Gary Inbinder's Reviews > Jude the Obscure

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
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's review
May 24, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: victorian-literature

I rate this novel highly for its poetic prose, compelling narrative, strong characterizations, and gritty realism. But it's also one of the gloomiest novels ever written.

I don't think of Jude, Sue and their children as victims of Victorian class prejudice, rigid sexual morality, gender inequality, etc. Hardy's pessimism runs deeper than that. His characters are dust in the wind, driftwood on a tide of cosmic indifference. Hardy referred to "gods" as "purblind doomsters." In other words, an obtuse force determines whether we're happy (relatively speaking) or miserable and there's little or nothing we can do about it.

Hardy's pessimism was not of the half-empty glass variety. His characters get a full glass, all right--of rat poison. No wonder a Bishop publicly burned this novel. The Late Victorian critics and public hated it. The reaction was so bad, Hardy turned to poetry, where he could more easily cloak his gloomy, agnostic worldview in ambiguous poetic imagery.

Bottom line--if you need to get anything positive or hopeful from your reading, look elsewhere.

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