Jude the Obscure
In Hardy's Jude the Obscure, Hardy shows his views on religion and commitment to the Church which were said to have declined in the latter years of his life. (Ingham, xxvii) Throughout the book Hardy displays his feeling that religion is something that people use in order to satisfy themselves by giving their lives' meaning. One instance in which Hardy clearly displays this is when he writes, "It had been the yearning of his heart to find something to anchor on, to cling to." (Ingham, 94) In order to bring out this point Hardy chooses to create Jude as an orphan and has him come from obscure origins. By doing this he creates a character who is looking for something to give him an identity. As a result of his relationship with Mr. Phillotson (who leaves for Christminster in order to become ordained), he finds religion and feels that he can use it to help him gain an identity. Hardy feels that people should shy away from their old ways of thinking and begin to form new opinions of their own. He feels that people should not just blindly follow religion without deciding for themselves that this is what they want. People should not be as Jude who becomes obsessed with religion simply because his mentor Phillotson felt this way. One of the major reasons that causes Hardy to have these views is that he feels religion leads to hypocrisy. He feels that man has many desires that go against the laws of religion, and these desires lead man to feel very hypocritical. These feelings of hypocrisy then cause man to have many inner conflicts that lead to many problems. This negativity towards religion is seen both through symbols in the book and in the plot itself. The symbols that convey this message are the name Jude, which is an allusion to Judas Iscariot who was a traitor to Jesus. The name Jude can also be a reference to the wandering Jew. The second symbol is Christminster. Christminster symbolizes a world in which Jude sees how remarkable the Church is, but it is a place that exists only in Jude's imagination. Another symbol that we encounter is that of Samson who is symbolic of man going after women that are forbidden to him. We also encounter a reference to Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, which is used to question God by asking why the righteous suffer. Finally, the job Jude chooses is also symbolic of the anti-religious attitude that is shown.
The negativity towards religion is first revealed in the name Jude. Jude is an allusion to Judas Iscariot. Judas betrayed Jesus to his enemy for thirty pieces of silver. He identified Jesus to the soldiers by kissing him, and this is what led to Jesus's death. He later returned the money he received to kill Jesus and then went off and killed himself. Jude's life seems to contain many similarities to Judas's life. When Jude was in his younger years he had strong feelings towards religion. Jude began to move away from God as his life progressed. This occurred when he started to feel the guilt that arose from his feelings for Sue. These feelings of guilt caused Jude to move away from the Church and "betray" God, as he states, "The Church is no more to me." (Ingham, 221)
By making the comparison to Judas, Hardy is conveying to us the message that religion causes one to feel very unsure of oneself. Judas's life is filled with uncertainty; at first he is very religious and spends much time with Jesus. He then abruptly betrays Jesus for a mere thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. He is very unsure of himself and it is the hypocrisy that seems to eat away at him until he can longer take it, and as a result he ends up killing himself. Jude is very unsure of himself when it comes to religion, mirroring Judas. At first, he wants to be ordained, but, only because he wants to follow in the footsteps of his mentor Phillotson. He then is no longer able to keep his religious views because he can not live with the fact that they go against his deepest desires to be with Sue....
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