Jude the Obscure

Character of Sue Bridehead

as a new woman

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Sue is one of Hardy's triumphs. What strikes the reader about Sue is her intellectual capacity. Both Jude and Phillotson are impressed by how well read she is: J.S. Mill and Gibbon are her heroes, she is familiar with Latin and Greek writers in translation, as well as Boccaccio, Sterne, Defoe, Smollett, Fielding, Shakespeare and the Bible. She belongs to the eighteenth century tradition of critical intelligence and rational skepticism. Jude himself calls her "quite Voltairean." Towards the end of the novel, Jude, when talking to Mrs. Edlin, describes Sue as: "a woman whose intellect was to mine like a star to a benzoline lamp" (Part V, Chapter 10). Phillotson too talks of her intellect which "sparkles like diamonds while mine smoulders like brown papers" (Part IV, Chapter 4). She is quick-witted and observant and a good teacher. She is able to draw accurately from memory the model of Jerusalem she saw at an exhibition (Part II, Chapter 5). She is also able to quote accurately when she wants to win an argument (Part IV, Chapter 3).