Though the work could easily be seen as depressing, it didn’t frustrate me because the author doesn’t make readers stand by and watch as oblivious characters miscommunicate, misunderstand, lie, and betray their dreams time and time again. To be sure, the characters make all sorts of mistakes, but they also think about, talk about, and learn from them, which seems like a reasonable thing to expect characters (and people) to do.
If ultimately the characters fail, it is not because they kept doing the same thing again and again. The novel is also not a story of a series of lessons learned over the course of a wandering life, each new theory overthrowing the last, as in the novel Siddhartha, which I was momentarily worried Jude the Obscure would resemble. Jude moves from place to place, but the story doesn’t start over every time he does; he keeps running into the same people and returning to the same places.
I enjoyed reading the book because there’s no substitute for a good old 19th-century novel when it comes to the variety and precision of words used (epicene, suasion, quondam, bifurcation, adventitious, ashlaring, lambent).
The content of the novel was (and remains) controversial for its treatment of sensitive social themes (social class class, education, marriage, and religion). Jude says, “Our ideas were fifty years too soon to be any good to us”, but he might as well have said a hundred and fifty.
When and why I read Jude the Obscure
This book was chosen by Rachel of the Hungry Hundred Book Club for September 2017.
Genre: fiction (literature & classics)
Date started / date finished: 20-Aug-17 to 29-Aug-17
Length: 323 pages
Originally published in: 1895
Amazon link: Jude the Obscure
Gutenberg link: Jude the Obscure
Last year I read the Mayor of Casterbridge. In 1999 I read Far from the Madding Crowd. I still haven’t read the other two famous ones.
- Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (Gutenberg)
- The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (Gutenberg)
- Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (Gutenberg)
- The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy (Gutenberg)
- This song, “Sad to Belong” by England Dan and John Ford Coley about sums it up: “Oh, it’s sad to belong to someone else when the right one comes along.”
- Must she keep changing her mind? John Donne asks in a poem called “Woman’s Constancy”.