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Jude The Obscure By Hardy Essay, Research Paper

In Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy presents the characters Jude Fawley and Sue

Bridehead, who violate the conventions of the repressive Victorian society while

attempting to follow their natural instincts. By studying the novel, one sees

that Hardy’s intentions in doing this are to arouse the reader’s sympathy for

the characters, and to join in their ridicule of the codes of conduct they are

breaking. The trial of Jude and Sue evoke a sympathetic response from the reader

because the couple reflects the values which are prevalent in modern society.

They suffer persecution for yielding to emotions which are no longer considered

unacceptable or forbidden, as they were then. This portrays Victorian society as

being cruel and unnatural, thus creating affection for the characters. Hardy

understood the tendency for society to swing like a pendulum from one extreme to

the other. He knew that the Victorian era would not last indefinitely, and that

future generations would become more liberated. This is beautifully illustrated

in this reflection of Sue’s: ‘When people of a later age look back upon the

barbarous customs and superstitions of the times that we have the unhappiness to

live in, what will they think?? (p.276) According to modern values, it is

wrong to condemn people for following their pure and natural instincts, though

they ?have wronged no man, condemned no man, defrauded no man.? (p.378)

Therefore, by predicting these shifts, and exposing the injustice of Victorian

society, Hardy evokes sympathy in the reader for Sue and Jude. Hardy also uses

the two characters to reveal that he finds the society in which they live

ridiculous. He joins Sue and Jude as they laugh at ?the artificial system of

things, under which the normal sex-impulses are turned into devilish domestic

gins and springes to noose and hold back those who want to progress. (p.279) In

rare times of ?Greek joyousness? (p.366) Jude and Sue live by ?Nature?s

law? and are able to enjoy, unabated, the ?instincts which civilization has

taken upon itself to thwart.? (p.413) It is during these times that the two

are truly able to laugh at the conventions they have violated, as they are

content and unaffected by the repercussions. Hardy takes these opportunities to

laugh with them, as through their words and actions he reveals his contempt for

the Victorian system. Thomas Hardy?s novel Jude the Obscure, illustrates the

attempts made by Jude Fawley and Sue Bridehead to defy the rules and customs of

Victorian society. This evokes a sympathetic reaction from the reader and allows

the author to prudently scorn the system along with the characters. This method

of indirectly criticizing Victorian society is appropriate for a time when

freedom of expression was a punishable crime.


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