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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1055

Topic #1
Discuss the hypothesis that the Bible is the philosophical and metaphoric underpinning of Jude the Obscure.

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I. Thesis Statement: Religion plays a large role in the lives of the characters in Jude the Obscure and they frequently see events in biblical terms.

II. Discussion of nineteenth century views on the Bible and religion
A. Jude’s religious views
1. Conflict between religion and scholarship
2. Burning of religious books
3. Personal religious feeling vs. morality

III. Religion in Sue’s life
A. Rebellion against tradition
B. Conversion and fanaticism

IV. Views of other characters
A. Arabella
B. Phillotson
C. Great Aunt Drusilla

V. The Bible as a metaphor in Jude
A. Names in the novel
1. “At Marygreen”
2. “At Christminster”

Topic #2
Jude aspires to a university education. Discuss Jude’s exclusion from the university.

I. Thesis Statement: The frustration Jude feels at being excluded from the university brings about his demise.

II. Jude’s initial adulation of Phillotson
A. Learning of Greek and Latin

III. Jude in Christminster
A. Link between desire for education and desire for Sue
B. Conflict between education and religion
C. Attitude of the authorities at Christminster
D. Sue’s influence on Jude
E. Jude’s encounter with the undergraduates

IV. The destruction of Jude’s dream
A. Burning of religious books
B. Attempts at marriage
C. Jude’s speech at Christminster

Topic #3
Discuss the importance of churches and church architecture in Jude the Obscure.

I. Thesis Statement: Churches are focal points in Jude the Obscure.

II. Hardy’s architectural background
A. Training
B. Views

III. Jude’s occupation
A. Cathedral rebuilding in Christminster
B. Painting the ten commandments in Albrickham

IV. Churches as settings within the plot
A. Sue’s opinions on churches
B. Jude’s escape to a church in Marygreen
C. The wedding at Melchester
D. Sue’s retreat to St. Silas after the death of the children

Topic #4
Discuss the use of poetry in Jude the Obscure.

I. Thesis Statement: Poetry, particularly that of Shelley, adds a significant dimension to the novel.

II. The significance of poetry in the relationship between Jude and Sue
A. Jude’s sentimentality and love of beauty
B. Sue’s search for spiritual freedom

III. Shelley’s poetry in Jude the Obscure
A. “The Revolt of Islam”
B. “Epipsychidion”

IV. Other poets in Jude the Obscure
A. Milton
B. Browning
C. “Too Late”
D. “The Worst of It”
E. Quotes that open chapters

Topic #5
Discuss the influence of J. S. Mill and Edward Gibbon in Jude the Obscure.

I. Thesis Statement: Philosophy, particularly that of the English philosophers Mill and Gibbon, plays an important role, both implicitly and explicitly, in the novel.

II. Jude’s philosophical readings
A. Biblical
B. Greek

III. Sue’s philosophical reading
A. Gibbon
B. Mill
C. “On Liberty”
D. Mill’s “On the Subjection of Women” as background to Jude

Topic #6
Religious ideas and themes are present throughout Jude the Obscure and influence and shape the lives of the characters.

I. Thesis Statement: Religious themes are a central part of Jude the Obscure and develop the lives of the characters.

II. Images of faith in the opening chapters
A. Descriptions by the narrator of churches and Jude’s feelings about religious art
1. Tone used to describe how an old church was replaced by a modern one
B. Jude’s vision of Christminster as a heavenly kingdom of scholarship on earth

III. Images of faith in the lives of other characters
A. Sue’s purchase of the “pagan” statues
1. Her fear when she brings the statues home
2. Proof her fears were well founded when she is evicted by her landlady
B. Sue’s reaction to the murders-suicide of the children
1. Sue develops a highly punitive interpretation of Christianity
2. Sue goes back to Phillotson as penance

IV. Conclusion: Religion plays a major role in the lives of some of the book’s characters, and their evolving views correspond with events and experiences.

Topic #7
Jude aspires to a university education, but when he is denied it, his life begins to go downhill.

I. Thesis Statement: Jude’s exclusion from a university education, which has been his dream for many years results in his destruction.

II. Jude’s initial attempts at acquiring books and knowledge
A. Jude’s plea to the physician
1. The man’s broken promise
B. Jude’s letter to Phillotson
1. Phillotson’s fulfillment of Jude’s request

III. The years Jude spends preparing for his long-awaited admission into the university
A. Riding on the back of his great-aunt’s bakery cart while reading makes Jude an object of village gossip
B. Jude’s marriage to Arabella stalls his educational development
1. Arabella is antagonistic to Jude’s goals
2. Arabella throws his books on the floor

IV. Jude’s experiences as an adult
A. Jude receives a letter from the university announcing that working men are unqualified for admission
B. After the deaths of the children, Jude takes up with Arabella again, only to fall ill and die

V. Conclusion: Inflexible social attitudes combined with the rigidity of Jude’s dream, lead to his downfall

Topic #8
The women in Jude the Obscure are creations who show different sides to the female personality and identity.

I. Thesis Statement: The female characters in Jude the Obscure are diverse and represent different aspects of the female identity.

II. Characterizations of the women in the novel
A. Jude’s great-aunt is a staple of literature of the era, she is old-fashioned
1. Jude’s aunt compares him with Sue for being as crazy for books as she is
2. She is conservative and cautions Jude to stay away from Sue
B. Arabella is drawn as a coarsely sensual schemer who entraps the naive and innocent Jude
1. Arabella tricks Jude into marrying her. She claims she is pregnant
2. Arabella wears a hairpiece and can produce dimples at will—proving she is false, this contrasts with Jude’s innocence
C. Sue is presented as intellectual and pure
1. Sue chooses not to consummate her marriage
2. Sue does not consummate her relationship with Jude, even though they are so desperate to be together they wreck their lives
3. Sue makes speeches about the lack of dignity in conventional marriages

III. Conclusion: The women in the novel are creations who show different sides to the female personality

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