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Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

Jude the Obscure

by Thomas Hardy

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Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
This book was published in 1895 to such adverse criticism that Hardy didn't write another novel. Clearly it wasn't the done thing to question the institution of marriage, the influence of the church on society and to speak up for the poor. Never mind the (extremely mild) references to sex, which by the standards of the day, were considered too much. The story focuses on a young man with ambitions to better himself by striving to make it to a college at the university town of Christminster. However, the mistakes he and (his cousin / lover) Sue, make in their youth are not forgiven in the eyes of the community - wherever they go. Unable to free themselves, things begin to spiral.

Usually regarded as the most depressing of Hardy's novels but it would be wrong to dismiss it on those terms as there is a lot going on in this book and it keeps you turning the pages. But yes, it does contain probably the most shocking scene I have ever read. ( )
1 vote Lord_Boris | Feb 21, 2017 |
This Hardy novel tells the tale of Jude, a rural stonemason whose ambition is to better himself through the higher education of Christminster (Oxford), and his tragic love affair with his cousin Sue. Their relationship made for an enthralling read, particularly as it was very modern, daring and unconventional for it's time.

Sue is a fabulously complex heroine who derives both feelings of admiration and frustration in the reader as she stays resolute to her convictions however misplaced, whilst Jude is a typical Hardy protagonist who makes you root for him the whole way through the novel.

Unlike the other two Hardy's I've read to date, this one felt like it took quite a while to get going, and I would say it was only about halfway in that I got properly hooked. For that reason I'm deducting a star, but nonetheless it was a great read and the second half was a definite page-turner. I enjoy that Hardy gives such a real sense of place in rural England through the eyes of the lower and middle classes especially, and he's the grand master of social tragedy.

4 stars - not my favourite Hardy so far, but another wonderful Wessex tale. ( )
2 vote AlisonY | Dec 22, 2016 |
Not just about 1895 social mores. Also applies to now. Sue Bridehead is an advanced woman .and the exploration of class issues is at ground level, as people experience them. ( )
1 vote linenandprint | Sep 26, 2016 |
I read this book as part of the 1001 books to read list and loved it. What a beautifully written tragedy. Jude the Obscure tells the sad tale of Jude Fawley, a young man full of ideals and aspirations who is thwarted at every turn by the social constraints of his time.

This is not a book for those looking for a light and fun read. Hardy takes on issues of social class, marriage, & religion. I find it amazing to think about when this book was written. Yes, it's cliche to say he was ahead of his time but it was astounding for me to read the passages that seemed like early feminist theory! Jude and Sue are two characters who struggle because they challenge against Victorian ideals of marriage, religion, and convention. It is through their story that we can see Hardy's criticism of Victorian rigid social convention. It is little surprise that this book received so much criticism and was his last novel. ( )
1 vote JenPrim | Jan 15, 2016 |
Once I realized I hadn't yet read any Thomas Hardy, I felt obliged to pick up one of his works, since Hardy is mentioned frequently enough that I'd put him into my mental category of Authors I Should Have Read. Jude the Obscure did not reward my decision. Characters, prose, plot, message, every element of this book was lackluster, to the extent that, even though it was the last of Hardy's novels, at times it seems downright amateurish.

Every character in Jude the Obscure is frustrating, largely because Hardy usually doesn't provide any characterization. The titular character of Jude studies all the time, but is he smart? Does he grasp the material he's reading? Or is he just memorizing without understanding? This is not addressed at all for a long portion of the novel, and remains murky to the last. Later on Jude starts a relationship with Arabella, who decides at their first meeting that she wants a man like Jude for a husband- we aren't told why, nor are we shown why the pair is incompatible. Instead we get a not-at-all-subtle Samson and Delilah reference and then are told by Hardy that the marriage isn't working out, without ever getting a sense of why that is the case. For the rest of the book Arabella fills the role of "female antagonist," being vaguely petty and manipulative and slutty in ways that were boring and cliché long before Hardy put them onto paper. The character with the most characterization is Sue, who, despite getting more development, is still frustrating due to Hardy never having her articulate what she wants. For a long stretch of the book it seems as though she desires emotional companionship without physical intimacy, which would be fine, but Hardy never has her communicate this, so multiple male characters are strung along for dozens and dozens of pages trying to puzzle out what she wants. After a skip forward in time, however, Sue has evidently embraced physical intimacy in a way never previously indicated, making Sue's desires muddled to the point of indecipherability. There's also a child sociopath that seems like he's pulled right out of a horror film, who is introduced by being such a killjoy that it makes abundantly clear that his inclusion isn't going to be making the book any more enjoyable.

And this is a book that could well use some added entertainment value. I can see how Dickens' prose might not be everyone's cup of tea, but in contrast I can't see how Hardy's prose can be anyone's cup of tea: it reads like the prose of Dickens stripped of any color or artistry. The best I can say about it is that it is functional, though archaic. This entire book feels like a remnant from a previous literary era, since, despite being written in 1895, it reads as overly formal and completely unexciting. It is stunning when you realize that this was a book written long after Stendhal, Austen, Gogol, and Flaubert had been published. All of those writers feel more modern and vibrant, both in their prose and in their exploration of their subject matter. Hardy sermonizes on the way the marriage system should be reformed through the conversations of Mr. Phillotson, in speeches that seem shoehorned in and which are painfully boring to read. It is of course true that the system of marriage in Hardy's era was far from perfect, but in Jude the Obscure he beats his readers over the head with his message instead of allowing them to come to the conclusion on their own. He also mentions some of the practical reasons behind marriage as a legal institution but never bothers to address or refute those reasons, instead sweeping the material considerations for marriage under the rug by having Mr. Phillotson and Sue essentially competing over who can take the least property after they agree to divorce (perhaps Hardy did not feel the need to address the reasons he raised because those reasons came out of the mouth of Arabella, and therefore are de facto lies). Hardy also undercuts his messages at times, like when he portrays Arabella as the one derailing Jude's scholarly ambitions, when it is clear that those ambitions were thwarted from the very beginning by the circumstances of Jude's birth. By inserting in poorly-crafted arguments Hardy not only makes Jude the Obscure more tedious to read, he also fails to convincingly support his positions as well.

Hardy has the main characters fall on hard times at around the 4/5ths mark of the book in a way that feels inorganic and unsatisfying, so that he can give us a tragic ending to a book that doesn't much need one: you can illustrate the unfairness of the educational and social institutions without having your main character meet a cliché end, in fact I think the couple continuing on as a lower class family with all of their loftier ambitions frustrated would have been a more poignant and interesting ending than the melodramatic deaths that Hardy gives us. It doesn't help that Hardy's prose is unable to capture the emotions of the tragic scenes he paints. The low-grade groan that had been in the back of my mind since about fifty pages in got a lot louder at the scene where it is revealed that Jude Jr. has killed his half-siblings and himself, not just because it was so blatantly meant to shock the audience, but because I immediately knew that Hardy didn't have the writing chops to pull it off. Jude quoting Agamemnon on the next page confirmed this.

This is one of those books that I'm giving 2 stars not because it did anything too terribly, but because it did nothing well. There is no line of prose I found impressive, no character that felt real, no theme or message that struck home. Just a lot of words and pages and a feeling of boredom throughout. Perhaps the highest compliment I can give this book is that it's themes at times made me think about The Red and the Black, a far better book that you should definitely read in place of this. ( )
1 vote BayardUS | Jan 10, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (45 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hardy, Thomasprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bayley, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brown, RosellenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hynes, SamuelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Luciani, GiovanniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Monzó, QuimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parker, Agnes MillerIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reddick, PeterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sisson, C. H.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorne, StephenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watts, Cedric ThomasEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Jude (1996IMDb)
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"The letter killeth"
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The schoolmaster was leaving the village, and everybody seemed sorry.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486452433, Paperback)

Hardy's masterpiece traces a poor stonemason's ill-fated romance with his free-spirited cousin. No Victorian institution is spared — marriage, religion, education — and the outrage following publication led the embittered author to renounce fiction. Modern critics hail this novel as a pioneering work of feminism and socialist thought.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:07 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Hardy's last novel caused a public furore when it was first published, with it's fearless and challenging exploration of class and sexual relationships. This edition uses the unbowdlerized first-volume text of 1895, and includes a list for further reading, appendices and a glossary. In his introduction, Dennis Taylor examines biblical allusions and the critique of religion in Jude the Obscure, and it's critical reception that led Hardy to abandon novel writing.… (more)

» see all 14 descriptions

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Average: (3.86)
0.5 7
1 46
1.5 5
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2.5 22
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8 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140435387, 0141028890, 0141199830

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