Discuss how Thomas Hardy portrayed women in Jude the Obscure.

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Both Arabella and Sue, the wife and partner, respectively, of Jude, are strong female characters, unlike the stereotypical Victorian woman. Both are strong, but in different ways.

Arabella is domineering and practical and has no moral qualms about trapping Jude in a marriage. She is the kind of women who knows what she wants and how to get it, even if she is isn't able to hold onto it. She is study, robust, and strong—one is not likely to soon forget her bleeding the pig. Hers is the life of the body, of pragmatic, everyday survival. She represents animal sexuality.

Sue is also a strong woman, strong enough to stay with Jude as his unmarried partner and the mother of his children in the Victorian era, when this behavior was strongly condemned and censured. Her strength, however, is different from Arabella's animal nature. Sue is an intellectual partner to Jude, complex and ethereal. She is slim and pretty, with an abstract quality. If Jude was attracted to Arabella's sexual energy, he is soon captivated by Sue's mental power.

Both Arabella and Sue are depictions of women who fall outside of the Victorian ideal of the woman as the angel of the home. Arabella is no shrinking violet, and Sue murders her children, all of which adds to the modern feel of this novel.

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Hardy portrays women in this novel as manipulative and self-serving. According to him, they use the conventions of society to get what they want. Examples are of Jude's marriage. Jude's relationship with Arabella is poor. She trapped Jude into the marriage by lying about her pregnancy. She hid the darker sides in her past. She is admired among friends for being clever in trapping a husband without really becoming pregnant.

Two notions presented in the novel regarding marriage are as follows: becoming pregnant is okay in order to manipulate getting married, and the partners, husband and wife, do not have to be honest with each other.

Arabella pretends Jude hurt her during their marriage, to gain social approval for leaving him, then she leaves him. In the future when Jude  meets Arabella,again, as a barmaid he feels trapped all over again. He gives up his relationship with Sue as a result.

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