What is the explanation of the theme of class in Jude the Obscure?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jude dreams of becoming a scholar. A rather romantic dream, none-the-less, this vision for himself never quite releases its grip on Jude, who comes back again and again to the city where he hoped to attain a formal education. 

The dream of scholarship is also a dream of social climbing, as demonstrated by the response Jude receives to his letter seeking entrance in a university:

Jude is told by the university officials that someone of his class would be better off without a degree.


As the novel moves forward, Jude comes to terms with his class status for the most part. He attempts to let go of his university dreams, along with his religious aspirations and beliefs. 

However, on returning to Christminster with Sue and his three children, Jude is drawn to discourse with some bitterness on the regrettable intractability of the class system. He laments that he attempted to do something in one lifetime (by becoming a scholar) that practically takes several generations. 

Details of the class-based, daily experiences of Jude and Sue are presented throughout the novel. These relate to the odd jobs taken by each of them, the descriptions of lodgings they take, and descriptions of the people who they mingle with in the various towns where they live. 

Discussions of aspirations also occur throughout much of the novel, regarding Jude, Phillotson, Sue and Arabella. These discussions often concern ideas of 1) dealing with the realities of social class and 2) lamenting the difficulty of moving up in the world. 

ersoreo8 | Student

The biggest conflict involving class follows Jude throughout the novel and is very basic: he is stuck in the working class and can't struggle out of it. Jude's life dream is to become a scholar, but finds in Christminster that he can't achieve that, because he is too poor. Basically, it is Jude's social standing that causes all of the catastrophe and failure in his life, because if he was one of the rich sons that the universities admitted, he wouldn't have any problem achieving anything.