You know a good way to kick off a tragedy? A tearful goodbye. As a young boy, Jude watches his schoolmaster Richard Phillotson leave for Christminster.
Jude decides he will go to Christminster someday too and become a scholar. He gets books and teaches himself Latin, and Greek.
We watch, helpless, as Jude meets the worst possible person in the world for him to know: Arabella Donn, Jude's first girlfriend.
At first, Jude thinks he loves her. After all, he's sixteen, and she is his first ladyfriend. but after a while, he grows tired of the relationship and refocuses on getting to Christminster.
But it's too late: Arabella tells Jude she is having a baby.
Guess what? Jude marries Arabella.
Guess what, now? Arabella tells Jude she is not pregnant. In fact, she never was pregnant. It was all a trick to get Jude to marry her.
Soon, the marriage falls apart and they separate. It's not exactly shocking to find out that a fake pregnancy is not a good basis for marriage.
Times have been tough, but Jude finally makes it to Christminster.
Jude is feeling kind of bummed out, so he remembers that beautiful cousin of his, Sue Bridehead, whose portrait he admired in his aunt's house—and starts stalking her. Bad choice, friend!
Sadly, Jude gets no help making his way into one of the colleges.
But things start looking up when Jude and Sue finally meet and talk face-to-face.
Along with Sue, Jude calls on his old schoolmaster Phillotson.
Jude gets Sue a job with Phillotson—now the two of them can live close together!
Following every classic sitcom plot ever, Jude and Sue start an extended will-they-won't-they "friendship." Of course, their story involves way more death and sadness than most sitcoms—but that's the way Hardy rolls.
Eventually, Sue marries Phillotson. In an amazing act of masochism, Jude gives her away.
After Sue and Phillotson's marriage falls apart, Sue and Jude move together but do not marry or have sex. Still, the living together is enough on its own for the rest of the world to decide that Jude and Sue are a deeply scandalous couple.
Finally undoing something that never should have been done in the first place, Jude divorces Arabella.
After many chapters, Jude and Sue finally consummate their relationship.
To keep the soap opera style theatrics coming, Jude finds out he has a son with Arabella from their long-failed marriage.
Jude and Sue agree to raise the child, who they call Little Father Time because he is so old-seeming.
LFT is soon joined by two small children of Jude and Sue's own.
Desperate for work after an extended illness, Jude takes the family to Christminster. Bad idea, Jude. Bad, bad idea.
In a truly shocking twist, Little Father Time kills himself and the children. Jude and Sue find the bodies. This thing can only end on an incredibly depressing note.
Jude and Sue split.
Sue remarries Phillotson, and Jude remarries Arabella.
Incredibly ill, Jude goes to see Sue one last time. They profess their love for each other, but you know by now that Hardy isn't going to give us that happy ending we're all hoping for. Sue says she can't go with Jude.