Many have highly recommended Jude the Obscure, including many from the blogosphere. I wanted to truly adore this book as so many others have, but, alas, I just wasn’t able to. The novel’s tone is very dark and hopeless. Perhaps I should have avoided reading such as one not exactly bearing good tides during this holiday season.
An orphan is sent to live with his cold, uncaring aunt who warns him repeatedly about his family’s history of failed and tragic marriages. Of course he takes no heed and sets off with dreams of becoming an educated man, but is temporarily thwarted by a deceitful woman. His second attempt at enrolling in university fails and he continues on as a stonemason. He meets his cousin, they fall in love and the forebodings of his aunt manifest in devastating tragedies.
The novel’s hapless protagonist, Jude Fawley, seems destined for misfortune, yet with the hopes held by many a young man, he continues to dream. Jude is patient and intelligent, but allows himself to be manipulated by women he believes he is being honorable towards. He really should have taken his aunt’s advice a little more seriously.
Jude’s love, and cousin, Sue Bridehead, seems unable to make decisions and commitments. Initially presented as open-minded and as a talented artist, she eventually is revealed as a conventional, possibly, frigid woman. She seems to speak to others without much thought as to what the impact of her words might be. A sad and troubled soul who should have followed her own instincts and moved far, far away.
Arabella Donn, Jude’s first wife is a brusque woman intent on providing only for herself. She seduces young Jude and feigns pregnancy to ensure marriage, but quickly grows tired of life as a wife. She leaves the country and returns much later bearing tales of an Australian husband and a child she assures Jude is his. This is a woman to avoid by any means and her treatment of Jude in his time of need proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt.
The whole aspect of the scene had that depressing effect on Jude which few places can produce like a tap-room on a Sunday evening when the setting sun is slanting in, and no liquor is going, and the unfortunate wayfarer finds himself with no other haven of rest.
He went upstairs without a light, and the dim interior of his room accosted him with sad inquiry. There lay his book open, just as he had left it, and the capital letters on the title-page regarded him with fixed reproach in the grey starlight, like the unclosed eyes of a dead man.
With a womans disregard of her dignity when in the presence of nobody but herself, she also trotted down, sobbing articulately as she went.
I would love to discuss social disparity with Mr. Hardy. Perhaps he’d recite some of his renowned poetry and share some tricks of his writing trade.
My rating for Jude the Obscure is a 7 out of 10.
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