This is the summary of Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy’s most controversial book and the darkest, most pessimistic novel I have ever read so far:
Jude Fawley is a huge fan of his schoolmaster, Mr. Richard Phillotson. So when his idol leaves the modest Marygreen for the sake of his promising teaching career, Jude is devastated. Jude always longs for meeting him in Christminster, building up his dreams while enrolling a good school there. So, despite warnings from his sole aging aunt and scorns from neighbors, he keeps doing what he loves to do; working hard to buy books then someday move to Christminster. He continues learning by himself, digesting books including those about Greek history. He always sets his dreams higher than those of his peers. Things run smoothly until one day he incidentally runs into Arabella, a beautiful young woman, with whom Jude has his first physical attraction. Jude actually loves her physical appearance but Arabella takes their relationship into her heart. As their relationship grows, people keep talking about them hence leaves Jude with no option other than marrying her. So, a poor boy meets a poor girl. People think their future lives will undoubtedly in a bleak. Jude and Arabella is such two opposites. Despite his gender, Jude has soft heart like woman. He prefers to use his brains to work than his physics. While his wife, Arabella, is a masculine who earns money by raising and selling pigs. As they live together in a small rented house, these differences gradually make significance. At first, Arabella is able to tolerate her husband’s reading habit but as days pass by, she can no longer keep his books inside the house. Moreover, Jude does not help her with job. Things reach climaxes when one night Arabella asks for his help to kill pigs. Arabella can’t stand of his womanly attitude and one day she throws Jude’s books outside the house. Their marriage lasts so short. Arabella leaves a letter that says she leaves with her parents to Australia.
Jude’s aunt is not surprised with his failed marriage as this also occurs to his parents who leave their sole son with the aging woman. After his bitter marriage experience, Jude continues pinning his hopes with education. He rereads his books and returns living with his aunty while helping her with their simple bakery store. And his dreams about Christminster never fade away. Learning Jude’s ambitious willingness to stay in Christminster, his aunt gives a photograph of a gorgeous woman whom is still his cousin living in the dream city. From her photograph, Jude already sets his heart for Susanna Florence Mary Bridehead. But Jude prefers not to contact her during his first days in Christminster provided that they are still relatives. Jude works as a craftsman while Sue is an artist. Though Jude knows where she works, he reluctantly approaches her. Till some days pass by, Sue comes to him and they become friends. Sue is like Jude’s woman version. Both keen on studying and sharing many things in common. As expected, Jude falls in love with her but he knows pretty will this will go against the laws of religion. He fights hard against this would-be incest but the more he avoids his feeling the more he wants her. Even when Sue is betrothed to Richard, their relationship grows even stronger. And knowing about their forbidden relationship does not make Richard to cut their engagement. Sue and Richard finally tie a knot although she knows she doesn’t love him. As predicted, their marriage life is cold as stone. Worse, Sue even asks for divorce not long after their marriage. At first, Richard does not grant her wishes considering his love and his reputation at school. But Sue insists on her willingness to elope with Jude that one night she almost commits suicide. To this, Richard finally agrees to end their short marriage. Not only Richard loses his wife but he also gets fired from his school. People in the school and his neighbors question his decision to eventually divorce her. He leaves the home and moves to remote place where he can still teach as his bad reputation causes him unable to apply for teaching career in good schools.
Meanwhile, Sue and Jude live together without being married for some years, moving from Christminster to Aldbrickhman to London. They almost register their marriage in local church but they cancel their plans. Although at first this runs smoothly, people start commenting on their relationships, whether or not that they live as a husband and wife. But the couple doesn’t mind about this as long as they can make ends meet and live harmoniously. They live peacefully until a rock strikes their romance. Arabella comes into their lives and tells such shocking information to Jude that he actually has a son. As Arabella’s new husband opposes the kid, she wants Jude to raise him. Jude and Sue agree to this plan. This kid is so Jude. So quiet, busy with his own mind and is introvert. Jude calls him as Father Time. From their relationship, Jude and Sue are blessed with two children. As more people grow aware with their life, Jude and Sue are forced to London then back to Christminster.
After her husband’s death, Arabella seeks to win Jude’s love back. Learning that Jude and Sue’s relationship is yet to get legalized, she formulates some efforts to remarry Jude. Returning to Christminster brings a mixed sense for both Jude and Sue. The city is the place where Jude once sets his high dreams but then he loses them all after a university rejects his proposal. With three kinds at hands, Jude and Sue find it so hard to get some rented rooms. Most of the owners don’t approve leasing their rooms for a couple with children. Although they finally get separate rooms (Jude in one single room while Sue is with the kids), this rejection hits the kinds so hard that they do an unthinkable deed in the next morning.
The three kids are found dead while hanging on ropes. Father Time writes that they don’t want to burden their parents’ lives thus opt to end their lives at such young ages. Shocked and devastated, this tragic incident really changes their fate. Sue decides to give up their relationship. She regards this as karma for their forbidden love that cost so many things from people who love them. She reunites with Richard and vows to love him while Jude remarries Arabella. His bitter separation with Sue causes Jude to lose a hope for living until eventually he dies at the end of the novel.