Mommalibrarian's Reviews > Jude the Obscure

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
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's review
Jun 05, 11

bookshelves: classic, womens-issues
Read in June, 2011

I read this book with some irritation. I could not decide who was the bigger fool: Jude Fawley or Sue Bridehead. Jude waffles back and forth and agrees to whatever Sue requests. Sue defends her relationship with the old teacher Phillotson as, "but I haven't the courage of my views, as I said before. I didn't marry him altogether because of the scandal. But sometimes a woman's love of being loved gets the better of her conscience, and though she is agonized at the thought of treating a man cruelly, she encouraged him to love her while she doesn't love him at all. Then she may be suffering, her remorse sets in, and she does what she can to repair the wrong."

To which Jude replies, "You simply mean that you flirted outrageously with him, poor old chap, and then repented, and to make reparation, married him, though you tortured yourself to death by doing it."

I plowed through the entire 397 pages. Then I read the afterword. This book was written in a time far different than ours. The idea of 'the new woman' was a hot topic. Suffrage was a desire, liberation and equal rights were barely a dream. In the afterword, William Deresiewicz writes, "We take it for granted today that men and women are capable of becoming friends." Sue is criticized by many readers as frigid and even once by Jude as well. Some support for this is the fact that sex at this time physically inevitably leads to pregnancy. It is possible to read the dithering and waffling dance which Sue and Jude perform as an attempt to have a friendship in a world where friendship between the sexes is an unknown quantity. I think reading the book would be a more enjoyable process if the afterword had preceded the text, gone in to even more historical detail, and I had read it then.

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