Jude the Obscure


In Hardy\'s Jude the Obscure, Hardy shows his views on religion and
commitment to the Church which were said to have declined in the latter years of
his life. (Ingham, xxvii) Throughout the book Hardy displays his feeling that
religion is something that people use in order to satisfy themselves by giving
their lives\' meaning. One instance in which Hardy clearly displays this is when
he writes, "It had been the yearning of his heart to find something to anchor on,
to cling to." (Ingham, 94) In order to bring out this point Hardy chooses to
create Jude as an orphan and has him come from obscure origins. By doing this he
creates a character who is looking for something to give him an identity. As a
result of his relationship with Mr. Phillotson (who leaves for Christminster in
order to become ordained), he finds religion and feels that he can use it to
help him gain an identity. Hardy feels that people should shy away from their
old ways of thinking and begin to form new opinions of their own. He feels that
people should not just blindly follow religion without deciding for themselves
that this is what they want. People should not be as Jude who becomes obsessed
with religion simply because his mentor Phillotson felt this way. One of the
major reasons that causes Hardy to have these views is that he feels religion
leads to hypocrisy. He feels that man has many desires that go against the laws
of religion, and these desires lead man to feel very hypocritical. These
feelings of hypocrisy then cause man to have many inner conflicts that lead to
many problems. This negativity towards religion is seen both through symbols in
the book and in the plot itself. The symbols that convey this message are the
name Jude, which is an allusion to Judas Iscariot who was a traitor to Jesus.
The name Jude can also be a reference to the wandering Jew. The second symbol is
Christminster. Christminster symbolizes a world in which Jude sees how
remarkable the Church is, but it is a place that exists only in Jude\'s
imagination. Another symbol that we encounter is that of Samson who is symbolic
of man going after women that are forbidden to him. We also encounter a
reference to Nebuchadnezzar\'s furnace, which is used to question God by asking
why the righteous suffer. Finally, the job Jude chooses is also symbolic of the
anti-religious attitude that is shown.
The negativity towards religion is first revealed in the name Jude. Jude
is an allusion to Judas Iscariot. Judas betrayed Jesus to his enemy for thirty
pieces of silver. He identified Jesus to the soldiers by kissing him, and this
is what led to Jesus\'s death. He later returned the money he received to kill
Jesus and then went off and killed himself. Jude\'s life seems to contain many
similarities to Judas\'s life. When Jude was in his younger years he had strong
feelings towards religion. Jude began to move away from God as his life
progressed. This occurred when he started to feel the guilt that arose from his
feelings for Sue. These feelings of guilt caused Jude to move away from the
Church and "betray" God, as he states, "The Church is no more to me." (Ingham,
221)
By making the comparison to Judas, Hardy is conveying to us the message
that religion causes one to feel very unsure of oneself. Judas\'s life is filled
with uncertainty; at first he is very religious and spends much time with Jesus.
He then abruptly betrays Jesus for a mere thirty pieces of silver, the price of
a slave. He is very unsure of himself and it is the hypocrisy that seems to eat
away at him until he can longer take it, and as a result he ends up killing
himself. Jude is very unsure of himself when it comes to religion, mirroring
Judas. At first, he wants to be ordained, but, only because he wants to follow
in the footsteps of his mentor Phillotson. He then is no longer able to keep his
religious views because he can not live with the fact that they go against his
deepest desires to be with Sue. As with Judas, religion causes Jude to act very
hypocritically. Jude wanted to be religious, yet at the same time he wanted to
remain together with Sue. Finally, Jude can longer cope with all these feelings
of guilt and confusion and he is forced to leave the