Jude the Obscure

Set in Christminster, a fictional town modelled on Oxford, Thomas Hardy’s ‘Jude the Obscure’ is yet another classic that takes the city of dreaming spires as its inspiration. Widely considered one of the most depressing, the novel intertwines suicide, murder and the severe consequences of religious constrictions and was publicly burned in its time for due to its anti-Christian implications. Published in 1895, the novel culminates in tragedy and also criticises marriage, something that again was especially taboo in Victorian England and led to some scandalised critics naming it ‘Jude the Obscene.’

That Jude and his cousin Sue are punished for their attempts to break free of oppressive social conventions mirrors Hardy’s contempt for values that were then extremely respected and his views even began to affect his personal life when wife Emma, who became increasingly religious with age, became disenchanted with her husband’s liberal outlook. Fictional character Sue also becomes obsessed with religion, eventually causing her to lose her sense of independence and become sexually repressed, an insinuation that was not lost on Emma and led to further alienation between the couple. The novel also deals with other controversial topics such as class, again something personal to Hardy who, similarly to protagonist Jude, was exempted from going to university due to his background.

Perhaps it was due to the reception ‘Jude’ received from kin and community alike that  Hardy made the decision to produce only poetry and drama for his remaining 32 years but the novel nevertheless remains an iconic milestone within British fiction and one of the most perceptive and daring works of its time.

And its namesake pub in Jericho isn’t a bad little place either!

 

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One Response to “Jude the Obscure”
  1. I never knew that Christminster was based on Oxford.

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