Thomas Hardy´s Jude The Obscure: Theme in Relation to the Author Essay

Thomas Hardy´s Jude The Obscure: Theme in Relation to the Author Essay

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Thomas Hardy's Jude The Obscure is a romantic Victorian bildungsroman that tells the story of Jude Fawley, a hopeful working-class scholar who falls in love with Sue Bridehead, his cousin. Finding that their relationship attracts the anger and criticism of their community, Jude and Sue experience isolation and tragedy throughout the novel. Jude The Obscure is set in fictional Wessex, an area located southwest of England; however, many subtleties throughout the story suggest that the places Jude visits are based on real cities from Thomas Hardy's life. For example, Christminster, a collegiate city, is said to be modeled on Oxford, while Marygreen and Melchester are modeled on Fawley and Salisbury, respectively. Though Jude The Obscure is filled with several themes involving religion, love, class, and dreams, its central theme focuses on marriage and its societal constructs during Hardy's time. When it was first published, Jude The Obscure was censured by critics for attacking the institution of marriage. It even strained the relationship between Thomas Hardy and his wife, who feared that readers would think that the novel was describing her own marriage. Jude and Sue are married to other people, even though they have little to no contact with them. Despite this fact, others around them view their marriage as illegitimate because, according to societal constructs, Jude and Sue are doing wrong against the Church. Society thus ostracizes the two causing tragedy to befall upon them.

During Hardy's time, divorce wasn't as prevalent as it is today, and usually only wealthy men were able to leave their wives. A man could divorce his wife on grounds as simple as adultery, while a woman had to prove cruelty, rape, sodomy, incest or big...


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...cause that's just what society says people must do. She says that even though her name is Mrs. Richard Phillotson on paper, she is still Sue Bridehead on the inside. Because Hardy wrote Jude the Obscure when his first wife was still alive, the dissatisfaction with marriage in the novel seems to reflect Hardy's already strained relationship with his wife, and Sue can be seen as a character that Hardy wished to have as his wife.

Overall, Jude the Obscure attacks the conventional view of marriage during Hardy's time. Hardy offended many with his novel, including his wife. And after the social response to his book, Hardy gave up writing fiction for good and began writing poetry, which he felt would give him greater intellectual freedom. Marriage during the Victorian era was nothing like it is today, and those who went against its institutions suffered the consequences.

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