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Jude the Obscure
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Past Group Reads > Jude The Obscure - Complete Discussion (spoilers)

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Simon (sorcerer88) | 108 comments Discuss the entirety of Jude The Obscure here.


Hilary (agapoyesoun) I thought that I'd drop in to say "Hello" and share a broad strokes impression of the book. It is, perhaps, a year or more since I read this so the finer details have escaped me.

This was my second Hardy, reading it after 'The Mayor of Casterbridge'. As 'The Mayor' was my first experience of Mr Hardy's writing, I was pleasantly surprised by his refreshing style: he could talk of something full of deadly potential, but with the opposite effect. Indeed, in the hands of most other writers, I would have, undoubtedly, been found on the edge of some wind-beaten cliff, trying to come up with reasons not to jump.

Then it was Jude's turn, sauntering along with its horrific dénouement and rendering 'The Mayor' a happy Christmas Wonderland by comparison. 'Jude' ought to have done me in and it's true that Hardy pressed some buttons in me that cannot be unpressed, but somehow, somehow!, he made me feel as though I were relaxing at a spa or enjoying a walk in the park on a mild, sunny, spring day. I know that this makes me sound as though I have some sort of severe personality disorder and, yes, it may be slightly overstated but it contains more than a seed of truth in it.

I love Hardy's descriptive power. The English countryside comes alive and I am transformed
by its beauty. I am proud to be English! Oh wait, I'm Irish! How I wish we'd had Hardy describing some of our beautiful mountains and lakes and coastal areas. It would have given us the power to defeat any enemy. Come one, come all! There is no one like us ...!


Lauren (lauren651) | 36 comments Like all of the Hardy novels I have read, this book was depressing. Jude married young only to find he had married a manipulative and adulterous witch. Then he sees a picture of his cousin and falls in love only to later find out that she has been playing him in a similar way. I think Sue honestly just loved to be loved and so did everything in her power to ensure she created drama and passion wherever she went. I found her selfish and self centered and cruel. Which, to be honest, was how Hardy many to portray her. With the exception of the older women (Jude's aunt and widow Mrs Edlin) all the women in this book are portrayed as manipulative and cruel while the men are portrayed as weak with passion, easily swayed by women and therefore given a tragic air. Or they're seen as being the voices of reason (depending on the character). I'm not sure that this is necessary a truthful representation of gender today, but it's clear that while Hardy had respect for his elders and their relationships, he clearly feels that people of his generation are tragically destined to love with passion instead of common sense and compassion.


Jerilyn | 50 comments These themes are surprisingly contemporary. I can't help imagining these characters in today's text messaging culture. The story is filled with normal young adult drama.

Okay, full disclosure: I am the mother of 3 young adults, aged 24-26. (Yup, 3 under 3 when the last was born.) 2 boys, and a girl in the middle. Oh, how I want to shake Jude! and that Aunt Drusilla is no help at all! What a cruel woman, telling him he had been better if he had died with his parents! No wonder he is vulnerable to the first woman who shows him affection.


Hilary (agapoyesoun) I completely agree, Jerilyn. Poor Jude didn't even get off the starting blocks. Talk about issues: a lifetime of counselling would not even begin to scratch the surface. So very sad.


Janet (goodreadscomjanetj) | 77 comments Hilary wrote: "I completely agree, Jerilyn. Poor Jude didn't even get off the starting blocks. Talk about issues: a lifetime of counselling would not even begin to scratch the surface. So very sad."
Sue could have used counselling as well.


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Counselling all round, I think, Janet! You are right.


Jerilyn | 50 comments Mid-read question: when Jude and Sue are in dialogue... Does anyone else feel lost? Is it that they don't say what they mean? Don't listen to each other?


message 9: by Bill (new)

Bill Kupersmith | 125 comments It's interesting we focus so much on Jude's psychology, as if the outcome were his doing. Given his economic & social status, isn't he a victim of sheer bad luck - or in literary terminology, fate? What Jude & Tess & Henchard represent to me is that if you try to escape the very narrow limits an unjust & repressive society imposes on you, you will be squashed like a bug.


message 10: by Susan (new)

Susan Oleksiw | 119 comments Bill said, "What Jude & Tess & Henchard represent to me is that if you try to escape the very narrow limits an unjust & repressive society imposes on you, you will be squashed like a bug."

I think this is exactly Hardy's point. He saw no opportunity for people like Jude, no scope for them to live out their lives as they chose. Jude's ongoing dream of attending a renown university can never become a reality because of the circumstances of his life and the world he lives in. Hardy's view of how society is ordered and how the order is maintained is harsh but accurate.


Janet (goodreadscomjanetj) | 77 comments Bill wrote: "It's interesting we focus so much on Jude's psychology, as if the outcome were his doing. Given his economic & social status, isn't he a victim of sheer bad luck - or in literary terminology, fate?..."

In terms of Jude's education and employment I am in complete agreement. He did have empowerment in making better choices in his social life. He was most unwise in getting trapped by Arabella and Sue, who knows, but she gave him enough outs that he never took.


message 12: by Jan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jan Notzon | 53 comments Right. No one has any responsibility for his or her lot in life. It's all the evil system. I guess we're just a bunch of worker ants in an ant colony.


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Everyman | 219 comments Bill wrote: "It's interesting we focus so much on Jude's psychology, as if the outcome were his doing. Given his economic & social status, isn't he a victim of sheer bad luck - or in literary terminology, fate? "

You and Susan are completely right. Hardy was very much a believer in people being subject to and governed by fate. They struggle against it, but fate always wins and crushes them.

Though Hardy isn't, even if he seems it, all doom and gloom. There are times of happiness, there are moments when characters think it's going to work out for them. I am so with Jude as he studies his Greek and Latin late into the night dreaming of becoming an Oxford scholar. But his life wouldn't allow.


message 14: by Jan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jan Notzon | 53 comments Well, I missed the part where the guy puts a gun to Jude's head and says, "Have sex with Arabella or I'll blow your brains out!" Darn, I'm usually such a careful reader.


message 15: by Everyman (new) - added it

Everyman | 219 comments Jan wrote: "Well, I missed the part where the guy puts a gun to Jude's head and says, "Have sex with Arabella or I'll blow your brains out!" Darn, I'm usually such a careful reader."

He was a total innocent, she was anything but. It was way too easy for her. And the fake pregnancy almost was, in that age, a gun to the head.


message 16: by Bill (new)

Bill Kupersmith | 125 comments No question - if you thought you'd got a girl pregnant you either married her, joined the forces, or lit out for the colonies. Single mums didn't get much sympathy, or benefit. (See Trollope's Rector of Bullhampton.) A poor man of ability like Jude could rise to the middle class (theological colleges existed to train clergy who couldn't afford university) but it required iron will & ruthless self-discipline, qualities a sensitive person like Jude lacks.


message 17: by Susan (new)

Susan Oleksiw | 119 comments To Bill's comments I would add as an example of the moral and social climate, the story of Sgt Troy and Fanny Robin (she dies destitute, in childbirth, after Troy abandons her) in Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. For someone like Jude to rise out of his class, he would have needed a patron of some sort, someone who supported his applications and vouched for his character, as well as his academic ability. Jude had no one like that. No matter how hard most people worked, they weren't allowed to move to a higher class. Those above them had effective means of preventing class mobility.


message 18: by Bill (new)

Bill Kupersmith | 125 comments When John Keble left Oxford & became a country clergyman, he was shocked to find that @ most of the marriages he performed, the bride was already pregnant. Shows how out of touch the gentry were. Of course in a world without possibility of divorce & where children were the only source of sustinence in old age, members of the lower classes wanted to make sure they were fertile before comitting to marriage.


message 19: by Jan (last edited Aug 28, 2016 02:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jan Notzon | 53 comments Well, I realize I'm a heartless dinosaur, believing that people should be held responsible for their choices. I disagree vehemently that Jude, or anyone, should be infantalized so that they are made to be children who have no responsibility for their actions. And, as a man, I believe men are as responsible as women for choosing to have sex, and both must bear the responsibility for the result. Arabella is, yes, an amoral slug. But no one forced him into her bed. That was his choice. And that choice screwed up his life. While I feel for him greatly, I don't think we do anyone any favors by infantilizing them and making them into victims with no independent will.


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Are we told that Jude had any particular faith? It's a while since I read this so I'm not sure. If he did not have belief in God then his


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Oops ... His worldview would be very different from that of a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim. I don't remember Arabella having expressed faith either. If that is the case then I'm sure that she did not see her choices as amoral. Surely people of faith do not have the right to impose their ideals of sexual morality on others who see things differently.


message 22: by Susan (new)

Susan Oleksiw | 119 comments I think the date of the book is relevant. It was first published as a serial in 1894 and then as a book in 1895. The story is set in the decades preceding those dates. Jude attempted to live by the moral codes of his time, marrying when he felt responsibility, etc., and striving to achieve something he deeply cared about, the study of the classics. But he did all this against the prevailing forces of the times.


message 23: by Bill (new)

Bill Kupersmith | 125 comments Till fairly recently, it was quite possible for an Englishman to regard himself as a member of the Church of England without being quite sure whether or not he even believed in God. Hardy was an atheist - tho' he seems to have been angry @ God for not existing & making a better world than the one we have. Sue seems to combine Anglo-Catholic aestheticism with "new woman" scepticism till her thoroly chilling repentance.


message 24: by Bill (new)

Bill Kupersmith | 125 comments Susan wrote: "I think the date of the book is relevant. It was first published as a serial in 1894 and then as a book in 1895. The story is set in the decades preceding those dates. Jude attempted to live by the..." Yes, & the really bad reception the book got from moralistic Victorian critics led Hardy to giving up writing fiction altogether. Fortunately it led to some of his very best poetry.


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Yes, Susan, you're quite right. I hadn't been thinking specifically of the era and its particular moral code. Of course, this appears to have influenced Jude.

I had no idea, Bill, that Hardy was criticised for his works. Of course that makes sense, but what I shame. I know, as you say, there was his poetry, but I fear that I have not as yet read any. I hope to remedy that.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 627 comments I agree with both sides: much of it is determined by "fate," in the sense of socio-economic class that Jude had the misfortune of being born into. However, he made multiple, MULTIPLE choices that did not help him any. He chose to get physically involved with a woman (as she chose also), then he chose to give up on his studies, chose to go out of his way to spend time with someone he knew he couldn't be with (especially after she was married), chose to stay pursuing her even after her cruel, heartless, and cat-like nature (playing with her prey) was known to him, chose to get drunk and not show up for work multiple times.... those bad choices start to add up. But then it's easy to cry that the fates are against him and poor pitiful thing.... yes, it was wrong of people to judge him and not employ him simply because of whatever his relationship status may or may not have been, and how they are blocked out of society isn't right. But being in poverty because he ran to the bar and just didn't show up for work when he got depressed? You can get away with that maybe once, but not several times.

I just didn't find any of the characters very appealing, especially Sue. Arabella is a conniving snit, but she at least had some personality. Jude had zero backbone (although granted, growing up with his aunt did NOT help that).

It makes me wonder if Hardy was generally chauvinistic and hated women? He doesn't paint his female characters in very positive light. Although considering his lead male character isn't that good, either, I guess that could go both ways. But it's like Hardy was trying to make out that Jude's problems were all the fault of the females in his world, and we should feel sorry for him because of it.


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