Sue, Jude and the Society that Killed Them
In Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy presents two characters whose dreams and ambitions ultimately end in ignominy and failure. The society around them, and their inability to merge into it, causes this downfall. More specifically, Jude is unable to fulfill his dreams due to his class, and Sue due to her gender. However it can be argued that it is the surmounting these obstacles that is the accurate measurement of success and Jude and Sue seem throughout the novel to be locked in to their own ideas and are unwilling to bend to societies will.
Jude's great aspiration is to be a scholar. He dreams of following in the footsteps of his teacher Mr. Phillotson and to attend the university in Christminister. Yet this ambition of Jude's is an idealistic vision for one of his social class and background and because of it his childhood peers view him as an outsider.
He does not choose the life he would have been expected to and consequently he is seen as having ideas above his station. Arabella Donn's friend, Anny, reflects the attitude of Jude's social equals when she remarks that Jude has been 'very stuck up, and always reading.' The problem for Jude was that at the end of the 19th century the universities of Oxford and Cambridge remained great bastions of social privilege, serving the interests of the nations ruling elite. Although these were exceptionally difficult for a young farm lad to get into, as Jude says himself, it was not impossible. This leaves us the impression of a fatally flawed character; one who aspires to a goal, yet through his apathy never achieves it.
Sue's character is, in relation to the subject of class in the 19th century,