Character Analysis Jude Fawley


Jude is obscure in that he comes from uncertain origins, struggles largely unnoticed to realize his aspirations, and dies without having made any mark on the world. He is also obscure in the sense of being ambiguous: he is divided internally, and the conflicts range all the way from that between sexual desire and knowledge to that between two different views of the world. Jude is, therefore, struggling both with the world and with himself.

He is not well equipped to win. Though he is intelligent enough and determined, he tries to force his way to the knowledge he wants. Though well-intentioned and goodhearted, he often acts impulsively on the basis of too little objective evidence. Though he is unable to hurt an animal or another human being, he shows very little concern for himself and his own survival, often needlessly sacrificing his own good. He never learns, as Phillotson finally does perhaps too late, to calculate how to get what he wants. In short, he is more human than divine, as Hardy points out.

He is obsessed with ideals. Very early he makes Christminster into an ideal of the intellectual life, and his admitted failure there does not dim the luster with which it shines in his imagination to the very end of his life. He searches for the ideal woman who will be both lover and companion, and though he finds passion without intellectual interests in Arabella and wide interests but frigidity in Sue he maintains the latter as his ideal to his deathbed. Recognizing the Christminster holiday just before he dies, Jude says, "And I here. And Sue defiled!"

Jude is reconciled to his fate before he dies only in the sense that he recognizes what it is. In a conversation with Mrs. Edlin he says that perhaps he and Sue were ahead of their time in the way they wanted to live. He does not regret the struggle he has made-, at the least, as he lies ill he tries to puzzle out the meaning of his life. At the very end, however, like Job he wonders why he was born. But then so perhaps does every man, Hardy seems to imply.