Jude the Obscure

by: Thomas Hardy

Study Questions

1

What role does Christminster play in the novel?

Christminster is a distant paradise in Jude's mind, the symbol of the academic life to which he aspires. It is also the meeting place for Sue and Jude, and the site of their children's tragic ends. Given Jude's obsession with the place, Christminster functions almost as a character in the novel, taking on human dimensions as it threatens and taunts the two lovers.

2

Why does Jude maintain a relationship with Arabella?

Despite his love for Sue, Jude still retains some tenderness for Arabella and once even spends the night with her rather than meeting Sue. Knowing that he cannot have Sue while she is married, Arabella may represent the familiarity and accessibility of marriage to Jude. She is also the solution to the repression of his sexuality enforced by his legal marriage and separation.

3

Why does Hardy emphasize that Little Father Time seems older than his years?

Jude and Arabella's son is different from most children in both his appearance and manner. He seems to see beyond what is normal for his age, feeding Sue's belief that he is acting as an agent sent by God to punish her for her sins.

4

Why does Sue return to Phillotson after the children's death despite her love for Jude?

Sue tells Jude she feels that in order to make amends for her sins against the institution of marriage, she must return to the man she first married in the eyes of God. However, on another level, she might feel that she needs to punish herself for the suffering of her children by forcing herself into a life of unhappiness.