A young man from a poor, working-class background, passionate about education, who aspires to become a professor. His teacher, a respected role model who turns out to have feet of clay. An independent, free-spirited woman. Another who is scheming, selfish and flirtatious. Dominating their lives is the magnificent university town of Christminster. All these and a host of other colorful, memorable characters inhabit the pages of Thomas Hardy's monumental fourteenth novel published in 1895. Thomas Hardy's fame as a novelist rivals that of even Dickens in Victorian literature. Creator of unforgettable novels like _Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of the d'Ubervilles, Under the Greenwood Tree_ and _the Mayor of Casterbridge_, his essential humanity and the depth that he brings to his characters are what sets him apart. A largely self-taught man, he went on to become a skilled architect and restorer of old buildings. His life-long love of languages, music, country-side life, languages and history emerges in most of his works. Jude the Obscure tells the story of a young orphan, Jude Fawley who is devoted to academics though his impoverished aunt (who rears him) wants him to start work as early as possible as a stone-mason. Jude's inspirational teacher, Richard Phillotson, leaves the village for better pastures in the university at Christminster, leaving Jude to dream about a future career as a teacher. Instead, the travails of his working-class background begin to slowly consume him. He is deceived into marrying Arabella Donn, the come-hither daughter of the local butcher. After many trials and tribulations, Jude reaches Christminster, where a terrible disappointment awaits him. Jude's meeting with his brilliant, free-thinking cousin Sue Bridehead is another turning point in his life. The novel scandalized Victorian readers when it first came out due to its revolutionary ideas about sexuality, women's rights and the rise of the working class. Copies of the book were publicly burned in London and other cities. Thousands of people wrote to Hardy from all over the world, severely criticizing him/the novel which shocked him into abandoning fiction-writing till his death. He continued to publish poetry and drama and remained a successful writer. In 1912, a new edition was well-received by more modern readers and the book delights young and old even today. The universal themes of marriage, love, class-distinctions, education, women's rights, religion and human migrations from their native homes to cities are brilliantly explored in Jude the Obscure, making it a must read classic.
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