Jude The Obscure By Hardy

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 Natures
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 Hardys 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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