Jude the Obscure

The Great Sacrifice: Happiness Versus Cultural Mores 12th Grade

Intrigue, murder, and suicide -- by all accounts, Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure was a complete and terrible shock to the religiously conservative readers of the late nineteenth century, and this is exactly what he intended. These were, after all, the very people he was trying to criticize. Through the alienation of female protagonist Sue Bridehead, both self-imposed and outwardly-inflicted, Hardy lambastes the slavish and stoic nature of the society his era had created; women were slaves to men, all were slaves to God, and yet none were slaves to love. More than that, he uses Sue's deteriorating mental condition to show the subsequent effects such harsh cultural standards have on all those who are forced to live under them. Perhaps Hardy thought his work would inspire contemporary readers to break their own chains and avoid a similar fate, or perhaps he simply wanted to write a scathing commentary on accepted Victorian morality. Regardless, Jude the Obscure is certainly an effective tool for conveying his message.

The idea that a person fallen on hard times would be unwelcome in her own parent's home would be unimaginable to many, but not to Sue Bridehead, who said of a similar situation: "...I returned to Christminster, as...

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