Sue and Arabella in Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure

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Sue and Arabella in Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure

Thomas Hardy's diary contains an entry that explains how he will show the world something it needs to be shown in a story about a poor, struggling young man who has to deal with ultimate failure (Howe 132). This brief description of a story has turned into Hardy's phenomenal Jude the Obscure. Jude is emotionally torn between the two main women in the novel, Sue and Arabella, because each woman can only partially satisfy his urges. The stark difference in emotion, conversation, and sexual appetite make Sue and Arabella polar opposites in Hardy's Jude the Obscure.

Jude is ripped between the pure sexuality of Arabella and the pure intellect of Sue (Draper 252). Ronald P. Draper writes that Jude is sexually more comfortable with Arabella so, in this sense, she is Jude?s true partner (252). ?Arabella represents the classical entrapment by sex: the entrapment of an ?innocent? sensual man by a hard, needy, shackling woman? (Hardwick 69). Bernard D. N. Grebanier goes even farther, saying that Arabella with stop at nothing to get Jude (713). Sue is a complicated mesh of sexual aversion and the power of female intellect (Hardwick 68). As Elizabeth Hardwick puts it, Sue ?thinks and that is her mystery? (67). Sue has radical ideas, especially for a woman, and it is commonplace for her to question society and it?s problems (Hardwick 68). Sue, to Jude?s dismay, also dismisses much of religion (Hardwick 68).

The sacred act of marriage is questioned in Jude the Obscure (Saldivar 192). Marriage is seen as an institution open to criticism that is violated by need, chance, and the choices made by the characters (Hardwick 68). For Sue, violations in wholeness and freedom are agoni...

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... K. Hall & Company, 1990. 243-254.

Grebanier, Bernard D. N. The Essentials of English Literature. Volume Two. New York: Barron?s Educational Series, Incorporated, 1948.

Hardwick, Elizabeth. ?Sue and Arabella.? The Genius of Thomas Hardy. Margaret Drabble. New York: George Weidenfeld and Nicolson Limited, 1976. 67-73.

Hardy, Thomas. Jude the Obscure. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Howe, Irving. Masters of World Literature: Thomas Hardy. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1967.

Saldivar, Ramon. ?Jude the Obscure: Redaing and the Spirit of the Law.? Modern Critical Views: Thomas Hardy.Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987. 191-205.

Weinstein, Philip M. ??The Spirit Unappeased and Peregrine?: Jude the Obscure.? Critical Essays on Thomas Hardy: The Novels. Dale Kramer. New York: G. K. Hall & Company, 1990. 228-243.
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