Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Wessex. Fictional region of England in which Thomas Hardy set most of his major novels. It is situated east of the Cornish coast, between the River Thames and the English Channel. There, Hardy freely constructs a partly real and partly fictional locale to accommodate a series of “local” novels, including Far from the Madding Crowd (1874). The countryside in many ways resembles that of southwestern England—rolling hills, babbling brooks, quaint villages, and rustic rural folk.


Marygreen. Jude’s hometown village in Wessex, where he is reared by his aunt. Marygreen’s landscape is idyllic and contrasts with the coarseness of its working-class population, as represented by Arabella’s family. Jude is initiated into adulthood in Marygreen; he learns a work ethic and experiences the temptation of fleshly desires. Here he marries Arabella and gives up his dreams of pursuing an education. This town is set in opposition to the university town of Christminster, which Jude views as an enlightened place of learning. This village is based on Great Fawley, Berkshire, where some of Hardy’s ancestors are buried and where his grandmother lived. Jude’s surname is taken from this place.


Christminster. University city. Christminster represents a typical university institution of the nineteenth century. It professes Christian values of humility and generosity yet excludes applicants based on class and gender. Jude moves to Christminster after his failed marriage to Arabella. However, Christminster will not accept him because he is a stonemason and therefore part of the working class. Even though Jude is intelligent and has studied independently, his application is rejected. Thus the city represents the belittling attitude of the...

(The entire section is 756 words.)

Historical Background

(Novels for Students)

Thomas Hardy lived at a time of intense and rapid social change in England, and his novels reflect on many of these changes, especially those...

(The entire section is 1748 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Most discussions of Jude the Obscure will undoubtedly center on Hardy's controversial views on marriage and education. Perhaps an...

(The entire section is 724 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Poet and critic A. Alvarez, in an afterward for the 1961 edition of Jude the Obscure, comments on its public reception in an effort to...

(The entire section is 2709 words.)

Techniques / Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Like most of Hardy's novels, this one was written for serialization, but the finished text was much more effectively revised to minimize the...

(The entire section is 680 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Although its mood and theme do not lend themselves to pop culture formats, and its lack of a "positive message" seems at odds with many...

(The entire section is 762 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Butler, Lance St. John. Thomas Hardy. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1978. A short introductory study that deals with the issue of flesh versus spirit in Jude the Obscure. The quality of the novel, Butler claims, lies in its plotting.

Gatrell, Simon. Thomas Hardy and the Proper Study of Mankind. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993. Discusses the way Hardy treats the theme of the conflict between the sexes and notes that Hardy believes sexual union to be the essence of marriage.

Hardy, Thomas. “Jude the Obscure”: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Sources,...

(The entire section is 266 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Abrams, M. H., et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. II. New York: W. W. Norton, 1979.


(The entire section is 142 words.)