Marriage in "Jude the Obscure"

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Marriage in “Jude the Obscure”

Thomas Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure” focuses on the life of a country stonemason named Jude Fawly, and his love for his cousin Sue Bridehead, a schoolteacher. From the beginning Jude knows that marriage is an ill-fated venture in his family and his great aunt Drusilla tells him so, and he believes that his love for Sue curses him doubly, because they are both members of a cursed clan. While love could be identified as a central theme in the novel, marriage is the novel’s main focus. Jude and Sue are unhappily married to other people, and then drawn by a bond that pulls them together. Their relationship is plagued with tragedy. Before all that occurs however, in the first two parts of the book, the focus is on Jude as a working-class boy determinedly attempting to educate himself. He struggles patiently to realize his dream of a university education, but is thwarted by a cruel fate and rigid, conservative social order. Jude's view is an illusory one. As a child, he was always fascinated with Christminster. He sees it is a "city of light," where "the tree of knowledge grows"; it is like "a castle manned by scholarship and religion." Even years later, when he realizes his ambitions are futile, Christminster remains a shining ideal of intellectual life, "the intellectual and spiritual granary of this country." Beaten by life, Jude is still very much attached to the place and returns, hoping to die there. Sue does not share his romantic ideals and viciously attacks Christminster as an "ignorant place, full of fetishists and ghost seers" (Part III, Chapter 4) and a "nest of common schoolmasters" with a "timid obsequiousness to tradition" (Part V, Chapter 8). Its intellectual life is dismissed as "new wine in old bottles" (Part III, Chapter 4). Jude is not wanted at Christminster, and often the university is described in unfavorable terms: "the rottenness of the stones--it seemed impossible that modern thought could house itself in such...
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