When Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure appeared in 1895, it immediately caused scandal and controversy. Its frank treatment of Jude's sexual relationships with Arabella and Sue, its scathing criticisms of late-Victorian hypocrisy, its depiction of the "New Woman," and its attacks on "holy wedlock" and religious bigotry outraged numerous reviewers; one called the book "Jude the Obscene." Others saw it as brilliantly progressive in its ideas and techniques. Vivid and complex, satiric and harrowing, this novel marked the culmination of Hardy's development as a leading novelist of the cultural transition from the Victorian to the Modernist era. The Broadview edition restores the original, controversial 1895 text.
JUDE THE OBSCURE is perhaps the most vivid illustration of Hardy's belief that our lives are governed by dark and malevolent forces. Jude Fawley is torn between his sensual nature and his equally strong lust for learning, two sides of his character that are personified by the two women in his life--the earthy Arabella and the intellectual Sue Bridehead. Jude comes to a tragic end because of his inability to reconcile them. His attempts to rise above his humble origins, in spite of all his efforts, prove impossible, as do his attempts to live an unconventional life outside of marriage with the woman he loves. The novel represents Hardy's strongest attack on the insularity of English university life, and on marriage as a religious institution. It was called JUDE THE OBSCENE by critics at the time (1895) because it was considered to be "steeped in sex"; after its hostile reception, Hardy gave up writing novels and, for the rest of his life, wrote only poetry.
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- July 1, 1999
- July 1, 1999
- Thomas Hardy