The Ideological Questions of Marriage in Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure
AbstractAs one of the prominent ideologies of the nineteenth-century— in a complex interrelation with other contemporary ideological discourses particularly femininity and marriage—religion adopts a critical stance in Hardy’s presentation of characters. Breaching the religio-conventional image of femininity as “Angel in the House” and “Cow Woman,” Hardy’s Jude the Obscure (1895) is indeed deemed to be his milestone in presenting his anti-Christian attitudes towards the contemporary religion. This study aims to present Hardy’s outright hostility towards the nineteenth-century Christianity through his creation of non-conformist characters, necessitating a parallel study with other contemporary discourses regarding marriage and femininity, and conflict with the religion of the time. Hardy’s magnum opus, the work on which he was to stake his final reputation as a novelist, was clearly Jude the Obscure which as a noticeable socio-religious experimentation of the late nineteenth-century, reveals Hardy’s perception of new ideas about femininity and marriage by presenting the hot contemporary issues of “New Woman” and “Free Union” through the development and presentation of Sue Bridehead and her free union with Jude, respectively. Hardy’s presentation of Sue Bridehead as a “New Woman,” and employing the “Free Union” in marked contrast with the nineteenth-century convention of marriage as a “Bonded Pair” is Hardy’s closing upshot of his final novelistic attempt. The non-conformist Jude and Sue are presented as figures touching the Victorian Christian standards of morality, while, the final tragic destiny of Jude and Sue’s helplessness attest to the writer’s substantial contribution as a Victorian male novelist to the ideologies circulating at the time.
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