Hardy's masterpiece traces a poor stonemason's ill-fated romance with his free-spirited cousin. No Victorian institution is spared — marriage, religion, education — and the outrage following publication led the embittered author to renounce fiction. Modern critics hail this novel as a... read more
The novel tells the story of Jude Fawley, a village stonemason in the southern English region of Wessex who yearns to be a scholar at "Christminster", a city modeled on Oxford. In his spare time while working in his aunt's bakery, he teaches himself Greek and Latin. Before he can try to enter... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
The novel tells the story of Jude Fawley, a village stonemason in the southern English region of Wessex who yearns to be a scholar at "Christminster", a city modeled on Oxford. In his spare time while working in his aunt's bakery, he teaches himself Greek and Latin. Before he can try to enter the university, the naïve Jude is manipulated, through a process he later calls erotolepsy, into marrying a rather coarse and superficial local girl, Arabella Donn, who deserts him within two years. By this time, he has abandoned the classics altogether.
After Arabella leaves him, Jude moves to Christminster and supports himself as a mason while studying alone, hoping to be able to enter the university later. There, he meets and falls in love with his free-spirited cousin, Sue Bridehead. Jude shortly introduces Sue to his former schoolteacher, Mr. Phillotson, whom she later marries. Sue is satisfied by the normality of her married life, but quickly finds the relationship an unhappy one; in addition to being in love with Jude, not her husband, she is physically disgusted by her spouse, and, apparently, by sex in general.
Sue eventually leaves Phillotson for Jude. Sue and Jude spend some time living together without any sexual relationship; they are both afraid to get married because their family has a history of tragic unions, and think that being legally bound to one another might destroy their love. Jude eventually convinces Sue to sleep with him and, over the years, they have two children together. They are also bestowed with a child "of an intelligent age" from Jude's first marriage to Arabella, whom Jude did not know about earlier. He is named Jude and nicknamed "Little Father Time" because of his intense seriousness and moroseness.
Jude and Sue are socially ostracized for living together unmarried, especially after the children are born. Jude's employers always dismiss him when they find out, and landlords evict them. Their socially-disturbed boy, "Little Father Time," comes to believe that he and his half-siblings are the source of the family's woes. He murders Sue's two children and commits suicide by hanging. He leaves behind a note that simply reads, "Done because we are too menny."<3><4> Shortly thereafter, Sue has a miscarriage.
Beside herself with grief and blaming herself for "Little Father Time"'s actions, which were, in part, instigated by a conversation the two had had the previous night, Sue turns to the church that has ostracized her and comes to believe that the children's deaths were divine retribution for her relationship with Jude. Although horrified at the thought of resuming her marriage with Phillotson, she becomes convinced that, for religious reasons, she should never have left him. Arabella discovers Sue's feelings and informs Phillotson, who soon proposes they remarry. This results in Sue leaving Jude for Phillotson. Jude is devastated and remarries Arabella after she plies him with alcohol to once again trick him into marriage.
After one final, desperate visit to Sue in freezing weather, Jude becomes seriously ill and dies within the year. It is revealed that Sue has grown "staid and worn" with Phillotson. Arabella fails to mourn Jude's passing, instead setting the stage to ensnare her next suitor.
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