Jude The Obscure Arabella

Sue and Arabella are two of the most important characters in Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure. The novel revolves around Sue and Arabella’s complex relationship, which is fraught with jealousy, anger, and ultimately, tragedy.

Sue is a working-class woman who has been forced to marry Arabella’s brother, Jude. From the beginning, it is clear that Sue does not love Jude and that she only married him out of desperation. Although Sue is unhappy in her marriage, she remains loyal to Jude and does her best to make the best of their situation.

Arabella, on the other hand, is a selfish and manipulative woman who is constantly trying to come between Sue and Jude. Arabella is jealous of Sue’s close relationship with Jude and does everything she can to try to destroy it. Ultimately, Arabella’s jealousy and manipulation lead to tragedy, when Sue and Jude’s baby dies.

Despite their differences, Sue and Arabella are united by their love for Jude. In the end, despite all of the pain and suffering that they have caused each other, Sue and Arabella remain sisters-in-law.

The diary of Thomas Hardy records an entry in which he explains how he will show the world something it needs to be shown in a tale about a poor, struggling young person who must face ultimate failure (Howe 133). This brief description of a narrative has evolved into Hardy’s Jude the Obscure. Jude is torn between two primary females in the novel: Sue and Arabella, due to each woman’s inability to entirely sate his desires. The vast contrast in feelings, conversation, and sexual desire makes Jude and Arabella polar opposites in Hardy’s Jude the Obscure.

Sue is an educated woman, yearning to obtain more knowledge, which creates an intense emotional connection with Jude. Sue’s emotions are pulled in different directions because of her want for intellectual stimulation and companionship and her physical desires. Sue seeks out Jude because he can provide stimulating conversation and a deep emotional connection that she cannot find with anyone else.

Hardy writes, “She had instinctively divined that the young stone-mason would be likely to have a soul within him capable of responding to her own…There was spiritual affinity between them” (Hardy 78). The spiritual affinity Hardy speaks of is what Sue is looking for in a relationship; she wants someone who understands her on a deep level. Sue also feels safe with Jude because he is not interested in her sexually.

Hardy goes on to say, “…she had found in him a man who would never attempt to take an inch beyond what she conceded…His love for Sue was of that rarest kind which begins by worshiping all that is best and noblest in the woman and concludes by finding even her weaknesses adorable” (Hardy 78). Jude loves Sue for everything she is, both her strengths and her weaknesses. Sue feels comfortable with Jude because he understands and loves her for who she is, not for what she can provide sexually.

Sue is a perplexing mélange of sexual repulsion and the power of female intellect (69). Elizabeth Hardwick notes that Sue “thinks and that is her secret” (67). Sue has rebellious ideas, particularly for a woman, and it’s typical for her to question society’s issues (Hardwick 68). To Jude’s chagrin, Sue disregards much of religion (68).

Hardy uses Sue as a lens to question the role of women in society and religion. Arabella is Sue’s foil. Arabella is a woman who submits to the traditional gender roles prescribed to her by society (Hardwick 71). She is coy, naïve, and dependent on men (Hardwick 71).

Unlike Sue, Arabella does not use her intellect or voice to contest the status quo; she simply accepts it. Hardy presents Sue and Arabella as two possible paths for women: one who challenges the system and one who does not. By giving Sue a voice, Hardy allows readers to explore different possibilities for women’s roles in society.

Jude the Obscure tells the story of Sue and Jude’s tragic relationship. Sue and Jude marry against Sue’s father’s wishes, and Sue quickly becomes dissatisfied with her life as a farmer’s wife (Hardwick 73). Sue begins to regret marrying Jude and starts an affair with Phillotson, Sue’s former teacher (Hardwick 73-74). Sue eventually leaves Jude and their child to move in with Phillotson (Hardwick 74). The novel ends with Sue dying during childbirth and Jude killing himself soon after (Hardwick 75).

Jude the Obscure (Saldivar 192) depicts a marriage that is doubted; marriage is regarded as an institution that can be criticized and violated by necessity, chance, and the characters’ decisions. Marriage is portrayed as an institution that may be criticized but not fully realized (Hardwick 68). Sue’s agony over breaches in completeness and freedom is evident (Hardwick 69). Every marriage and divorce in the novel are distinct from what the characters truly desire, according to Draper (247).

The first time Jude marries a woman named Arabella is during this pair of novels. The marriages of either Jude or Sue to Arabella are successful (Draper 247). Both couples divorce, and then Jude and Sue are forced into marriage by the same people (Draper 247). In the end, Sue is ruined (Hardwick 73). She gives in to Phillotson’s sexually improper advances and begins going to church, which she has previously condemned as an institution that promotes bondage (Hardwick 73).

Sue succumbs to the Victorian era’s definition of a woman, one that is docile and pious (Graham 4). In Sue and Arabella, Hardy portrays how two women rebel against their society’s expectations. Sue is rebellious in her thoughts and actions while Arabella conforms to the expectations of society.

Sue is an independent thinker who is not afraid to speak her mind, while Arabella is a dutiful wife who follows the rules. Sue criticizes the church and its teachings, while Arabella embraces them. Sue wants freedom and independence, while Arabella wants to be loved and accepted by society. Sue ultimately fails in her struggle against society’s expectations, while Arabella succeeds.

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