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Jude the Obscure

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I'm almost done with this book and like it or not I keep relating to the comment in this thread http://www.bookgrouponline.com/forum/showthread.html?t=3884&highlight=jude+obscure that reading Jude is 'like being hit in the face over and over again'! It really is, I am reading it and constantly groaning at what new misadventures befall Sue and Jude, shouting at Sue for being so pig-headed and at Jude for being so weak.


That said, I wouldn't say I dislike the novel - I've been compelled to keep going back to it, I want to find out what happens in the end, although I'm dreading it really as I'm sure it's not going to make me feel any better about it! I always knew the gist of the story, was aware of the incident with the children, but I really was unprepared for just how depressing a read this book is.


It's definitely made me want to find out more about Hardy's life at the time, e.g. was his marriage unhappy, what were his religious views, as if he wasn't writing from personal experience, where did all this seeming bitterness come from? Is it just a story or does it reflect Hardy's life?


Interesting. I may post again when I've finished (only another few chapters to go).

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Hi Seraphina,


I'd love to know what you think of Jude, when you get to the end. (I can't quite remember how it ends, but I wouldn't hold your breath for a fairy tale happy ending ;) )


I'm at a loss to explain my attraction to this book. It's so bleak and unhappy - and the "incident with the children" (great phrase!) was shattering. And yet - I love this book so much, and I have no idea why.


Partly, I think I identified with Jude very strongly at the beginning - when he's gazing at the skyline of Oxford with such longing...but there must be more to it than that.


It's been a while since I read it - maybe I'll dig it out again for another go.


Anyone seen the film? I remember that I enjoyed that too - but beyond that, I can't remember much about it. (Kate Winslett??)

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There are surely few Victorian novels as powerful and disturbing as Jude The Obscure; I don't know if I ever saw the film, but I certainly recall the shocked disbelief of a number of people who did and, not knowing the novel, hadn't known what was coming.


For all that, I felt that Claire Tomalin's comparison with being hit in the face over and over again (which I quoted and which, Seraphina, you linked to) was inappropriate and exaggerated: I would contend that Hardy goes about things much more effectively and subtly than having one's face smashed in might suggest...


Despite that, I highly recommend the biography, Seraphina, if your curiosity about Hardy's own life has been whetted. And, as I mentioned in my review, there's one bit in there even more shocking than anything in Jude... ;)

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I second jfp's recommendation of Claire Tomalin's biography.


Like many writers, Hardy reworked bits of his own and his family's experiences into his novels, but I wouldn't look for real biographical detail.

As for his marriage to Emma...well, Jude didn't do much to promote marital harmony

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I really was unprepared for just how depressing a read this book is.QUOTE]

Oh no! How have I known you for so long without warning you about Jude the Obscure?!! I'm firmly on the 'hate it' side of the fence but mainly because I'm not very good at empathy i think!! I just kept thinking if only he'd accept the way things are and tried to be happy instead of succesful everything would be OK! Stupid man! Is that harsh?

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I shall have to re-read it soon for my U3A class - this will be for the third time. It is the only one I've read more than once, and I am looking forward to it. Like Claire, I don't know why I like it so much.

Perhaps I'm hoping Jude will make different decisions the next time I read it? Or does that mean I am insane?

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Having read it again I still like it, but still don't know why. It's certainly not an attachment to either of the main characters.

Jude Fawley is a romantic who makes bad choices and brings misfortune down upon his own head.

Sue Bridehead is so self-centred that she doesn't care what effects her insistence of living up to her (changing) principles has on other people


Although this was the third time I have read it I had forgotten the incident that sticks in most peoples minds, although I was not surprised when it happened.


I have a taste for harrowing stories, so maybe that is what attracts me to this book :D


I do get irritated by those who try to stitch much of Hardy's biography onto the fabric of this novel. Certainly Hardy drew on his own background, and the life he knew as a child amongst the rural poor of Dorset and the wider area of 'Wessex' but he uses aspects of that life to a greater or lesser extent in his other novels, and his poetry.


While his earlier novels sit comfortably in the rural past that Hardy knew and heard tell of in his childhood, Jude is Hardy's attempt to face, and foretell the changes that are coming about as the world heads for the 20th century. Sue is attempting to become the 'New Woman' before the world is quite ready for her, and Hardy's critics are not ready to face the changes in society that this novel presages.


I can see why Emma took herself off to the attic when she read this :eek: - and why he didn't let her see it when he was writing it.


Hardy wrote two versions of this book simultaneously, a 'milder' version as magazine serial, and a more shocking complete novel form. There were other changes in at least one later edition, and that may affect the readers view of Sue.

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It is interesting how Sue seems to have made more of an impact than Arabella. Arabella is probably one of the reasons I think this novel is so great. I think she is a welcome relief to the interminable depression of Jude and Sue's lives. The way that she manages to have such a full life (travelling to Australia, remarrying etc.) without really trying creates a sad irony in comparison to Sue's struggle to become a 'new-woman'. Although she is not a particularly likable character it did make me question what Hardy wanted to show through her character.


I saw the film with Kate Winslet as Sue before I read the novel. Arabella didn't seem to make such an impression on me as when reading the book.

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I guess I found Sue to be a more complex, contradictory character, so spent more time wondering what made her tick.


Arabella did what was good for Arabella 'in the moment'. She certainly made a refreshing contrast to Jude and Sue's tender consciences, and soul-searching.




Welcome to BGO, Dmitri1710.

There is a thread for new members to introduce themselves up in the Central Library. It would be good if you could pop in there and tell us just a little about yourself.

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I read this recently. I have to say it didn't grip me quite the same way as Madding crowd did. But eventually I felt very close to it. As a working class girl daring to study a degree I felt quite linked to Jude's longings. I do wish though that Mr Hardy had moved away from the naturalist/realist approach and given Jude a happy ending. Seemed to be a hefty dose of sattire in it.


Oh and the children


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