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Free Study Guide-Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy-Book Notes Summary
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The novel is set in Wessex, England, but unlike Hardy's other the Wessex novels, does not have a highly developed landscape as a background for the novel. In The Return of the Native, the heath provides a compelling atmosphere and in Tess of the D'Urbervilles, the country scenes and background are an integral part of the story. But in Jude the Obscure Wessex is only a stage for tragic action. The description of everyday rural life is secondary to the tragic interplay of characters.

The nearest Hardy comes to integrating his story with his background is in Part I in Marygreen. The Brown House on the old ridge-track is the place from where Jude first gazes in fascination at Christminster. Near it is a milestone on which Jude inscribes his initials and the words "Thither," pointing to Christminster and indicating his aspirations of one-day reaching the city.


Major Characters

Jude Fawley

The hero of the novel. A young stonemason of ordinary working-class origins. He is idealistic and imaginative, with ambitions of becoming a student at Christminster University.

Sue Bridehead

Jude's cousin, an intelligent, sensitive, refined and rather unconventional young woman with whom Jude is in love. She marries Phillotson, leaves him to live with Jude and later remarries Phillotson.

Richard Phillotson

A kindly schoolmaster with academic ambitions. He keeps Sue as a pupil-teacher under his training and later marries her.

Arabella Donn

A coarse, sensual young woman who works on her father's pig-farm and also as a barmaid. She marries Jude, then divorces him and marries Cartlett. After Cartlett dies, she remarries Jude.

Minor Characters

Little Father Time

Jude and Arabella's son. He is a solemn, rather anxious, pessimistic child with a prematurely aged appearance.

Aunt Drusilla Fawley

Jude's great-aunt with whom he lives in Marygreen as a boy after he is orphaned.

Mrs. Edlin

An elderly, kindly widow who is a companion to Aunt Drusilla.

George Gillingham

A friend of Phillotson's, he is also a schoolmaster. He tries to give Phillotson advice on his domestic difficulties.

Physician Vilbert

A quack doctor who practices in and around Marygreen.

Mr. Donn

Arabella's father.


A childhood friend of Arabella's. She is as coarse and cunning as Arabella.


Arabella's second husband whom she marries in Australia, although she is still married to Jude at the time. A coarse, red-faced man, he keeps a tavern.

Uncle Joe and Tinker Taylor

Drinking companions of Jude's in Christminster.

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