Jude the Obscure
Thomas Hardy’s last completed novel was Jude the Obscure, first published in 1895. The novel’s harsh reception at the time, where one reviewer called it “Jude the Obscene” led hardy to abandon novel writing in favor of poetry. Hardy was exploring criticism of several aspects of Victorian society, including marriage, education, and the Church. Overall, the novel is highly condemning of Christianity. There are many elements of Hardy’s personal life wrapped up in the many themes of the novel.
The plot of Jude the Obscure details the life of Jude Fawley, who lives in a village in Hardy’s fictional Wessex. Jude teaches himself Greek and Latin in the attempt to become a scholar. However, Jude is tricked into marrying Arabella, and by the time she departs for Australia, Jude has abandoned his studies. In the meantime, he falls in love with Sue Bridehead, who marries Mr. Philloston.
Sue discovers that she dislikes both her husband and sex, and leaves Philloston for Jude, where the two live platonically. Eventually, the pair have two children, but remain socially ostracized for never marrying. After years of wandering, Jude’s son with Arabella murders his half-siblings and hangs himself. Sue comes to believe that this is divine retribution for her relationship with Jude, and she leaves Jude for Philloston. Jude remarries Arabella, but soon dies. Arabella is merely on to her next suitor.