Jude the Obscure (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Jude the Obscure (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)


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Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.


Virginia Woolf called him “the greatest tragic writer among English novelists,” but Thomas Hardy was so distressed by the shocked outrage that greeted Jude the Obscure in 1895 that he decided to quit writing novels.  For in telling the story of Jude Fawley, whose many attempts to rise above his class are crushed by society or the forces of nature, Hardy had attacked Victorian society’s most cherished institutions—marriage, social class, religion, and higher education. 


A poor villager, Jude Fawley longs to study at the elite University of Christminster, but his ambitions are thwarted by class prejudice—and an earthy country girl who tricks him into marriage by pretending to be pregnant.   Entrapped in a loveless marriage, he becomes a stonemason and falls in love with his cousin—the intellectual, free-spirited Sue Bridehead, who is also unhappy in marriage.  Sue leaves her husband to live with Jude and eventually bears his children out of wedlock.  Their poverty and the weight of society’s disapproval begin to take their toll on the couple, forcing them into a shattering downward spiral that ends in one of the most shocking scenes in all of literature.


A stunning masterpiece, Jude the Obscure is Hardy’s bleakest and most personal novel.

Amy M. King is an Assistant Professor of Literature at the California Institute of Technology, and the author of Bloom: The Botanical Vernacular in the English Novel, forthcoming from Oxford University Press. She is also the author of articles on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature and culture, and has taught widely in the English novel at Haverford College and Caltech. King received her doctorate in 1998 from Harvard University in English and American Literature and Language.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593080358
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 08/01/2003
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 44,441
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

An English Victorian author of novels, poems, and short stories, Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) is best known for the classic books Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and Jude the Obscure. Set mostly in the semi-imagined region of Wessex, Hardy’s fictional works retain their popularity thanks to an accessible style, Romantic plots, and richly drawn characters.

Date of Birth:

June 2, 1840

Date of Death:

January 11, 1928

Place of Birth:

Higher Brockhampon, Dorset, England

Place of Death:

Max Gate, Dorchester, England


Served as apprentice to architect James Hicks

Read an Excerpt

From Amy M. King’s Introduction to Jude the Obscure

Hardy’s stature as a novelist when Jude the Obscure was published guaranteed him a certain degree of critical attention, but the attention he was to receive was so negative as to alter the course of his career. Jude the Obscure was Hardy’s final novel. In one of the strangest turns in literary history, Hardy at the age of fifty-five turned to poetry, which he continued to write until his death in 1928 at the age of eighty-eight. In letters to close friends he pretends a somewhat jaunty indifference to the negative response to Jude, but in an essay entitled “The Profitable Reading of Fiction,” which appeared in the journal Forum in 1888, Hardy’s defensiveness about readers suggests the effect the reception of his novel would have upon him:

A novel which does moral injury to a dozen imbeciles, and has bracing results upon a thousand intellects of normal vigor, can justify its existence. . . . It is unfortunately quite possible to read the most elevating works of imagination in our own or any language, and, by fixing the regard on the wrong sides of the subject, to gather not a grain of wisdom from them, nay, sometimes positive harm. What author has not had his experience of such readers?—the mentally and morally warped ones of both sexes, who will, where practicable, so twist plain and obvious meanings as to see in an honest picture of human nature an attack on religion, morals, or institutions.

If Hardy had become wary of a certain kind of reader, his bitterness toward what he calls “the mentally and morally warped ones” did not prevent him from continuing to believe that such “imbeciles” numbered in the dozens, not the thousands. He continued to tinker with the novel in subsequent editions. In the 1903 edition he tempered the scene in which Arabella throws the pig genitals at Jude, while in the 1912 edition he introduces some two hundred small but nevertheless effectively important changes. These changes, which the edition you read here reflects, are generally considered to have been softening gestures to the depiction of Sue. For instance, as the bibliographical critic Robert Slack has shown, in the 1903 edition Jude threatens to return to Arabella unless Sue consents to live with him (and, it is inferred, become his sexual partner), and Sue agrees to it because he has “conquered” her; in the 1912 edition, Sue’s acquiescence is the result of love. The key words “I do love you” are included seventeen years after the first publication of the novel. The revisions that Hardy makes go beyond an author’s usual attention to errors in early editions. Jude clearly stayed with Hardy in the years following his switch to poetry, though whether we should understand that switch in light of a renunciation inspired by the extremity of the negative reaction to Jude or as an excuse for returning to the genre (poetry) with which he began his writing career is less certain; it was, if nothing else, a decisive one.

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Jude the Obscure (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i thought that this book was excellent. it was very sad and almost depresing. in the begining i thought that it was rather dull but once i got into it it was very good. also on the back of the book it says 'ends in one of the most shocking scenes in literary history' i didnt know what could be so shocking. but there was something. it was diffinitely worth reading. although i feel that this book is not as good as Thomas Hardys other novel 'Tess' which it is supposed to be better than, it was stil an amazing book by an amazing author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jude the Obscure is one of the most depressing novels in all of literature. Although I don't dispute that literature, like other art forms, need not be merely entertainment, the emotions evoked from this book, while a testament to Hardy's skill, are not for everybody. An author selects his audience, just as much as readers select their authors (if not more so). If you are inclined towards uplifting literature, or even works which permit the existence of hope, this book is not for you.
jane70 More than 1 year ago
There are some books you read where the story leaves you soon after it is put down. Jude and his story, is not one of these. His hopes, dreams, goals, disappointments, loves and heartbreak, stay with you forever. Hardy appears to have been a man who challenged the inequities of his time through his great literary talent. The social underpinnings of the times are intricately woven into the lives of the meticulously defined characters and we are witness to the fallout and impact of the injustices of the times. Greed, jealousy, nepotism, elitism, status, expectations and more, negatively impacted Jude's life......but wait.....are we still not impacted today by these very traits? While some positive changes in the way society manages our lives have been made since Hardy's times, Read the book to see if you think if we are free of barriers to hardwork bringing success for all strata's of today's society.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was the first I had ever read of Hardy's works and I loved it. It is rich with imagery and contains clandestine symbolism throughout the entire work, Hardy paints a perfect nightmare.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Unrealized dreams, emotionally and spiritually tortured lovers, unimaginable grief. Thomas Hardy does a great job of telling this wonderfully tragic story without sending the reader into a state of depression. After reading dozens of classics, a stunning and unexpected story development is a pleasant surprise.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book to find out the big secret alluded to on the back cover. The novel is full of surprises and is very somber. It's a great read for anybody interested in the classics.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have always been a fan of the classics, and this is one of my favorites. It is a haunting story that never really leaves me. It is a sad, bleak story of an unfortunate man. I have always heard that you can achieve whatever you want in life if you work hard. I do believe that, but I also believe that some unlucky souls never get what they want out of life even if they've worked hard for it. This is the story of one of those people. It is a great, sad, bleak, haunting book, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the classics of literature.
mjmbecky on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jude Fawley, the central character of the novel, has hopes for a future wherein he can get an education, and rise out of poverty. In this pursuit, he meets a young woman named Arabella, who convinces him to marry her after tricking him into believing she might be pregnant. Although the couple do eventually have a child together, Arabella abandons Jude before revealing her pregnancy. Jude delves back into work by becoming a stone-mason, wherein he meets young Sue Bridehead and falls madly in love with her. A strange relationship develops between the two, however, as Sue like Jude, but seemingly fights and withholds her feelings from him, eventually marrying the schoolmaster she works for out of some sense of obligation. Strangely, Sue instantly regrets her decision and leaves her husband before the marriage is consummated, and moves in with Jude.The rest I hate to reveal, as much more drama occurs, including the return of Arabella with a son that Jude never knew he had, and Arabella's marriage to another man, which was considered illegal because of her prior marriage to Jude. Sue and Jude seem well matched though, and are on the path to weather out the storms of life that confront them, but like all Hardy novels, tragedy is just around the corner.After having a friend of mine read this novel and vehemently declare how much she hated it, I had a good deal of curiosity about the story. I will say though, that my own feelings are quite different. While I understand the frustration that comes from reading a novel with twists and tragedies as Hardy's novels do, I also really found the subject intriguing. Not only did I find Sue's evasive toying with Jude nearly unbearable to take, but also failed to comprehend why such a nice man as Jude would put up with the manipulation and whining that seemed to come from any and all of the women in his life. I tried to take into account the time period, realizing that Jude's life would be nothing but one big scandal, which actually made me like Jude more. As a character, I found him to be filled with honor, and merely a man dealing with the cards life had dealt him. As for Sue, Arabella, Phillotson (Sue's first husband), and a parade of other characters, I would say that the broad spectrum of human characters and their traits didn't fare well in this novel.
raistlinsshadow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Thomas Hardy doesn¿t seem to be one of the more well-sung Victorian writers, particularly alongside the Brontë sisters and Dickens, but his text is just as full of semicolons and Victorian English slang as theirs are. This book in particular was the source of some trouble for him; his first wife, for example, thought that the book would be perceived as autobiographical and thus divorced him because she feared being considered his cousin¿as Jude¿s love was his cousin, Sue Bridehead¿not to mention that it was wildly unpopular with critics of the time, who criticized it as being morally outrageous and instigated book burnings for it and the like.This is the sort of book that has to be read in fairly large chunks, because that¿s about the only way that the story gets a reaction of anything more than, ¿Oh, well, nothing¿s happening.¿ Due to that, I can¿t fathom that this will be a popular novel with most modern readers, particularly those who might be attracted to it because of its perceived scandalous nature (or for the popularity of the Beatles song ¿Hey Jude¿¿they¿re really very different).Coming from a less modern perspective, though, it¿s extremely easy to see why this would have been extremely risqué subject material in 1895. For a population who covered their pianos with skirts so as not to show their inanimate legs, heavily implied premarital sex and living in sin with one¿s cousin wouldn¿t be acceptable at all, particularly when combined with various blasphemes of Jude¿s.As a modern reader, I can¿t say that I was too terribly interested in the book aside from the general idea of it. Had the book been published even about fifty years later, I could see where it would have been heavily edited to condense it from around four hundred pages in a trade paperback format to about half its size in something closer to a mass-market edition. Certain scenes would have to be emphasized to appeal to readers and others would have to be cut out completely. However, in spite of the slow-moving story, the writing is still interesting stylistically. When read, it seems vaguely more conversational than the usual Victorian novel, yet still fairly high-brow; as if someone were trying to describe a convoluted thesis paper in the simplest terms possible and not doing particularly well in that endeavor.This promises to hold interest for readers who can keep themselves in a Victorian mindset; for others, it wouldn¿t be deemed particularly interesting or necessarily well worth reading. Still, the implications from the Victorian era are interesting enough for me to have read the whole thing through.
lgaikwad on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Marriage and restrict of social mores. Excellent.
marcelrochester on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sort of disappointing, depressing, and pointless, but I could see that it was written well at any rate.
Gino More than 1 year ago
All aboard the Feels Train! I'm not gong to give you a plot summary like many do, trying to convince you with the quality of the story. I'm just going to tell you that out of the almost twenty classic novels that I have read in my life, Jude the Obscure quickly crept up to the top, becoming my favorite over titles like Catch 22, Grapes of wrath, and Wuthering Heights. However, no matter how good it is, I don't recommend it if you are a sensitive person, or a teenager under 15 years old. Even though the last words of Arabella leaves you with a surprising satisfaction after enduring over 300 pages of suffering, it is the need to read all those pages and watching Jude go through so much, that will make the kind of people I just mentioned feel either down, or downright depressed. I'm 20, but kind of sensitive, and this book touched me. Every night after finish reading, I felt different emotions, mad when the Jude felt mad, happy when he felt so, but towards the last few parts, the feeling it left me with was very heavy and sad. I'm not saying this is bad, because if a book manages to do this to you, then it automatically becomes a master piece; however, this book is definitely going to mess with your feels, and not everyone enjoys that. If you are OK with that pick it up, if what I said sounds like too much, there are countless titles out there to try out. But still, this book deserves to be at the top, along with the best books ever written by man, because it is a marvel of the human intelligence. Thomas Hardy was a boss.
Catherine-E-Chapman More than 1 year ago
A Very Accessible Nineteenth Century Novel The most striking thing about ‘Jude the Obscure,’ as far as I’m concerned, is how very easy it was to read, compared with most novels of comparable length written in the Nineteenth Century. This is not to say it’s a ‘light’ read by any means – it’s pretty bleak – but very compelling. Also, the length of chapters is such that it’s an easy book to dip into at regular intervals; before sleeping, for instance. The morality in Jude is extreme, and Jude and Sue are unconventional characters. However, I found the story had resonance with modern life in its illustration of how individuals can pervert religion in order to interpret it in a way that is contrary to basic principles of humanity. I’d recommend reading ‘Jude the Obscure’ if you’ve enjoyed other Thomas Hardy novels but I’d also say it’s a book that’s worth reading if you just enjoy novels that explore complex emotional situations and contain interesting characters. If you wouldn’t normally read Nineteenth Century novels, I’d say have a go with this one as it’s rather modern in the moral questions it raises, despite the fact that its conclusion is necessarily mired in the social constraints of the Victorian times in which it is set.
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