Lissa Notreallywolf's Reviews > Jude the Obscure

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
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Apr 28, 12

bookshelves: historical-fiction
Read in April, 2012

** spoiler alert ** Technically this is a reread, but I haven't returned to reading Thomas Hardy since I was in highschool, to the best of my recollection. And Hardy is worth returning to because he was a rival in my literary affections to Willa Cather. Both authors were feminists and explored relationships in a way that was outside of their respective times ideas of propriety. Jude the Obscure rankles on my own sense of propriety because Jude's love is Sue, his cousin. Set in an era where close female relations were often looked on with a more sexualized eye that my era tends to be comfortable with (Shelly, for instance), one can't help but wonder what their offspring would have been like-something which worried them about themselves. This may be considered a spoiler, but you from the start that Jude is fated to have some sort of love-relationship to Sue, although the two of them have a very hard time figuring out exactly what that relationship should be, outside of social constrictions. After finishing the novel at this juncture in my life I can't help thinking of Hardy's description of Sue racing the boys in the neighborhood, and then taking refuge in her cottage when they wanted a rematch. Perhaps Sue would have been more comfortable as a boy herself. Hardy observes something etherial about Sue, as well as Jude. But Jude is able to give into his masculinity and thus be seduced by Arabella. Sue, on the otherhand, would prefer to avoid sex with either her husband or her lover. The novel is a critique of marriage, yes, but I think it is also a cry against the binary nature of social scripts for love-that it is either sexual or not, married or not. Religion should give vent to a broader definition-something Pillotson and Jude both struggle with in their charity to Sue and Arabella. And both men are thwarted in their aspirations by women, Sue in particular. On another tack I found this a heartbreaking read-not just because of the broken lovers, but also the broken hopes of Jude (and Mr. P.) with regards to Christminster. The longing for intellectual freedom, often held above one's class rings poignantly even today, even after "climbing the hill to the golden Jersualem."
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