Dec 02 2009

Jude the Obscure

Published by at 2:02 pm under Books,retro

by Thomas Hardy
This novel is over 100 years old, but was still a good ‘read’. A somewhat polemic novel that was quite critical of the contemporary late Victorian cultural institutions; especially scholastic and religious. It tells the tale of a doomed romance between two young cousins. Doomed by societal pressures around appropriate behavior; especially around marriage. Apparently, this novel was viewed as scandalous when it was written, and the negative reception it received convinced Hardy to stop writing novels!
Its criticism of religion, the scholastic world, and marriage have become very conventional:
– An English church more concerned about apparent form and obedience than religious beliefs.
– A scholastic world which is elitist and give too much precedence to the moneyed and powerful while ignoring ‘true’ learning.
– Marriage as a tyrannical relationship which kills ‘love’ more than encourages it; especially for women.
Overall, the story is a pretty dismal tale: a forced marriage, an impoverished youth who dreams of being a scholar, a loveless marriage, a doomed love that ends disastrously, and murder and suicide. Sounds depressing but mainly it wasn’t. It felt truthful though it was pretty easy to see where the story was heading. Keep in mind that this description doesn’t do the book justice, and if you want a better description of the story just google it.

PS. Rather than read this book, I listened to a Libravox.com recording of it. A first for me. The sound and quality of the readers were quite uneven, but it was a good way to ‘read’ the book given my post operation situation at the time. All the libravox recordings are free and in the public domain. A good thing to encourage.

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