Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#18: Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy)

on July 15, 2015

I just finished the June selection of the Reading with Jacqs project and thoroughly enjoyed this 1895 classic. I have picked up novels by Thomas Hardy several times to read, but never finished one. Ironically, it seems that all of those failed attempts were associated with the packing involved with a major move. Now that I have finished Jude the Obscure, I am certain that I will be coming back for more of Hardy’s eloquent prose.

Jude Fawley is the orphaned son of a poor English family. Since there is no money for a formal education, Jude educates himself through intense reading of classic and religious texts. He plans to attend college in Christminster (Hardy’s version of Oxford). Plans change when the young Jude is enticed by the beautiful Arabella. The two are quickly married, but the union is filled with turmoil. Arabella ultimately leaves Jude to live with her parents in Australia. Abandoned and alone, Jude follows his dreams and moves to Christminster where he encounters his cousin, Sue, who is fascinated by the pagan treasures of antiquity and a future profession as a teacher. Jude and Sue develop feelings for each other, but Sue chooses to marry another in order to finance her education. Jude’s life is forever intertwined with his feelings for these two women and his beliefs related to faith, morality, and the value of education. Hardy’s novel treats the reader to an experience filled with tragedy, passion, and regret that will not soon be forgotten.

Jude the Obscure can be enjoyed merely for the story it tells. However, a careful reading reveals Hardy’s commentary on the role of education — both formal and experiential — in the life of the individual while exploring the changing face of religious belief in English society. Filled with Christian and pagan imagery, Jude the Obscure presents contrasting views of morality in a succinct manner that allows the audience to carefully compare and consider the opposing lines of thought. In his exploration of marriage, Hardy is just as thorough. The author considers the union as a religious sacrament as well as a business arrangement. The influence of public opinion in the private affairs of a man and woman are at the center of the novel and questions about the nature of love, forgiveness, and parenthood are raised throughout. Jude the Obscure is not a novel that a reader will consume quickly; however, it is a treasure that will hold a revered place on my bookshelf for many years to come.

The August selection for the Reading with Jacqs project is Harper Lee’s much anticipated Go Set a Watchman. I have a few more books from My Library Shelf project sitting on my nightstand to fill the rest of the month. I anticipate reading the new story of Atticus Finch as my first book in my Texas residence. (Just didn’t want you to think that I had lost my mind and was ignoring this exciting new work that was just released this week!)

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