Hardy's Jude the Obscure

Hardy's Jude the Obscure

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Hardy's Jude the Obscure

     In Hardy's Jude the Obscure, Hardy shows his views on religion and
commitment to the Church which were said to have declined in the latter years of
his life. (Ingham, xxvii) Throughout the book Hardy displays his feeling that
religion is something that people use in order to satisfy themselves by giving
their lives meaning. One instance in which Hardy clearly displays this is when
he writes, "It had been the yearning of his heart to find something to anchor on,
to cling to." (Ingham, 94) In order to bring out this point Hardy chooses to
create Jude as an orphan and has him come from obscure origins. By doing this he
creates a character who is looking for something to give him an identity. As a
result of his relationship with Mr. Phillotson (who leaves for Christminster in
order to become ordained), he finds religion and feels that he can use it to
help him gain an identity. Hardy feels that people should shy away from their
old ways of thinking and begin to form new opinions of their own. He feels that
people should not just blindly follow religion without deciding for themselves
that this is what they want. People should not be as Jude who becomes obsessed
with religion simply because his mentor Phillotson felt this way. One of the
major reasons that causes Hardy to have these views is that he feels religion
leads to hypocrisy. He feels that man has many desires that go against the laws
of religion, and these desires lead man to feel very hypocritical. These
feelings of hypocrisy then cause man to have many inner conflicts that lead to
many problems. This negativity towards religion is seen both through symbols in
the book and in the plot itself. The symbols that convey this message are the
name Jude, which is an allusion to Judas Iscariot who was a traitor to Jesus.
The name Jude can also be a reference to the wandering Jew. The second symbol is
Christminster. Christminster symbolizes a world in which Jude sees how
remarkable the Church is, but it is a place that exists only in Jude's
imagination. Another symbol that we encounter is that of Samson who is symbolic
of man going after women that are forbidden to him. We also encounter a
reference to Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, which is used to question God by asking
why the righteous suffer. Finally, the job Jude chooses is also symbolic of the
anti-religious attitude that is shown.

     The negativity towards religion is first revealed in the name Jude.

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is an allusion to Judas Iscariot. Judas betrayed Jesus to his enemy for thirty
pieces of silver. He identified Jesus to the soldiers by kissing him, and this
is what led to Jesus's death. He later returned the money he received to kill
Jesus and then went off and killed himself. Jude's life seems to contain many
similarities to Judas's life. When Jude was in his younger years he had strong
feelings towards religion. Jude began to move away from God as his life
progressed. This occurred when he started to feel the guilt that arose from his
feelings for Sue. These feelings of guilt caused Jude to move away from the
Church and "betray" God, as he states, "The Church is no more to me." (Ingham,

     By making the comparison to Judas, Hardy is conveying to us the message
that religion causes one to feel very unsure of oneself. Judas's life is filled
with uncertainty; at first he is very religious and spends much time with Jesus.
He then abruptly betrays Jesus for a mere thirty pieces of silver, the price of
a slave. He is very unsure of himself and it is the hypocrisy that seems to eat
away at him until he can longer take it, and as a result he ends up killing
himself. Jude is very unsure of himself when it comes to religion, mirroring
Judas. At first, he wants to be ordained, but, only because he wants to follow
in the footsteps of his mentor Phillotson. He then is no longer able to keep his
religious views because he can not live with the fact that they go against his
deepest desires to be with Sue. As with Judas, religion causes Jude to act very
hypocritically. Jude wanted to be religious, yet at the same time he wanted to
remain together with Sue. Finally, Jude can longer cope with all these feelings
of guilt and confusion and he is forced to leave the Church.

     Thus we see that religion causes someone to be very confused and act in
a very hypocritical manner. Hardy feels that these feelings are not necessary
and could be avoided by avoiding religion. Had Jude and Sue not fallen into the
"trap" of religion, it is very probable that the whole story would have been
different, and would have ended on much brighter note. Had Jude and Sue not had
the conflict of religion they would have been able to marry each other without
having any guilty feelings. They also would have been able to avert any ill
feelings that the towns' people had felt towards them.

The word Jude can mean the wandering Jew. By calling the main character of
the book Jude, Hardy is making a reference to a group of people who believe in
God and are classified as wandering. By using this allusion Hardy is trying to
convey to us that the path of religion is not one that has a true destination,
but rather it is one of fallacy that leaves people wandering. Hardy further
illustrates this point by making Jude a "wanderer." Jude is a wanderer both
literally and figuratively. Literally we see him wandering from place to place
to find work, and figuratively we see him searching for his own identity.

     We encounter a negativity towards religion by the town called
Christminster. Christminster can be broken down into Christ and minister. At
first, Christminster is symbolic of a place that is supposed to be wonderful
like the world of the Church. It is likened to the Church by the phrases in
which Hardy uses to describe it. He writes that Jude sees Christminster as "the
city of the light," in fact it is seen as "a place he had likened to the new
Jerusalem," the city of redemption. (Ingham, 85) These biblical references lead
us to make a religious connection between the Church and Christminster.
Christminster is also seen as a place where he hopes to fulfill all his hopes
and dreams. "From the beginning, Jude sees in Christminster and its university
the image of an attainable ideal world. His desire for this ideal vision
involves a rejection of reality. For his own sporadically controlled, partially
understood world, he substitutes the image of an ideal unified, stable, and
understandable one." (Bloom, 193) However, this wonderful world exists only in
Jude's imagination. He does this in order to escape his complicated reality.
Hardy is trying to tell us that we should not fall into the same predicament as
Jude; we should not allow ourselves to run after religion as an escape to our
problems because it will only lead to hardships. We see Hardy's message as Jude
encounters many major rejections in Christminster; included in these are his not
getting into any of the colleges he desired to attend and his love Sue leaving
him for Phillotson. Here we see that the two major goals that Jude had hoped to
achieve in Christminster both remained unfulfilled. What Hardy is trying to tell
us is that at in many instances religion may seem to be the path to take.
However, after one delves deep into the meaning of religion he finds, as Jude
does in Christminster, that while it may seem great from a distance, it is
actually just filled with many letdowns. Thus, the view on religion is: it seems
to be the "light" we should follow, but, it is actually only an illusion.

     Hardy shows that Jude's desire to go to Christminster and dedicate
himself to the church stemmed from his admiration of Phillotson. By saying this,
Hardy is telling us that it was not Jude's own true wish be a part of the Church,
but rather he was just following someone there. He then realizes that with his
true feelings he can not continue to follow the Church because it would be
hypocritical. What Jude is realizing is that one must choose his own path and
should not feel compelled to follow God, if he does not come to the conclusion
himself. When Jude an Arabella go walking together, they stop at an inn to drink
tea. At this time Hardy makes mention of the picture on the wall. The hanging
picture is of Samson and Delilah. Samson, although a fighter for his nation, was
not someone who strictly adhered to the laws of religion. Samson showed his lack
of adhesion to the laws of the bible by sleeping with three forbidden women.
This is very similar to Jude who is going after the "forbidden woman" (forbidden
because she is his cousin). Samson is thus a symbol of one going against the
proper views of the bible, as Jude.

     By bringing up Samson at such a time Hardy is trying to tell us
something. He is trying to tell us that even though one of the great heroes of
the bible has gone and committed sin with forbidden women, he was still able to
become a hero. Hardy therefore brings this to our attention to show us that
religion is not necessary in order for one to lead a successful life.

     By making this reference Hardy is trying to make Jude into a tragic hero.
This is done through the mention of Samson. Hardy is saying that as Samson Jude
is also a hero. While Samson was a hero because of his strength and ability to
triumph in battle, Jude is a hero because he has the strength to fight against
what society deems to be acceptable (the ways of the Church). Jude is not swayed
like most by what others feel he should do, but rather he is a fighter. Hardy
compares Jude to Jesus in many instances, one of which is when Jude is angry at
Sue for marrying Phillotson. This comparison is brought up when Jude and Sue are
talking about which inn to go to, in order to avoid being seen by others. Here
we have Jude intending to commit adultery with Sue and we have Hardy comparing
him to Jesus. Although in the end of the seen Jude and Sue do not end up
sleeping with each other, at the time the comparison to Jesus is made, it is
Jude's intention to sleep with Sue.

"You simply mean that you flirted outrageously with him, poor old chap, and then
to make reparation, married him, though you tortured yourself to death by doing
it." "Well-if you will put it brutally!--it was like that-that and the scandal
together-and you concealing from me what you have told me before!" He could see
that she was distressed and tearful at his criticisms, and soothed her saying,
"There, dear; don't mind! Crucify me if you will! You know you are the world to
me, whatever you do!" (Hardy, 216)

In this instance Hardy's negative views towards religion are seen. We
encounter Jude and Sue arguing about her feelings for Phillotson. Once Jude
realizes that he has caused Sue to feel bad he immediately tries to comfort her.
Here Hardy compares Jude to Jesus by having him say "crucify me if you will."
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