61. Treatise on the Social Contract of Marriage and on Social Class in Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
Jude the Obscure is a novel that challenges the social settings and structure of its time. Jude could not enter the university, Christminster, because he was self-taught and poor. He couldn't maintain Sue as his wife, without formal marriage contract from the Church and registry, consequently he was sacked from work and couldn't find any proper work until they pretended to be married. Sue and Jude were kindred spirit who wanted to live their lives without complicating it with laws and contracts that are meaningless. They hate social structures, especially one that deals with marriage. But how could two individuals with diametrically opposing views of society live in a society that is intolerable to people of varied views?
In Jude the Obscure (1895), Thomas Hardy provides compelling arguments against the common thoughts of the time as they relate to marriage. Several themes run through this beautiful novel. One quote I fell in love with is
No average man—no man short of a sensual savage—will molest a woman by day or night, at home or abroad, unless she invites him. Until she says by a look 'Come on' he is always afraid to, and if you never say it, or look it, he never comes.
When Jude's child, from his first marriage, killed their common children, Sue decided to do penance for her sins by going back to Mr. Phillotson, the husband she had earlier been divorced from. It was this tragedy that made Sue succumb to societal laws and Jude to death.
Do not do an immoral thing for moral reasons!
For those who are interested in Classical fiction and one that writes against or challenges the dictates of the times, this is a good novel. Like every book that was written on issues far advanced of its time, this book was highly criticised and according to Hardy, this criticisms
silenced him as a novelistThe book was burnt by a bishop and for its criticisms on Christianity and marriage as an institution.