, exactly. Instead, the tragic events happen as a matter of course. There was a feeling of predestination in the prose, from the very beginning of the story. I found myself mumbling while reading, like multiple Star Wars characters, “I have a bad feeling about this.” This is my first time reading Hardy, and while it was certainly full of expected woe, I enjoyed his writing style immensely, and eagerly turned the pages all the way to the end. All of the characters in this novel can be exasperating, and it is interesting to compare them and think about who is most to blame. But if you go deeper, you find a multitude of themes within these pages. I’ll mention two that I appreciated most, one active (where the characters have some control) and one passive (where they don’t). The active theme is about the risk of allowing dreams to die. This is the story of two dreamers with lofty, unconventional ideas. Jude believes he can be a self-taught scholar, and make his way from poverty to study in the hallowed halls of his beloved Christminster. Sue dreams of living the fulfillment of her ancient, possibly pagan beliefs, which she favors to those that are predominate in her own time. Jude works terribly hard as a boy, all on his own, to make himself into his dream. While fulfilling his job driving a cart, he teaches himself Greek and Latin by strapping a classic text to the cart and holding open a dictionary in his lap, working it all out as he drove. What can go wrong for someone with such a desire to learn? Alas, the tragedy comes when he allows life to steer him off course, and is intimidated into giving up his goals. Sue is confusing, because she is a free-thinking woman at a time when she was not allowed to be, which creates all kinds of conflict—within and around her. She if full of feelings and ideas, but instead of putting these ideas toward an ambition of her own, she does what powerless people sometimes do—project them onto someone else (which in this story, doesn’t go well for any of the someone else’s). “But I did want and long to ennoble some man to high aims; and when I saw you, and knew you wanted to be my comrade, I – shall I confess it? – thought that man might be you.” The second theme, one the characters have less control over, is how societies rebuke can shake the truly sensitive soul, especially when that soul has unconventional views. Both Jude and Sue suffer great tragedy, because they cannot bear the repercussions of their ideals. “If people are at all peculiar in character they have to suffer from the very rules that produce comfort in others!” Is this the fault of the character or the fault of society? We still see sensitive, idealistic people suffering the wrath of the mainstream. Some strong characters break through anyway, but how many of the sensitive ones would you find littered by the side of that road who have given up, or worse? Tragedy indeed. “'It is wrong and wicked of me, I suppose! I am very sorry. But it is not I altogether that am to blame!’ 'Who is then. Am I?’ ‘No—I don’t know! The universe, I suppose—things in general, because they are so horrid and cruel!’”

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Maybe Thomas Hardy can write, but I didn't like this book. To say otherwise is just not true. Just as the book description clarifies, through this book Hardy criticizes the three institutions - marriage, religion and education - during Victorian times. Although I agree with his criticism, he exaggerates; he finds example that go beyond a fair analysis. Some of the characters are good and some evil, as in all novels, but Hardy goes beyond this and throws in characters that are mentally instable. Maybe Thomas Hardy can write, but I didn't like this book. To say otherwise is just not true. Just as the book description clarifies, through this book Hardy criticizes the three institutions - marriage, religion and education - during Victorian times. Although I agree with his criticism, he exaggerates; he finds example that go beyond a fair analysis. Some of the characters are good and some evil, as in all novels, but Hardy goes beyond this and throws in characters that are mentally instable. Their behavior cannot be seen as a just criticism of the inflexible morals, rules and beliefs. A better criticism would have been achieved through more stable characters. I have nothing against depressing books, but this is excessively depressing and frustrating beyond words since the characters cannot make up their mind. Talk about vacillation! It was tiring to see how they make a decision and then changed their minds, not once, but over and over again. Yes, such rigid institutions can force people into craziness, but not to the extent portrayed here. These people would not even be happy in less restrictive times, and thus Hardy's message loses impact. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Stephen Thorne. I was not pleased with the women's voices, and you could not tell who was speaking. The tone was disagreeable, but so were the characters. I liked Jude, but felt such pity for him. It is hard to see a man so crushed by life, and his choice of women could not have been worse. I might try another book by Hardy.

  23. 4 out of 5

    P.E.

    'Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.' ('Hurrah!') 'Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it. Lo, let that night be solitary, let no joyful voice come therein.' ('Hurrah!') 'Why died I not from the womb? Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly? ... For now should I have lain still and been quiet. I should have slept: then had I been at rest!' ('Hurrah!') 'Th 'Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.' ('Hurrah!') 'Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it. Lo, let that night be solitary, let no joyful voice come therein.' ('Hurrah!') 'Why died I not from the womb? Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly? ... For now should I have lain still and been quiet. I should have slept: then had I been at rest!' ('Hurrah!') 'There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor ... The small and the great are there; and the servant is free from his master. Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul?' The main strengths in Thomas Hardy's novel in my opinion : 1) The faithful account of a series of misgivings, unhappy tidings, premonitions, and favourable signs in the romantical relationship between the main characters. 2) The adept exploration of something akin to the friendzone, this giant euphemism for a zone not a trifle friendly, with affixed escapism in the unrequited lover. Thomas Hardy is certainly articulate with this. 3) How Hardy informs a deeply disturbing relationship between cousins from two estranged branches of the same family. 4) Sue's character and its complexity : contrary, whiny, elusive, whimsical, taunting, teasing and at times quite painful with Jude. Their relationship is a manipulative relationship on spiritual grounds. 5) The apt hints at Suzanne's masochism : p.127 : 'no man short of a sensual savage - will molest a woman by day or night, at home or abroad, unless she invites him. Until she says by a look "Come on", he is always afraid to, and if you never say it, or look it, he never comes.' Disturbing apologics of rape? Also, Sue takes entire responsability for a former admirer... Twisted. p.150-151 : 'Women were different from men in such matters. Was it that they were, instead of more sensitive, as reputed, more callous, and less romantic; or they were more heroic? Or was Sue simply so perverse that she wilfully gave herself and him pain for the odd and mournful luxury of practising long-suffering in her own person, and of being touched with tender pity for him at having made him practise it?' Also, Sue is contradictory at best : p.151 : 'Her actions were always unpredictable: why should she not come? (...) His supper still remained spread; and going to the front door, and softly setting it open, he returned to the room and sat as the watchers sit on Old Midsummer eves, expecting the phantom of the Beloved. Jude making terms, excellent elucidation of the process in forlorn lovers. All above accounting for Hardy's tourmented view on women at best. 6) The excellent depictions of settings and their mergure with dreams and memories. 7) How Jude, devious and insincere, shows a fair deal of self-deceit : p.185 : 'Ah - it isn't true!' she said with gentle resentment. 'You are teasing me - that's all- because you think I am not happy' [Jude:]'I don't know, I don't wish to know.' 8) Then, after many flourishes and much mystery, how they both act like dallying sissies. Sue observes artful silences on her motives... She seems stangely contrived and dubious with duplicity, or is it duality? 9) How Jude is excessively judgemental. A study in progress on the wrongness of always being the Rightful One. How Jude broods and bear obvious grudges to Sue. Self-imposing, agravating, judgemental, devious and mean. p.185... OK, I revise my opinion : Suzanne does seem torn apart by inner conflict between her legal bond and her involvement with Jude. 10) How all this is rooted in a past attachment with a student... Sue undertook responsability for an admirer... We learn about this past relationship with a former enamoured friend driven to suicide... quite dodgy. 11) Thomas Hardy dabs some brilliant insights of feminine psychology : p.211 : 'I have sometimes thought, since your marrying Phillotson because of a stupid scandal, that under the affectation of independent views you are enslaved to the social code as any woman I know' 'Not mentally. But I haven't the courage of my views, as I said before. I didn't marry him alotogether because of the scandal. But sometimes a woman's love of being loved gets the better of her conscience, and though she is agonised at the thought of treating a man cruelly, she encourages him to love her while she doesn't love him at all. Then, when she sees him suffering, her remorse sets in, and she does what she can to repair the wrong' p.313 : 'At first I did not love you Jude; that I own. When I first knew you I merely wanted you to love me. I did not exactly flirt with you, but that inborn craving which undermines some women's morals almost more than unbridled passion - the craving to attract and captivate, regardless of the injury it may do to the man - was in me; and when I found I had caught you, I was frightened. And then - I don't know how it was - I coulndn't bear to let you go - possibly to Arabella again - and so I got to love you, Jude. But you see, however fondly it ended, it began in the selfish and cruel wish to make your heart ache for me without letting mine ache for you.' 12) Good point, thoroughly and apt study on contrary natures : p.226 : 'Apart from ourselves, and our unhappy peculiarities, it is foreign to a man's nature to go on loving a person when he is told that he must and shall be that person's lover. There would be a much likelier chance of his doing if he were told not to love." I find a parallelism to be made with the story of the engraver of the Ten Commandments, falling alsleep, then, awakening to find a man engraving them, but contrariwise : 'Thou shall kill, thou shall covet your neighbour's wife...' p.286 : 'It is a difficult question, my friends, for any young man - that question I had to grapple with, and which thousands are weighing at the present moment in these uprising times - whether to follow uncritically the track he finds himself in, without considering his aptness for it, or to consider what his aptness or bent may be, and reshape his course accordingly. I tried to do the latter, and I failed. But I don't admit that my failure proved my view to be a wrong one, or that my success would have made it a right one; though that's how we appraise such attempts nowadays - I mean, not by their essential soundness, but by their accidental outcomes. If I had ended by becoming like one of these gentlemen in red and black that we saw dropping in here by now, everybody would have said : 'See how wise that young man was, to follow the bent of his nature!' But having ended no better than I began, they say : 'See what a fool that fellow was in following a freak of his fancy!' 13) The harmony of foreshadowing, echoes and mirroring in the plot. e.g. The melancholy when Sue and Jude reenact the mariage between Sue and Phillotson... e.g. Jude's and Sue's second marriages with their betrothed. e.g The disconsolate echoes in time and places when Jude haunts ancient haunts. Also, it is curious how the world hardly moves around Sue and Jude : Vilbert the quack doctor, Mrs Edlin the widow friend of Mrs Fawley still alive and kicking at the end of the day. 14) True-to-life, heart-rending depiction and understanding of sadness. See the exquisite pain in Jude raving mad at suffering : "I don't care which! Say cherry brandy . . . Sue has served me badly, very badly. I didn't expect it of Sue! I stuck to her, and she ought to have stuck to me. I'd have sold my soul for her sake, but she wouldn't risk hers a jot for me. To save her own soul she lets mine go damn!... But it isn't her fault, poor little girl - I am sure it isn't!" 15) Writing style remarkable, and figures not heavy-handed. Now, THE CONS : - Brutal twists and turns in the characters quite unaccountable... before (in Altbricksham) and after (in Christminster) their elopement, when they are not speaking to score points on duty or morals... Honestly, I can't make these two extremes meet in so short a span with no intermission whatsoever. -------- Also, Jude the Obscure has numerous siblings in world literature : *Jude the Obscure is Le Désespéré's fake twin. Unlike Léon Bloy's heroin, at first, Suzanne is not a devout, prostrate woman. Well. Not only. At any rate, Sue is not meek and subdued. *Jude the Obscure is brother-in-laws with Crime and Punishment. Raskolnikov and Jude are both dashing, something of a self-taught man dissatisfied with their status, audacious, both acquainted at some point with alcohol. Both harvest deeply ingrained contradictions. And both contemplate an idea impossible to fulfill. *Sue is besties with Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's. *Jude is forefather to Jurgis, the wretched worker in The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Matching Soundtrack : Epitaph - King Crimson Read in the Wordsworth Edition 1995, 2013

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Never re-read this, first read in H.S. I did give it as a birthday present to my Mother, maybe the worst present I gave her (she liked a turqoise circle pin better). At the time it was my favorite book, but let's face it, Hardy is a downer: Bill Pritchard spoke on Hardy's poetry in Boston, reading one in which another Dorset man, too poor to keep supporting his dog, takes him down to the estuary and flings a fetch-stick out far into the outgoing tidal river. The dog faithfully fetches it, and is Never re-read this, first read in H.S. I did give it as a birthday present to my Mother, maybe the worst present I gave her (she liked a turqoise circle pin better). At the time it was my favorite book, but let's face it, Hardy is a downer: Bill Pritchard spoke on Hardy's poetry in Boston, reading one in which another Dorset man, too poor to keep supporting his dog, takes him down to the estuary and flings a fetch-stick out far into the outgoing tidal river. The dog faithfully fetches it, and is caught up in the outgoing tide. (Of course, we now know dogs can survive tides better than humans; people die jumping in to save dogs who survive to lost masters. Wonder what happened when the dog made it back to Hardy's speaker.) And the end of Two on a Tower! Unnecessary, further death. Should add, this was Hardy's last novel; he stopped writing them because this one especially raised so much protest from church or conventional people. Two marriages fail, and one partner from each takes up, falls in love. There are kids upon kids, many born out of marriage...or at least, from a lover married to someone else. And there are worse things. Just spent a couple nights in Wessex Hotel, High st West, but didn’t revisit Hardy’s two houses, Maxgate and the birthplace, because of snow on roads. Did drive by the Hardy monument, but that’s to a different Hardy, the Admiral. Standing in line at Costa’s down Phoenix Lane from our hotel, a lady recited some of her own verse. I asked if she knew any of Hardy’s. No. Like many, she writes verse without reading it. I took a grad course on Frost and Hardy, quite a bit in common, though not RF’s wonderful North of Boston monologs and dialogs, like “A Servant to servants,” which I taught to my mostly adult female community college students.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Richards

    This is such a bleak read but also a very interesting one. Religion, morals, class; they are all in this book. I enjoyed the story but found it hard to really connect with anyone and therefore it didn`t really touch me like it should have. I also found Sue to be one of the most annoying characters ever created! Tess remains my favourite Hardy book. This is such a bleak read but also a very interesting one. Religion, morals, class; they are all in this book. I enjoyed the story but found it hard to really connect with anyone and therefore it didn`t really touch me like it should have. I also found Sue to be one of the most annoying characters ever created! Tess remains my favourite Hardy book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brett C

    I truly enjoyed this story. It's the most depressing story I've ever read. I thought the author would wrap it up and end on a positive note: he didn't. I kept rooting for poor Jude as he faced one saddening challenge after another. The author's tone, the sense of woe, and the solemn mood throughout the course of the book kept me hooked. This one will have me reflecting on the story for years to come. I highly recommend this one to anyone who likes classic literature. Thanks! I truly enjoyed this story. It's the most depressing story I've ever read. I thought the author would wrap it up and end on a positive note: he didn't. I kept rooting for poor Jude as he faced one saddening challenge after another. The author's tone, the sense of woe, and the solemn mood throughout the course of the book kept me hooked. This one will have me reflecting on the story for years to come. I highly recommend this one to anyone who likes classic literature. Thanks!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    This is one of the three novels by Thomas Hardy which I read when I was at school and university. While it's not the one that made me decide I didn't like Hardy - that honour goes to Tess of the D'Urbervilles - I was not motivated to read it again. However, thirty five years later I've developed a new appreciation for Hardy, thanks to a wonderful audiobook of The Return of the Native narrated by Alan Rickman. I'm now slowly working my way through his novels, including the ones I've read before. This is one of the three novels by Thomas Hardy which I read when I was at school and university. While it's not the one that made me decide I didn't like Hardy - that honour goes to Tess of the D'Urbervilles - I was not motivated to read it again. However, thirty five years later I've developed a new appreciation for Hardy, thanks to a wonderful audiobook of The Return of the Native narrated by Alan Rickman. I'm now slowly working my way through his novels, including the ones I've read before. I listened to an audiobook edition narrated by Stephen Thorne. The narration was excellent. Unlike most male narrators I've listened to, Thorne does a very good job with young female voices. The Jude of the title is Jude Fawley, a sensitive orphan with a passion for learning who grows up to become a stonemason. Jude dreams of becoming a scholar at Christminster - Hardy's version of Oxford. The narrative centres on his relationship with two women: the earthy and resilient Arabella Don and the intellectual and ethereal Sue Bridehead, whom Jude sees as his soulmate. The novel is also an impassioned critique of Victorian attitudes towards religion, marriage and sexual morality. The views which Hardy has Jude and Sue express concerning these particular issues put the author well ahead of his time - something which Hardy overtly refers to in the text on more than one occasion. Jude is like the biblical Job, a parallel which Hardy makes explicit by having Jude recite from the Book of Job towards the end of the novel. Put briefly, nothing goes right for Jude and when things go wrong, they go badly wrong. My heart ached for him, although to some extent the tragedy is so relentless that my response to how Jude was affected was numbed. I had a sneaking admiration for the unappealing Arabella, who at least knew what she wanted and went after it with gusto. Sue, on the other hand, enraged me for most of the novel with her inconsistency and her inability to engage on an emotional level. But she is a brilliant, complex character and it's difficult not to feel her pain. Let's face it, this is not a book to read if you're feeling down. On the other hand, contemplating the misery of Jude Fawley's life might make you feel that your lot in life is not so bad after all. I've given this 4-1/2 rather than five stars because at times I felt that the message of the novel overwhelmed the characters. However, it's still an amazing read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    Catching up on classics group read Jude is just pitiful. Talk about victims of the times. Good lord! He and sue were way ahead of the period. No way could they ever live happily. And so, so poor. I appreciated his love of learning and books, but it's like so many people nowadays who have to pick between education or food on the table. What surprised me was that I didn't immediately fall in love with the text like I usually do with a Hardy story. Instead he kept it even keel then PUNCHED me in the Catching up on classics group read Jude is just pitiful. Talk about victims of the times. Good lord! He and sue were way ahead of the period. No way could they ever live happily. And so, so poor. I appreciated his love of learning and books, but it's like so many people nowadays who have to pick between education or food on the table. What surprised me was that I didn't immediately fall in love with the text like I usually do with a Hardy story. Instead he kept it even keel then PUNCHED me in the gut. Thanks, Thomas

  29. 4 out of 5

    W.D. Clarke

    Duckduckgo remindeth me that the epigram to the novel, 'The letter killeth', comes from 2 Corinthians, whose purported message is that the capital-L Legalism of the Old Testament is destined to give way to the message of Love that the New model T delivers. Hardy's novel, though, deliberately and ironically takes this passage out of context because it desires to prove otherwise, that, as James Brown sang, it's a man's man's man's man's world (even if, "without a woman or a girl", it "wouldn't be Duckduckgo remindeth me that the epigram to the novel, 'The letter killeth', comes from 2 Corinthians, whose purported message is that the capital-L Legalism of the Old Testament is destined to give way to the message of Love that the New model T delivers. Hardy's novel, though, deliberately and ironically takes this passage out of context because it desires to prove otherwise, that, as James Brown sang, it's a man's man's man's man's world (even if, "without a woman or a girl", it "wouldn't be nothing" of any value), and the Pater's law is a killer of both men and women, and what would otherwise become of their natural relations. He is speaking at the time primarily about the pitilessly patriarchal laws surrounding the institution of marriage, of course, and his protagonists Jude and Sue are bedevilled by external legality throughout the novel, as well as by their unconscious internalizations of (by what Althusser would call the "interpellation" of) the Law of the Father, whose only mode is that of coercion: Fuck you, mister, Fuck your sister, Fuck your brother, Fuck your mother, Fuck your pop— Hey! I'm a cop! [...] Yes I can, Hey! I'm the Man! So singeth the Right Rev'd Billy Barf, backed by his Vomitones, in Thomas Pynchon's sublime Vineland (and I do hope that you find that (again, decontextualized) quotation as un/pleasantly shocking as I still do, cos that's how Hardy's England would have felt about this shot-across-the bow of a book of his—scandalized, but energized, in one way or t'other), but I wasn't thinking about any of that as I read this novel. I wasn't thinking about anything, really. I was feeling, alas! Feeling empathy for these two tortured souls, feeling rage building within me for the trap that they were/are forever in (forever-fixed as they are in their Time, like the lovers on Keats's Grecian Urn), feeling exasperated at Sue's ambi-valences, at Arabella's manipulations (and her making the adjective "porcine" into a negative thing, for the pig is a noble, thoughtful animal, and perhaps smarter than my border collies [so please, though I know how good it tastes, please put down that bacon*, please]), and above all feeling a loathing for my own perverse Anglophilia build within me as I watch Jude's desire for an education thwarted by the omnipresent classy, classist, classicist Towers of Power in Christminster/Oxford: Towery city and branchy between towers; Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmèd, lark charmèd, rook racked, river-rounded; The dapple-eared lily below thee; that country and town did Once encounter in, here coped & poisèd powers; Thus beginneth that other doomed poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, in his (yes, beautiful) medieval fantasy sonnet, "Duns Scotus's Oxford", and I too admit to having been bewitched by its illusory charms on more than one occasion (having attended a uni just down the road, in a concrete jungle** of a town once completely flattened by the Luttwaffe), just I also identified too too overmuch with Jude's autodidact's optimism: none of the epigraphs bestowed by the author on these pages, or snatches of knowledge doggedly acquired (and clung to) by Jude himself, do him any good whatsoever—sorry, Dr. Faustus, knowledge is not power. Power is power (See the tender lyric "I'm a cop", above, svp). And folks like Jude and us ain't getting' any anytime soon (that is, unless, "come November, ole Moses Bernie'll manage to take Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio and take us to the Promised Land", I hear Jude's boyish voice sing within me). And the novel does not even allow Jude to understand what he (mis)quotes, either. Nor me (I? Dunno). I'll be damned. [Outro] Oh how, how man needs a woman I sympathize with the man that don't have a woman He's lost in the wilderness He's lost in bitterness He's lost in loneliness *see update to page 75 below **this beloved band's unlovely hometown! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHFQ9...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    2.5/5 I am not a man who wants to save himself at the expense of the weaker among us! A word of advice to wannabe novelists: don't build a sob story character on the backs of far more desperate plot lines. In the effort of making a single complex portrait that seeks to inspire empathetic commiseration, you run the risk of using tropes as buffering without giving them their due. Now, one can write a work of some quality without deity level insight à la Evans/Eliot and such, but that requires st 2.5/5 I am not a man who wants to save himself at the expense of the weaker among us! A word of advice to wannabe novelists: don't build a sob story character on the backs of far more desperate plot lines. In the effort of making a single complex portrait that seeks to inspire empathetic commiseration, you run the risk of using tropes as buffering without giving them their due. Now, one can write a work of some quality without deity level insight à la Evans/Eliot and such, but that requires strengths and minimal screwing ups in the other areas of fiction. Saturated melodrama, shoddy dialogue, and a message of main character far more interested in (him/it)self than any of the other cultivated personas makes for a sentimentality that shuns the majority of the audience that would give it humanity's power. Obviously, enough of the audience raises this up, judging from the novel's status as a classic, but it is not likely to survive as long as several of its kin. Still, Sue, it is no worse for the woman than for the man. That's what some women fail to see, and instead of protesting against the conditions they protest against the man, the other victim; just as a woman in a crowd will abuse the man who crushes against her, when he is only the helpless transmitter of the pressure put upon him. The world may one day reach the state described in the quote above, but it was not that way then, and it is not that way now. Where Jude cannot enter the university because of poverty, Sue cannot enter because of her existence. Where Jude cannot find an equal out of misguided ideals, she cannot find one because of socialized expectations of selling her body for every survival in life. Whereas Jude has problems of inconclusive education and a poorly paid career, Sue has a complete cutting off from patriarchal support, a world that does not want what she, as a she, has to give, and an inherent lack of infrastructure when it comes to picturing her self outside the boundaries of domesticity, religion, and sexual assault. Couple this with Jude's constant adherence to double standards in their conversation and you get what is to be expected: permanent anxiety, defense mechanisms that pay no heed to the laws of man, and a final breakdown that cannot be understood by any who are accustomed to seeing themselves in the annals of history and the halls of excellence. Hardy portrayed enough for conjecture's sake, but he was not interested in the reality of the situation beyond what it offered for dramatic effect. Sue was two steps away from being a madwoman in the attic, and her Wide Sargasso Sea was not Hardy's to tell. Don't abandon me to them, Sue, to save your own soul only! I will admit to searching here for a variation on the theme of Stoner; not out of hope of finding another favorite, for my tastes have changed enough in the last year and a half that a second reading of Williams would result in a less enamored me, but of critiquing a familiarity. Both works focus on a single white male (academic) soul playing on a backdrop of father figures, love interests, and progeny, but only one pays a serious measure of attention to these background souls beyond the strengths they offer as emotive filler. In addition, when Stoner indulges in philosophical contemplation, it does not parody itself, nor does it lazily balance with Madonna/Whore complexes and extraneous prophesies more fit for penny dreadfuls than calamitous relationships. A certain type may find refuge in Jude, as it seems many have done; but not all are of that type. I still have Far from the Madding Crowd on hand. It shall be saved for a few decades farther into the future, when I will be able to view it from a different generational perspective.

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