I’m honestly not sure what I think of Jude the Obscure; it was a very peculiar book to read mostly because if the three major characters, Jude, Sue, and Arabella. For obvious reasons I disliked Arabella. From conniving with her friends to trick Jude into marrying her, to disrupting Jude’s happy life with Sue, Arabella proved to be the manipulative driving force behind nearly all of Jude’s misfortunes. At the same time, however, neither Jude nor Sue were completely sympathetic characters. In fact, dropping the ‘sym’ is probably a more accurate assessment of both parties. Both characters became victims of their circumstances and did not have the courage or fortitude to push past the obstacles set before them. Sue was wishy-washy in her feelings towards Jude and pushed him away emotionally and physically, while Jude followed Sue around like a shy puppy. Both Sue and Jude lamented their various circumstances, but lamentation was the only action either party took. I spent much of the book wishing Jude would grow a spine or wishing Sue wouldn’t be so flighty and inconsistent.
Prevalent themes in the novel are those of longing and confinement. Jude longed for both a university education and to be with Sue. He was trapped, however, by his social circumstances as a peasant boy and by his original marriage to Arabella. He and Sue were also trapped by the histories of their family. From early ages it was impressed upon both Sue and Jude that all marriages in their family were doomed to failed. In a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts Jude’s marriage to Arabella failed, as did Sue’s marriage to Phillotson. Facades are also a prevalent theme. Much of Arabella is manufactured and fake; Jude is a stone mason who constructs building facades.
Interestingly, during the first years of their marriage Arabella and Jude slaughtered a pig because the butcher was late in arriving. The butchery drove a wedge through their already strained marriage. Later on in the novel, when Arabella again tricks Jude into remarrying her, Arabella’s father is now in business as a butcher who specializes in pig-sausages.
Anyone have any possible interpretations of those circumstances?