Jude the Obscure

Jude the Obscure

3.4 29
by Thomas Hardy, Hart Hardy

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Jude's story — his futile desire to better himself through education, his failed marriage and doomed love for the free-spirited Sue Bridehead — shows with heartbreaking clarity the devastating effects of prejudice and oppression upon innocent minds, and forms a passionate plea for tolerance.

Because of its frank treatment of human sexuality and its

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Jude's story — his futile desire to better himself through education, his failed marriage and doomed love for the free-spirited Sue Bridehead — shows with heartbreaking clarity the devastating effects of prejudice and oppression upon innocent minds, and forms a passionate plea for tolerance.

Because of its frank treatment of human sexuality and its unflinching fatalism, Jude the Obscure aroused such a storm of controversy upon its publication in 1895 that, partly in response, Thomas Hardy abandoned the art of novel-writing altogether and devoted the rest of his life to poetry. Though we have come a long way in our social attitudes in the ensuing century, nothing about Hardy's masterpiece has lost its power to shock us and disturb our dreams.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"His style touches sublimity."—T.S. Eliot
Library Journal
Jude the Obscure created storms of scandal and protest for the author upon its publication. Hardy, disgusted and disappointed, devoted the remainder of his life to poetry and never wrote another novel. Today, the material is far less shocking. Jude Fawley, a poor stone carver with aspirations toward an academic career, is thwarted at every turn and is finally forced to give up his dreams of a university education. He is tricked into an unwise marriage, and when his wife deserts him, he begins a relationship with a free-spirited cousin. With this begins the descent into bleak tragedy as the couple alternately defy and succumb to the pressures of a deeply disapproving society. Hardy's characters have a fascinating ambiguity: they are victimized by a stern moral code, but they are also selfish and weak-willed creatures who bring on much of their own difficulties through their own vacillations and submissions to impulse. The abridgment speeds Jude's fall to considerable dramatic effect, but it also deletes the author's agonizing logic. Instead of the meticulous weaving of Jude's destiny, we get a somewhat incoherent summary that preserves the major plot points but fails to draw us into the tragedy. Michael Pennington reads resonantly and skillfully, his voice perfectly matching the grim music of Hardy's prose, but this recording can only be recommended for larger public libraries.--John Owen, Advanced Micro Devices, Sunnyvale, CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Dale Kramer University of Oregon
"Cedric Watts's edition of Jude the Obscure is one of an extremely interesting set of literary works from Broadview Press, distinguished by wise editorial choices and inclusion of a variety of documents contemporary with the works. Watts is one of our era's most resourceful and level-headed analysts of literature, and his introduction richly sketches the angles of several controversies current in Hardy's time. There are numerous selections from writings which influenced Hardy (science, philosophy, poems, the Bible) excerpts from essays and poems from the late nineteenth century, and materials in categories such as divorce, and university education, all of which amplify and add to Watts' comments, and stimulate thinking about Hardy and nineteenth-century subjects, as well as about our own time."
T.R. Wright University of Newcastle
"This is an informative and scholarly edition of the novel which brings out its explosive nature, why it so scandalised Hardy's contemporaries. Professor Watts provides a clear, lively introduction, helpful notes and a wealth of material on the textual history of Jude the Obscure, its contemporary reception and its intellectual and social context. Readers of Hardy will find it immensely useful."
English Literature in Transition
"Broadview Press and editor Cedric Watts have done a splendid job."
David B. Merrell
“The criticism is well chosen to give students an introduction to major elements in Hardy's last novel. I also appreciate the chronology of Hardy’s life and the material on his revision process. Norton Critical Editions . . . offer me a chance to expand the world of my students.”
Todd Matthew
“The only text for the serious scholar. The Critical Editions are not only great from a student's point-of-view but from a teaching perspective as well.”
Richard Kaye
“I am delighted with the new Jude the Obscure.”

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Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Everyman's Library
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.28(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.23(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Part First at Marygreen

“Yea, many there be that have run out of their wits for women, and become servants for their sakes. Many also have perished, have erred, and sinned, for women. . . . O ye men, how can it be but women should be strong, seeing they do thus?” —Esdras.


The schoolmaster was leaving the village, and everybody seemed sorry. The miller at Cresscombe1 lent him the small white tilted cart and horse to carry his goods to the city of his destination, about twenty miles off, such a vehicle proving of quite sufficient size for the departing teacher’s effects. For the schoolhouse had been partly furnished by the managers, and the only cumbersome article possessed by the master, in addition to the packing-case of books, was a cottage piano that he had bought at an auction during the year in which he thought of learning instrumental music. But the enthusiasm having waned he had never acquired any skill in playing, and the purchased article had been a perpetual trouble to him ever since in moving house.

The rector had gone away for the day, being a man who disliked the sight of changes. He did not mean to return till the evening, when the new school-teacher would have arrived and settled in, and everything would be smooth again.

The blacksmith, the farm bailiff, and the schoolmaster himself were standing in perplexed attitudes in the parlour before the instrument. The master had remarked that even if he got it into the cart he should not know what to do with it on his arrival at Christminster, the city he was bound for, since he was only going into temporary lodgings just at first.

A little boy of eleven, who had been thoughtfully assisting in the packing, joined the group of men, and as they rubbed their chins he spoke up, blushing at the sound of his own voice: “Aunt have got a great fuel-house, and it could be put there, perhaps, till you’ve found a place to settle in, sir.”

“A proper good notion,” said the blacksmith.

It was decided that a deputation should wait on the boy’s aunt—an old maiden resident—and ask her if she would house the piano till Mr. Phillotson should send for it. The smith and the bailiff started to see the practicability of the suggested shelter, and the boy and the schoolmaster were left standing alone.

“Sorry I am going, Jude?” asked the latter kindly.

Tears rose into the boy’s eyes, for he was not among the regular day scholars, who came unromantically close to the schoolmaster’s life, but one who had attended the night school only during the present teacher’s term of office. The regular scholars, if the truth must be told, stood at the present moment afar off, like certain historic disciples, indisposed to any enthusiastic volunteering of aid.

The boy awkwardly opened the book he held in his hand, which Mr. Phillotson had bestowed on him as a parting gift, and admitted that he was sorry.

“So am I,” said Mr. Phillotson.

“Why do you go, sir?” asked the boy.

“Ah—that would be a long story. You wouldn’t understand my reasons, Jude. You will, perhaps, when you are older.”

“I think I should now, sir.”

“Well—don’t speak of this everywhere. You know what a university is, and a university degree? It is the necessary hall-mark of a man who wants to do anything in teaching. My scheme, or dream, is to be a university graduate, and then to be ordained. By going to live at Christminster, or near it, I shall be at headquarters, so to speak, and if my scheme is practicable at all, I consider that being on the spot will afford me a better chance of carrying it out than I should have elsewhere.”

The smith and his companion returned. Old Miss Fawley’s fuel-house was dry, and eminently practicable; and she seemed willing to give the instrument standing-room there. It was accordingly left in the school till the evening, when more hands would be available for removing it; and the schoolmaster gave a final glance round.

The boy Jude assisted in loading some small articles, and at nine o’clock Mr. Phillotson mounted beside his box of books and other impedimenta, and bade his friends good-bye.

“I shan’t forget you, Jude,” he said, smiling, as the cart moved off. “Be a good boy, remember; and be kind to animals and birds, and read all you can. And if ever you come to Christminster remember you hunt me out for old acquaintance’ sake.”

The cart creaked across the green, and disappeared round the corner by the rectory-house. The boy returned to the draw-well at the edge of the greensward, where he had left his buckets when he went to help his patron and teacher in the loading. There was a quiver in his lip now, and after opening the well-cover to begin lowering the bucket he paused and leant with his forehead and arms against the frame-work, his face wearing the fixity of a thoughtful child’s who has felt the pricks of life somewhat before his time. The well into which he was looking was as ancient as the village itself, and from his present position appeared as a long circular perspective ending in a shining disk of quivering water at a distance of a hundred feet down. There was a lining of green moss near the top, and nearer still the hart’s-tongue fern.

He said to himself, in the melodramatic tones of a whimsical boy, that the schoolmaster had drawn at that well scores of times on a morning like this, and would never draw there any more. “I’ve seen him look down into it, when he was tired with his drawing, just as I do now, and when he rested a bit before carrying the buckets home! But he was too clever to bide here any longer—a small sleepy place like this!”

A tear rolled from his eye into the depths of the well. The morning was a little foggy, and the boy’s breathing unfurled itself as a thicker fog upon the still and heavy air. His thoughts were interrupted by a sudden outcry:

“Bring on that water, will ye, you idle young harlican!”

It came from an old woman who had emerged from her door towards the garden gate of a green-thatched cottage not far off. The boy quickly waved a signal of assent, drew the water with what was a great effort for one of his stature, landed and emptied the big bucket into his own pair of smaller ones, and pausing a moment for breath, started with them across the patch of clammy greensward whereon the well stood—nearly in the centre of the little village, or rather hamlet of Marygreen.

It was as old-fashioned as it was small, and it rested in the lap of an undulating upland adjoining the North Wessex downs. Old as it was, however, the well-shaft was probably the only relic of the local history that remained absolutely unchanged. Many of the thatched and dormered dwelling-houses had been pulled down of late years, and many trees felled on the green. Above all, the original church, humpbacked, wood-turreted, and quaintly hipped, had been taken down, and either cracked up into heaps of road-metal in the lane, or utilized as pig-sty walls, garden seats, guard-stones to fences, and rockeries in the flower-beds of the neighbourhood. In place of it a tall new building of modern Gothic design, unfamiliar to English eyes, had been erected on a new piece of ground by a certain obliterator of historic records8 who had run down from London and back in a day. The site whereon so long had stood the ancient temple to the Christian divinities was not even recorded on the green and level grass-plot that had immemorially been the churchyard, the obliterated graves being commemorated by eighteen-penny cast-iron crosses warranted to last five years.

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"The greatest tragic writer among English novelists."
-Virginia Woolf

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XXJude the Obscure (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Mariamosis More than 1 year ago
Between 'Far From the Madding Crowd', 'The Mayor of Casterbridge', and 'Jude the Obscure' I am becoming a true Thomas Hardy fan!(more emphasis put on the latter two) Jude Fawley and Sue Bridehead really bring the book to life, but lurking in the background are numerous others waiting to uproot the lovers happiness. With the curious nature of Father Time and his sinister mother, Arabella, deceit is always around the corner. However, Richard Phillotson, takes a different approach to contol Sue by using his good nature and an unexpected tragedy against her. There are too many plot twists to go into too much detail, however, this book is definitely worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very good book. Unfortunately, when Google scanned this one, their OCR software did a terrible job of translation. You're better off getting another copy elsewhere -- perhaps Project Guetenburg.
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With some events that are shocking even today and its contrast between two very different women who consume the initially sympathetic Jude, this novel is fairly absorbing. It's a pretty quick read (though longer than I expected) and it was fun to give my husband periodic updates on what happened to poor Jude in the next installment....
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