Author(s): Thomas Hardy
Jude Fawley, an intelligent and sensitive young Wessex schoolboy, dreams of studying at the famous university in Christminster, Hardy's fictional representation of Oxford. He embarks on years of private study, but his plans are thrown into disarray when he is deceived into marriage and then deserted by the duplicitous Arabella Donn. Jude, still hoping to earn a place at the university, travels to Christminster to work as a stonemason. Here, he falls for his freethinking cousin Sue, but with the pair living together out of wedlock, the pressures of poverty and social disapproval soon threaten to ruin their lives.
Full of passion, anger, fatalism and tragedy, Jude the Obscure attacks the inequalities and hypocrisies inherent within Victorian society's attitudes towards marriage, social mobility, education and the role of women. The novel, which caused an immediate uproar on its publication, is now widely considered to be one of the great works of the nineteenth century, and the apotheosis of Hardy's fiction.