Jude the Obscure
Society and Class Theme
The words "class warfare" get thrown around a lot these days. There is a feeling among many Americans that the wealthy run the show and have rigged the game against those who are not wealthy, so those lower class folk will never be able to move up the financial ladder. We're not here to debate whether that's the case or not. However, we are here to talk some Jude the Obscure, and that idea looms large in the novel. Despite everything he does and despite his intellect, it's clear that society will not permit Jude to ever really step beyond the class into which he was born. The morals and the arguably immoral actions of society seem to haunt Jude and Sue at every corner. They cannot really ever be free because of the society in which they live and because of the class they occupy.
Questions About Society and Class
- Hardy establishes a range of differences between rural and city folk. How does Jude's work as a stonemason from the country differ from one who would have trained in the city?
- What does the headmaster of the college tell Jude in the letter he sends him after Jude inquires about pursuing higher education?
- What does Jude tell Sue is the benefit of being "poor" and "obscure?"
- What does Jude find in the "real Christminster" that he does not find in the university people of the city?
Chew on This
Jude is smart enough and dedicated enough to make it in college, but he lacks money. Hardy creates a world (based very much on the real world of his time) in which the wealthy have created a society in which they can keep the lower classes from ever moving up the ranks. How does the world of the novel correlate to our own world?
Jude is a man between worlds. He is of a lower class, but his self-education and his connection to the highly intelligent Sue separates him from the people of his own class. However, he is never accepted by the class to which he aspires to be a part. Living between these two worlds only furthers Jude's sense of isolation throughout the novel.