Document Type


Publication Date

January 1999


In part first of Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure, the hero undergoes a tragic, if unexceptional, peripeteia. Having set himself idealistically and single-mindedly on the path to intellectual advancement, he is filled with "a warm self-content" at his prospects of moving onward to university study, where his "present knowledge will appear ... but as childish ignorance." Progress toward Christminster, however, is halted abruptly when the innocent Jude Fawley falls prey to Arabella, that "complete and substantial female animal." Suddenly, his Greek New Testament left open but unheeded, he plummets into a sordid spiral of seduction, entrapment, and imprisonment in a hopeless marriage. The story is a commonplace one, and the basic plotline of chapter one has comprised the sum total of the "tragedy" of many a lesser hero. But Hardy gives Jude a reprieve. The infamous Arabella decamps for the New World, and at the end of the chapter we, with Jude, taste the possibility of redemption. No less than he, we feel "a spark of the old fire" lit in his soul by his rediscovery of the inscription chiseled on a milestone aimed Christminsterward: "THITHER JF."



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