Jude the Obscure

Another book on the DIY Lit Camp booklist was Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy. (No, not that one.) You might know Mr. Hardy from his more famous works, Tess d’Urbervilles or Far From The Maddening crowd; I did not.

Jude the Obscure is similar to several other books on the list in that it was originally published as a serial; was later revised several times in the process of putting it into book-form; is making un-subtle points about society at the time of writing; and is definitely, absolutely, in no way about the author himself, why would you ever say such a thing?

Honestly, this was another one I quite enjoyed. As someone who likes the blatant signaling and basic hero plots of Bollywood and Superhero movies and their ilk, I am generally on board for clear set-ups and the sort of foreshadowing that has our protagonist caught in a downpour on the way to visit his girlfriend and thinking, “there’s no way this sense of clammy depression sweeping over me could have anything to do with this woman I loves whom I’m en route to see… right?“.

There’s a lot of philosophical and moralistic arguments going on throughout the thing, and I’m not sure whether he, the character, or he, the author, truly ever come to any conclusion beyond “society sucks,” which, fair. Poor Jude, our main character, is certainly much abused both by his own sense of ability to climb over class boundaries and by the society which has him beholden to such strictures. He makes a good and commendable effort of it, but ultimately would have possibly been happier had he never tried.

This is another book which, like Karamazov, begins to fall into the “all women are crazy, and it’s simply a question of in what way” genre, though less extremely than some others. Jude the Obscure’s version is more along the lines of, “all women are only out for themselves, and you are subject to their interpretation of what best suits them at any given time.” Less overtly offensive, but certainly still a little wearing. The three main female characters are at least interesting and distinct, though, I’ll give them that. There’s more than a little of the Madonna/Whore complex going on, but they are at least thinking creatures, which is more than women get to be in some books of the period.

That said, Jude’s still a pretty sympathetic protagonist, and the book is an easy read (at least by the standards of this list). I enjoyed it enough that I might at some point try some of his other works, and see what they’re like. If you’re looking for a sort of meandering but melancholic hero’s tale with a touch of inevitable doom, this is the book for you!

Tl;dr – 8/10, would recommend to folks who like this genre.

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