Critical Essays Setting and Plot in Jude the Obscure


Though in this novel Hardy makes less significant use of his Wessex landscape, as well as its customs, superstitions, humor, and human types, than he does in other novels, it is of some importance. Almost all the characters are deeply rooted in and responsive to place, as shown, for example, in Jude's sense of all that has happened on the ridge-track near the Brown House outside Marygreen. Characters like Drusilla Fawley or Mrs. Edlin are very much a product of the area, the aunt with her references to family history, the widow with her comments about marriage. But Hardy's desire to work out his theme seems to override most of this local reference.

Hardy's narrative technique has often been criticized. He characteristically uses a succession of short scenes to move the plot forward instead of longer scenes developed in detail. Sometimes his transitions are awkward, especially in the way in which he summarizes the passage of time. He relies frequently on coincidence to bring together characters he wants to have meet. And now and again he indulges in a sensational, melodramatic scene.

Such shortcomings are to be found in this novel, but in Hardy's defense it should be said that he can develop a scene skillfully, he does use contrasting scenes with good effect in forwarding the plot, and he is capable of foreshadowing events in the novel with competence. It may be that his weaknesses in narrative technique come in part from the demands of serial publication; it may also be that he had less interest in this aspect of fiction than he did in others.