Jude the Obscure fits in with Mr. Booker's idea of what a tragedy is almost perfectly. It's actually kind of strange how well it falls into each stage. But we have to agree: Jude the Obscure is one of the most tragic stories we have ever had the pleasure of reading.
Young Jude dreams of going to Christminster. He knows that he wants to become a great clergyman, even a bishop, and he plans to do everything in his power to make that happen. From elevated spots in his small town he gazes at Christminster in the distance, imaging what it will be like when he finally makes it there to start his formal education.
Jude does everything he can to make his dream come true. He knows that he will have to gain a wide range of knowledge to make it to one of the colleges in Christminster, so he tracks down books and dives into the classics. He struggles to teach himself Latin and Greek, and he seeks out advice from others who can help. It's tough, but Jude is still on the right track.
Like the traditional Act 2 from our section on "Three Act Plot Analysis," this stage dominates the novel and lasts for quite a long time.
Frustration, thy name is Arabella. Once Arabella Donn appears in the book, things falter for Jude. True, he's taken with Arabella and thinks he might love her, but his time with her causes him to put off his studying, and the Christminster dream starts to fade. Eventually, he tires of Arabella and is ready to get back on his educational track, but she tells him she's going to have a baby. Wanting to be honorable, Jude marries Arabella realizing that scholarship may no longer be in his future.
Of course, things don't work out with Arabella (since she's a lying liar who lies), and she moves away. Jude rekindles his dream of an education and goes to Christminster. He's shunned by the colleges because of his working class status, but there are still some perks to Christminster: it's there that Jude falls deeply in love with his cousin Sue Bridehead.
Jude's relationship with Sue becomes the new focus of the novel, and his original dream of becoming a clergyman takes a backseat to his desire to spend his life with her. But then, just when things seem to be looking up, Arabella drops Little Father Time on Jude and Sue.
Jude never truly gives up on Christminster. When he feels they have to move on, Jude brings Sue and the children (LFT and the two babies he has with Sue) back to Christminster. It's here that Little Father Time kills the babies and himself, which leads to Sue having a miscarriage. Their lives fall apart. Sue returns to Phillotson and Jude goes back to Arabella.
Jude takes his journey to see Sue one last time. It is raining and sleeting, and he is already very ill. They confess their love for each other, but once Jude knows that Sue will not run away with him, he returns home in the terrible weather. He knows it will kill him, and he wants to die: 'I have seen her for the last time, and I've finished myself—put an end to a feverish life which ought never to have begun!' (6.9.11).
He dies on Remembrance Day, the day when the Doctoral students graduate from their colleges in Christminster. Here's the final irony: Jude dreamed of being part of Remembrance Day when he was a boy.