Hey Jude, you're so depressed...

must be those ladies / you keep lovin'. / Remember, your first wife wasn't so great / and life with Sue isn't much better.

I really have very little to say about Jude the Obscure other than a) it is depressing and b) it reinforces my gun-shy attitude about marriage.

Well, and thirdly, and possibly most heretically, this would have been much better had Zola written it.  Seriously.  A lot of the components--unhappy marriages, fake pregnancies, murder, being shunned by The Man, and lots of drinking--can be found in the Rougeon-Macquart cycle, and done with better effect.  Zola the naturalist gives you all the gory details about squalor; Hardy hints at it, but it's a delicate dance.  And yes, I realize that both years and cultures separate the two authors, but thematically, the works are similar.

I also can't help but think that the actual climax of the book comes much too early, and is almost glossed over.  Again, this may have been because of critical/popular reception of the book in serialized format, but dangit, Hardy, if you're going to go for jaw-dropping, make my jaw drop.  Not just wiggle a bit.

For your reading pleasure (and to spare you the task of reading this in full), here is a truncated and dramatized version of Jude the Obscure, as interpreted by William Shakespeare me.

Jude: Ah, I am but a poor stonemason who wants to be a priest because it sounds pretty awesome.

Arabella: Lo! A lusty stonemason!  Being the Author's Interpretation of Unbridled and Coarse Passion, I'm going to seduce him.

[Jude and Arabella have the sexytimes, stage right]

Arabella:  Jude!  I am pregnant!

[Jude marries her]

Arabella: Tee-hee, must have made a mistake!  I'm running away to Australia now!  Bye!

Jude: Now I can pursue my true calling: becoming a Master of Divinity at Christminster.  I may also fulfill my secondary calling: falling in love with my cousin, Sue Bridehead.

[The delicate Sue passes by, intoxicating Jude with her pagan ways and secular learning]

Jude: Ah me! The clergy is now a hot potato to be dropped in pursuit of fair Sue!

[Enter stage left the evil and OLD Mr. Phillotson, Jude's former teacher]

Phillotson:  Hark, yon maiden!  I am a learned man!  Let's get married!

Sue: Well, I love Jude, but okay!

[Jude wails incoherently and drinks a lot]

Two days later...

Sue: Phillotson, you are icky and gross.  Don't touch me or I'll [jumps out of window].

Phillotson:  I'll do whatever you want!  Yes, yes, leave me for Jude! [Exeunt, pursued by a bear]

Sue: Yay!

[Sue and Jude meet]

Jude: My darling Sue, let us go up to the bedroom and ...

Sue:  No, Jude, not like that!  It is too crude a way to express our pure love.  Let us simply gaze longingly at each other and pretend we are married.

Jude:  Um, okay.

[Arabella reappears]

Arabella:  So, by the way, Jude, when I left for Australia I really WAS pregnant (oops) and I have this child and he's yours too but I don't want him so he's on the train coming to you!

[Enter a young boy, with the aspect of a Stephen King child]

Sue: Well, heck, now that we've got one, let's breed like rabbits and live in abject poverty!

Boy: Mummy, why are we poor?

Sue:  Well, because mummy keeps having babies.

Boy: Oh.  [Kills siblings and hangs self]

Sue:  This is all my fault!  I am a wicked woman!  I have sinned against God!  I must go back to my lawful husband whose touch makes me shudder like a thousand leeches have latched onto my skin.  Farewell, Jude, I abandon thee to drink and your wanton first wife! [Flings self at Phillotson].  Oh my husband, let us have the sexytimes so that I may feel sufficiently punished, as the thought of your body is loathsome to me!

Jude: More alcohol, Arabella!  Let me stagger out into the rain and catch my death of cold! [Dies]

Arabella: Right, onto the next one, then.


I much preferred The Mayor of Casterbridge to this, because that was unequivocal evil.  Here all we had were vacillating lovers who kept having crises of faith and identity.

A milestone reached, but I'll not be turning back to Jude in the future.


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