How Education Affect Life in Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure

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The key themes within Thomas Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure” include relationship development and how education affects one’s quality of life. Within the novel, Mr. Phillotson’s relationships with Jude and Sue emphasize these central themes through his yearning for knowledge, as well as his unconscious desire to eventually find love. As a young boy, Jude idolizes Mr Phillotson, vowing to follow him to Christminster in the pursuit of an education. This instance is one of many within the novel in which Hardy draws attention to the importance of education, and it allows the characters to move towards an objective. Being one of the only adult male role models in Jude’s young life, Mr. Phillotson takes on a fatherly role. In addition to visiting Christminster in the pursuit of an education, Jude wishes to pursue his former teacher in order to continue their relationship. Though Mr. Phillotson sees himself as only a teacher, Jude believes that their relationship is special, attaching importance to everything that he says. Early in the novel, Mr. Phillotson, Jude’s teacher and role model, leaves 11 year old Jude to pursue a university education in the town of Christminster. In leaving, Phillotson leaves Jude with a seemingly generic goodbye, saying to “Be a good boy, remember; and be kind to animals and birds, and read all you can. And if ever you come to Christminster remember you hunt me out for old acquaintance’ sake” (Hardy 11). Jude, interpreting everything that Phillotson says as law, proceeds to disregard his job of shooing birds away from a field in order to allow them to feast on the crops (Hardy 14). Jude’s sympathies with the birds are partially driven by Phillotsons’ final wisdom. Jude is able to empathize with the birds, underst... ... middle of paper ... ...s with both Jude and Sue. Early in the novel, Phillotson leaves town in order to pursue his passion, enticing a young Jude to follow suit. Jude is enamoured with Phillotson and Christminster throughout his childhood, eventually deciding that his primary objective is to follow suit, with the goal of enrolling in University. When Jude learns of Sue, he immediately feels an attraction that is only inflamed once he learns of her blossoming relationship with Phillotson. The schoolmaster eventually allows Jude and Sue’s love to live, though it dries up after the death of their children. Sue finally returns to Phillotson, deciding that God was punishing her for abandoning her first marriage. Hardy compares the schoolmaster and his student several times throughout the novel, emphasizing the impact that Phillotson has on all aspects of Jude’s life, and therefore, the novel.

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