Symbolism in Jude the Obscure
Zhou Haixia1, Yang Zhaohui2, *
1Department of International Changes, Hebei Institute of Communications, Shijiazhuang, China
2Department of Scientific and Research, Hebei College of Industry and Technology, Shijiazhuang, China
To cite this article:
Zhou Haixia, Yang Zhaohui. Symbolism in Jude the Obscure.International Journal of Literature and Arts.Vol. 3, No. 6, 2015, pp. 129-135. doi:10.11648/j.ijla.20150306.11
Abstrcat: Jude the Obscure is the last novel of Thomas Hardy, written at the end of 19th century. Hardy renders many ways to convey his deep understanding of the society and the human being through the novel. However, the use of symbols in Jude the Obscure and in Hardy's other novels occupy the most prominent position. In modern period, in the decades after World War I, was a notable era of symbolism in literature. Many of the major writers of the period exploited symbols which were in part drawn from religious and esoteric traditions and in part invented. Symbols in Jude do not occur infrequently.
Keywords: Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy, Symbols
Among the symbols employed by Hardy in Jude, biblical archetypal character is the most deliberate and intentional. Generally speaking, an archetype is an image that recalls basically psychological events common to all people and all cultures. A character or a pattern of images or events so fundamental that it has never been absent from literature, religion, myth, and dream.
As a literary technique, symbolism in English literature has a great tradition, and it plays an important role in Hardy's Jude the Obscure. This thesis mainly focuses on Hardy's use of symbolism, which includes biblical archetypes and the theme of the quest implied by the context. In this way, the author finds something new in the understanding of the novel. As in Hardy's other novels, symbolism in Jude the Obscure tends to be taken from nature and religion.
2. The Symbolism in the Works
2.1. The Definition of Symbolism
Symbolism is an artistic movement in the late 19th century that tried to express abstract or mystical ideas through the symbolic use of images. In literature, it is a writing style of using something to stand for something else by reasoning of relationship, association, accident resemblance, or a visible sign of something invisible.
In literature, a symbol is a thing that suggests more than its literal meaning. According to Northrop Frye's "Theory of Symbolism" in Anatomy of Criticism, symbol can be defined as "a word, or an image used with some kind of special reference are all a phrase, symbols when they are distinguishable elements in critical analysis."(Frye, 1973:71) Holman defines symbolism as the following: "In its broad sense symbolism is the use of one object to suggest another, or in literature, the practice of representing objects or ideas by symbols or giving things a symbolic character and meaning." In brief, words, symbolism is a kind of literary technique, which enables the details of a novel to become rich in associated meaning and significance.
2.2. The Symbolism in Nature Environment
The various symbols from natureintensifies the cruelty of natural laws, and they foreshadow the fate of the main characters. Surely, Hardy was bitterly aware of them. Symbolism from nature can be discussed from the following levels. As far as symbols of animals are concerned, Hardy connects his characters with various animal images. When it comes to symbols of colors, what Hardy unfolds before us is a bleak world. Part of the poetic force in this novel is carried by Hardy's symbols of color. In terms of weather, such as fog, mists, wind, and rain, are important in reflecting the emotional conflicts of Jude the Obscure. Likewise, Hardy's skilled use of symbols of places is of significance. They all have their symbolic meanings.
In the novel, Hardy used some animals’ images represent the main characters and their destiny. Firstly, Hardy shaped Arabella‘s image associated with a pig. Pig has meaning "sacrifice" in the novel. Jude for animals’ pity implied his own destiny like butcher killed pig. Arabella represented nature of false and evil. The book also twice let Arabella compared to female tiger. When Sue visited her in the hotel, Arabella shouted out just like a beast. Arabella kill Jude’s hope and aspiration, leaving him a limited material satisfaction. She ignored any type of her husband’s obligation and responsibility.
Meanwhile, falling into the trap of rabbit allude the fate of Jude. Also imply Sue in marriage cage. At the end of his life, Jude hope someone would come to end his life, just like he killed the rabbit. Arabella is representative of sensuality. Sue is representative of spiritual freedom. Sue likes a bird—a wounded bird in Jude’s heart. She is longing for a nest full of love and warm. Sue sets pigeon free impress her desire for freedom.
In Hardy’s works, birds are inherent symbolic object. Jude’s heart grew sympathetic with the birds’ thwarted desires. They seemed, like himself, to be living in a world which did not want them. So Jude didn’t frighten them away.
"Poor little dears!" said Jude, aloud. "You shall have some dinner—you shall. There is enough for us all. Farmer Troutham can afford to let you have some. Eat, then, my dear little birdies, and make a good meal!" (Thomas Hardy,2000:6)
In the novel, color’s description plays an important role. Those colors descriptions create a gloomy world. "Obscure" is a description of Jude’s personality、destiny and his social position. The word "Obscure" also can be used in the visual image of the description. "Obscure" has many definitions in English dictionary. Such as, dark、gloomy、dim、fuzzy and sorrow. In the beginning of the story, young Jude wants to know the Christminster’s location. He saw:
Grey—stoned and dun—roofed, it stood within hail of the Wessex border, and almost with the tip of one small toe within it, at the northernmost point of the crinkled line along which the leisurely Thomas strokes the fields of that ancient kingdom. The buildings now lay quiet in the sunset, a vane here and there on their many spires and domes, giving sparkle to a picture of sober secondary and tertiary hues. (Thomas Hardy, 2000:61)
In the beginning of the story, Jude described the natural scene:
The brown surface of the field went right up towards the sky all round, where it was lost by degrees in the mist that shut out the actual verge and accentuated the solitude. The only marks on the uniformity of the scene were a rick of last year’s produce standing in the midst of the arable… his dead family. (Thomas Hardy, 2000:5)
There are many places using color "brown", because brown has meaning of dark, gloomy and depressing. At the same time, Jude is lonely and depressed.
2.2.3. Name of Places
In the beginning of this novel, Hardy gives a particular description of Marygreen, the smallest and most old-fashioned place in the novel. It is described in the most dismal and even sarcastic terms. From his description, we can get some information about the social and historical background of this novel.
First, we see the little village disturbed by the departure of Phillotson, the schoolmaster and abandoned by the rector who is "a man who disliked the sight of changes". Jude, aged eleven, is in tears at his mentor's departure in this foggy morning. His aunt shouts at him to get on with bringing water from the village well and he does so, although the weight too much for him and he has to walk to her cottage across a "patch of clammy greensward". The village is mere a hamlet, old and decayed. Just look at the following description for it is worthy to be studied carefully.
It was as old-fashioned as it was small, and it rested in the laps of an undulating upland adjoining the North Wessex downs. Old as it was, however, the well-shaft was probably the only relic of the local history that remained absolutely unchanged. Many of the thatched and dormered dwelling-houses had been pulled down of late years, and many trees felled on the green. Above all, the original church, hump-backed, wood-turreted, and quaintly hipped, had been taken down, and either cracked up into heaps of road metal in the lane, or utilized as pig-sty walls, garden seats, guard stones to fences, and rockeries in the flower-beds of neighbourhood.
One of the most important symbols in the novel is Christminster. From his very first glimpse of it, sitting on a ladder atop the Brown House, Jude is enchanted with it. It is a symbol of all his dreams and aspirations, an ideal that he longs for. In his mind he calls it the New Jerusalem: "The city acquired tangibility, a permanence, a hold on his life..." (Thomas Hardy, 2000:155). Even at the end of the novel, when he is broken and beaten by life, Christminster continues to exert its fascination over him, and he chooses to return to it to die there. Christminster in the novel is highly symbolic since it consists of two religious words: Christ and minster. Christ refers to Jesus Christ while minster means church. To Jude, Christminster is "a city of light". The word implies Jude's religious pursuits: to enter the university and to be a priest. These two pursuits are given up several times because of two women, Arabella and Sue. In the Bible Judas betrays Jesus for desire of money while in the story of Jude, he betrays Christminster for desire of lust. At last, the same as Judas, Jude gets punished and commits suicide in despair.
2.2.4. Church Architecture
The image of old church being pulled down and its original stones used in various ways in the passage is quite meaningful. It foreshadows many of the novel's later images of decay and destruction of churches, thus suggests Hardy's opinion that the Christian religion has become a religion of the past; now it has become unable to perform the spiritual and moral function it was supposed to serve, a somewhat ironical tone can be felt in this passage. It also indicates Hardy's philosophical attitude. The passage first expressed Hardy's belief in the importance of churches as historical buildings and embodiments of the common cultural heritage and local tradition.
This novel is the most direct expression of Hardy's professional experience as an architect and of his fascination with architecture. At the same time, Jude is the most outspoken manifesto of Hardy's views on religion and morality, particularly with regard to questions of sex and marriage. Architectural motifs are frequently used throughout the book. The images about church architecture guide the reader to draw some conclusions of the author's opinions in respect to the fundamental problems of the Christian religion and the Christian Church.
There are numerous architectural symbols and metaphors throughout the novel. These images are associated with the progress of Iude, which reflect the development of his career as a stone-mason and his attitudes towards the Christian religion. Jude's life is in many senses a reflection of Thomas Hardy's own. By the directness of its psychological and emotional insights, the novel suggests to the reader that Jude's perception of reality is strongly related to that of the author
It must be pointed out that young Jude's interest in the history, architectural structure and decoration of churches has little to do with their religious function. He has never had enough enthusiasm to Christian religion in his life, even during the time he was making preparations to work for the church. When he "visited on Sundays all the churches within a walk, and deciphered the Latin inscriptions on fifteenth-century brasses and tombs" or "obtained some blocks of freestone, metal not being available, and suspending his studies awhile, occupied his spare half-hours in copying the heads and capitals in his parish church", the motivation behind is the wish to share "the romantic charms of the city of light and lore" rather a deep religious or spiritual admiration to the churches. This represents Hardy's interest only lies in external aspects of the Christian religion and worship. For young Jude, as well as for Hardy, the significance of Christianity lies mainly in its form rather than in its spiritual fundaments. Jude's ambitions and hopes are in fact a product of his romantic illusions and misunderstanding of the world, thus imply a kind of existential uncertainty and doubt of the author himself.
2.2.5. Church Scenes
There are many scenes taking place in churches, which are quite significant. We can also see clearly the falseness of Jude's beliefs and assumptions, for example, in the scene describing Jude's first attempt to meet Sue. The setting is Chrisminster Cathedral, the chapel of Cardinal College. Jude initially holds Sue in his idealistic fascination not merely as a personification of the spirit of Christianity ("she was probably a frequenter of this place, and, steeped body and soul in church sentiment as she must be by occupation and habit, and, no doubt, much in common with him"，but more a sexually attractive woman. But in the later parts of this chapter he discovers that although Sue is ready to observe the forms and practices of Christian belief and worship, at heart she was an unbeliever, who holds "anything is better than those everlasting church-fal-lals!"It turns out that both Jude and Sue have no genuine religious reasons for their attendance at the church service, which seems so dutiful. The reader may further doubt other members in the cathedral in a similar way. Therefore, the passage connects the church setting with the background of a Christian service with a sense of pretence and even hypocrisy.
Actually the motif of the cathedral remains throughout the novel the symbol of Jude's obsession with Christminster. For example, Jude and Sue exhibit a model of Cardinal College at the Great Wessex Agricultural Show. And the sound of the bell of Christminster Cathedral is an irony for Jude: he hems it on the very night when he made his first unexpected encounter with Arabella, and Arabella hears it only a moment after she has left. Jude dying in his room, in order to watch the preparations for a ball which is about to take place in Cardinal College. So Jude's tragic death is accompanied by the sound of the Christminster bells. As in some of Hardy's earlier novels, the symbol here conveys the indifference of Christianity to the tragic fate of man
Another church playing an important role in the novel is the church of St. Silas in the suburb of Beersheba. It is the place where Sue makes up her mind to leave Jude and return to Phillotson. It is in this church that she comes to believe she will always remain Phillotson's wife in the eyes of God. Jude has found out that Sue has begun to attend services in the St Silas Church. And Sue declares to Jude that she should not live with any other man except Phillotson. Then a few days later, Jude finds Sue at St Silas', utterly broken and determined to fulfill what she now believes to be her duty:
High overhead, above the chancel steps, Jude could discern a huge, solidly constructed Iatin cross-as large, probably, as the original it was designed to commemorate. .....Underneath, upon the floor, lay what appeared to be a heap of black clothes, and from this was repeated the sobbing that he had heard before. (Thomas Hardy, 2000:232)
The reader can feel in this passage the contrast between the power and importance in the huge cross and the insignificance of human suffering. Sue is perceived in this scene as an object rather than a human being, except for the sound of her sobbing. This suggests again Christianity's indifference to the fate of man. Sue's determination to make self-sacrifice in the name of Christian law can be regarded as the most direct protest against the cruelty of the ethical and legal system of Christianity, which contradicts the natural impulses of the human soul. Another contrast is between the emptiness of the church and the intensity of moral torment of Sue and Jude.
The novel then goes back to the church described at the beginning of the book, the new parish church of Marygreen. The scene is of Sue's remarriage to Phillotson. The church becomes a witness of "the self- sacrifice of the woman on the altar of what she was pleased to call her principles"; its "tower loom large and solemn in the fog" becomes the novel's final symbol of the fundamental conflict between the laws of Christian religion and the natural feelings of human.
Thus, these images from nature and those symbolic actions anticipate the main themes of the novel, which relates to marriage as a result of sexual seduction and darkness of the church over the human bondage. Nature in Hardy's novels is no longer an object of admiration as depicted by Romanticists. In Romantic works, there exists a harmonious relationship between man and nature and it is the evil society that contaminates the human psyche. Therefore, Romanticists call on people to abandon society and return to nature, which can provide them with comfort and solace. Only by returning to the nature, can human beings obtain bliss and happiness. While in the realistic literature of the nineteenth century there may be a disharmony between man and the physical world. Actually on the one hand, we cannot find any trace of optimistic sentiments of Romanticism in Hardy's works. He does not call on people to return to "the native". The return of Clym in The Return of the Native ends in disasters and misery. Thus nature in Hardy's later novels is by no means attractive because he sees the cruel and life-and-death competition penetrate into nature as well as human society. It is in keeping with the melancholy mood of modern man, which characterizes modern literature. The "ugly" nature's logic to Jude "was too horrid for him to care for. That mercy towards one set of creatures was cruelty towards another sickened his sense of harmony. As you got older, and felt yourself to be at the center of your time, and not at a point in its ircumference, as you had felt when you were little, you were seized with a sort of shuddering." Besides, natural forces are indifferent to human pains and sufferings and sometimes malignant in thwarting human progress. And Jude feels "the chilly fog from the meadows of Cardinal as if death-claws were grabbing me through and through." Whenever Jude is in trouble, there will be unfavorable weather to make the situation even worse and the tragic atmosphere thicker. And rains accompany Jude and Sue all their way back to Christminster looking for a place to live. After the death of the children, Sue cannot bear the pressure of life any more and goes back to Phillotson.
3. Biblical Archetypes in Jude the Obscure
Symbolism from nature is one of Hardy's chief means of showing the unity of man and his natural environment. Moving from natural level, we find ourselves involved in the immense web of Christian symbolism that is one of the most extraordinary and striking elements in the novel. The Bible has influenced numerous poets and writers in western countries. In fact, the popularity of Hardy's Jude the Obscure and other novels has a close connection with his use of biblical archetypes.
Hardy's religious attitude towards Christian is rather conflicting. He was brought up as an Orthodox Christian. His family went regularly to a church called Stinsford. It is in this small church that Hardy indulged himself in Christianity and learned a lot about Bible in his formative years. And the same as his protagonist Jude, in his early twenties, he had a wish to be a preacher. His religious experiences and their influences on his works cannot be ignored. It is a notable feature that there are lots of biblical allusions in his novels.
The word "archetype" has long been in existence since ancient time. According "archetype" Concise Dictionary of English Etymology, the word in an ancient Greek form, Archetupon, which means "first moulded as a model" consists of two parts: arche, the various form of archi meaning "root" and "origin", and tupon, various of tupos meaning "model" or "pattern" (Hoad,2000:21). The word is also associated with religion with a universal image of God. It first appeared with the meaning of "God-image" as early as in Philo Judaeus and in Irenaeus with the reference closely related to the Creator (Jung, 1999: 4).
The literary theory of the archetype derives from psychological studies of C. G. Jung, inherited in the "collective unconscious". The term has also found its applications in literary criticism. Northrop Frye developed the archetypal approach, which he combined with typological interpretations of the Bible, into a radical and comprehensive revision of the traditional grounds both of the theory of literature and the practice of literary criticism.
Frye declares that archetype, as "the communicable unit", is "a typical or recurring image"(Frye,1973:99). Archetype is communicable for that an archetype does not just remain in one literary work, and "it's bound to expand over many works into an archetypal symbol of literature as a whole". The communicability of archetypes is proved by Jung's theory of collective unconscious. Frye divides symbols into five phases according to the text: Literal and Descriptive Phase: Symbol as Motif or as a Sign; Formal Phase: Symbol as Image; Mythical Phase: Symbol as Archetype; Anagogic Phase: Symbol as Monad.( Frye,1973:73)
Furthermore, Frye notices that archetype has the "repeating quality" in literature, including "certain themes, situations, and character types" which he calls "building blocks" of literature. He argues that the repetition of common images in literature such as a sea or a forest is not merely a "coincidence" (Frye, 1973: 99) for it is "possible for a story about the sea to be archetypal, to make a profound imaginative impact, on a reader who has never been out of Saskatchewan (a state in the west of Canada)".
Hardy always wants a truthful reflection of contemporary life and manner in his works. He cares about the tragic lives of ordinary people and mirrors them on his novels. And he also states the point in the Preface of Jude the Obscure:
…for a novel addressed by a man to men and women of full age; which attempts to deal unaffectedly with the fret and fever, derision and disaster, that may press in the wake of the strongest passion known to humanity; to tell, without a mincing of words, of a deadly war waged between flesh and spirit; and to point out the tragedy of unfulfilled aims, I am not aware that there is anything in the handling to which exception can be taken. (Thomas Hardy, 2000:3)
Williams comments on Hardy that he was not a "typical Victorian" even though he had lived the first sixty years in the nineteenth century. Compared with other literary giants in Victorian era, Hardy was rather "modern", "adventurous" and "questioning spirit" (Williams, 1996:54). Despite the popular demand of a happy ending according to Victorian taste, Hardy only wrote what he felt to be true. Jude the Obscure is an uncompromising novel.
Hardy uses symbolism successfully, especially its main characters closely connected with Bible. Study of the characters’ biblical archetype will play a vital role in deeply understanding the theme of the novel. In this way, Hardy wants to evaluate his attitude towards education, marriage, and Christianity. There are four main characters in Jude: Jude, Arabella, Sue and Phillotson. Each is associated with one or several biblical archetypal characters. Readers could feel the beauty of tragedy and recognize the main characters immediately if they have a good knowledge of the Bible.
It is so obvious that "Jude" and "Judas" are two extremely similar words. This may lead to the question that whether there are any Hardy's naming his protagonist Jude while constructing the special purposes of novel with a betrayal plot pattern? They are very common Jewish names. Etymologically, "Judas" and "Jude" are both from the same Greek word "Judah" (Klein, 1971:396). On account to this, Hardy's naming his protagonist after "Dude" is not merely an arbitrary action but has its own profound meaning. According to Frazer, the primitive man "regards his name not as a mere label but as a distinctive part of his personality" (Frazer, 1999:244). And Frye further illustrates the point that the name of a character might affect his personality by stating:
Knowing the name of a god or element spirit may give the knower some control over it; puns and popular etymologies involved in the naming of people and places affect the character of whatever thing or person is given the name."(Frye, 1983: 6)
Since "the name suggested the story, nor the other way around", Hardy's representation of the archetype of Judas in his novel Jude the Obscure is thus revealed by naming his protagonist "Jude". Hardy is not able to and maybe not willing to name his protagonist Judas directly. Firstly, during the Victorian era, people are strictly religious-minded and the public rebel against the religious doubts which they regard as immoral. If Hardy uses the name of Judas openly and explicitly, the novel might never have been published. Secondly, Hardy's antimony in religion as I have mentioned in the second chapter determines that he can never attack Christianity directly because he is not a thorough rebel and atheist. By deconstructing a betrayal Judas, he creates a forgivable Jude, a new image of Judas.
In the Bible, Judas is presented as a hateful victimizer. However, in Hardy's Jude the Obscure, with the technique of "demonic modulation", he overturns the victimizer image of Judas by declaring that Jude does no harm to Christminster but he himself is the victim of character, of fate, and of society.
Jude the Obscure is one of Hardy's four Character and Environment novels. That is to say, human character and the environment he lives in are the most important elements in the novel. In the novel, human character always contradicts with the environment, and human character is usually suppressed and overcome by the environment. Under the mercy of outside forces including fate and society, Jude as an ordinary human being with his own flaws becomes the victim rather than a victimizer. Judas as a villain is widely accepted in western countries. "When the serious and concerned nature of myth is widely accepted, a poet's freedom of treating it is conditioned by that" (Frye, 1983:38). Before Hardy, few writers speak for Judas in their literary works.
Christians will never accept a pitiful Judas, as Judas is a deep-rooted devil. With the technique that is called demonic modulation by Frye, Hardy presents a sinful Jude as an unhappy and suffering human being rather than a vice monster or villain. By creating a wretched image of Jude instead of vicious Judas, Hardy leaves us a series of questions on the Judge of God. What enables God to have the right to send a judge on human beings? Who should be labeled as a sinner while the others are the chosen? God rudely intervenes into human affairs just to show his own power upon human beings. Hardy argues that because "a Judas lives in us and that to live is to betray" (Klassen, 1996:42), it is wrong to condemn people for betraying a no longer merciful God. Hardy's creation of a bleak image of Jude is to arouse the reader's sympathy for the character. The wrongdoers should be treated with compassion.
On the other hand, man's fate is administrated by invisible God. Since God is omniscient, when God created Judas, he definitely knew that Judas would betray him. Therefore Judas's degeneration is predetermined and inevitable. Hardy leads us to think about that whether Judas is a real victimizer. Is the villain Judas merely a chessman under the hand of God to complete Jesus Christ's sacrifice for the human origin sin? If God is all-loving, why can Jesus ascend to the heaven while Judas should goes to the hell? Although Hardy does not provide us with the exact answers in the novel, those questions are revolutionary in the conservative Victorian Era.
Last, through the diversion of betrayal image of Judas, Hardy intends to awaken people that no matter how hard they try it is impossible to please God because fate has already been set ahead. Worship the no-mercy God will only result in suffering with despair.
Above all in Jude the Obscure, Hardy despairs of the consolation of Christianity. Applying the tragic plot and converting the betrayal archetype, he shows his religious doubts against the merciful God and religious salvation.
Arabella Donn, a rough and unintelligent daughter of a pig farmer, met and decided to marry Jude Fawley. Jude wanted to study the classics and become a famous professor, but Arabella, realizing she could make Jude love her, seduced him. By claiming she was pregnant, she also forced Jude into marrying her. Their marriage was not a happy one, once Jude realized that Arabella was never pregnant. Eventually, Arabella left England for Australia with her family, but without granting Jude a divorce. Years later, Arabella returns to England and has married a man called Cartlett, despite not being divorced from Jude. She meets Jude again in a bar and learns of his love for his cousin Sue, who has married Jude's former teacher.
Later, after Sue's marriage falls apart and she and Jude begin to live together, Jude seeks a divorce from Arabella. She grants it, but sends to Jude his apparent son, a little boy nicknamed Little Father Time for his serious manner. Jude and Sue agree to raise Arabella's son, whether or not he's actually Jude's. Arabella now legally marries Cartlett. Cartlett eventually dies, leaving Arabella a lonely widow. She learns from Jude that Little Father Time has committed suicide after murdering Jude and Sue's two other children. Arabella decides to marry Jude again, and convinces him to do so during one of his drinking binges, now that Jude has become an alcoholic following the deaths of his children. Though married, Arabella doesn't care for Jude's declining health, and on the anniversary of his children's death, Jude dies alone at home while Arabella is off celebrating Remembrance Day.
When it comes to Arabella, Hardy associates her with Delilah who ensnares and defeats her Samson. Jude calls her the "Whore of Babylon"; though the reader may not agree, the allusions imply that Hardy does.
For all these things, it could be assumed that Arabella is the villain of Jude the Obscure, but that's not really the case. If anything, the villain is actually society and the Christian church. The church ends all of the happiness in the lives of Sue, Jude, Sue's first husband, their children, and even Arabella. If anything, the characters spend their entire lives trying to find happiness despite a church that wants to blame them for that happiness.
Arabella, of all the characters, stands as the least effected by this. She happily enters into a marriage with Jude, after having premature sex and when she was pregnant. She happily marries another man, despite still being married to Jude. She happily gives up her child for Jude to raise instead. And she has no regrets about tricking Jude into marrying her again. Her happiness comes from life not from society or the church.
It's hard to give an exact picture of Sue's complex character, for she is modern with liberated thoughts, charming, interesting, intellectual, rational and unconventional, and at the same time she is neurotic, self- centered, selfish and even cold and relentless. There is great unstability in her character. She is very sensitive in protection of herself. She has always switched from discussion to emotion as soon as their talk verges on criticism of herself. When the argument is going against her, she hastily withdraws from it, usually making her opponent feel guilty at the same time.
She is a victim in the particular society. The incident of the trapped rabbit also has symbolic overtones. Jude and Sue are sensitive to the suffering of other creatures. The incident, while bringing them closer, is also symbolic of Sue's situation: she is caught and trapped in an unhappy marriage. In the society, women are set to be adjusted themselves to their husbandas Sue says "And it is said that what a woman shrinks from—in the early days of her marriage——she shakes down to with comfortab1e indifference in half—a dozen Years"( Hardy:2000: l84)．However, Sue cannot submit herself to it．This is much 1ike saying that the amputation of a limb is no affliction. since a person gets comfortably accustomed to the use of a wooden leg or arm in the course of time. After she is ful1y aware of the contracted marriage to Phillotson and her strong love for Jude，she chooses to get away from the marriage and divorce Phi1lotson．In the novel, Hardy opposes the unjustified domination of women. He tends to advocates a harmonious relationship among people in the novel.
Sue, too, has biblical and Christian associations. She is "the Ishmaelite" who is rebellious and fights against others; she is also described as a fallen Eve and a Christ-like figure as she sacrifices herself at the foot of the Cross. Sue's temperament and her behaviour cannot cope with society and they are converse to the social coventions and the traditional moralities, so society has eventually some unavoidable effects on her fate. On the other hand, although it has shortcomings, society always tries to accomadate eveyone. Society has rules simply because rules can enable everyone to live together. Often the idea of a society is against nature's tension. Sue is controlled by the instability of her own nature and she follows the vagaries of her temperament rather than disciplining herself to accept the sort of compromises that people normally make in society. To some extent, her tragic fate is doomed.
As for Phillotson, Hardy connects him with Christ twice. Christ is the supremely suffering person, the archetype of all suffering men and women. Hardy describes a Christ intentionally. In doing so, he intends to convey the theme of the quest in Jude.
Phillotson is the ordinary, unassuming schoolmaster of Marygreen, but it is he who inspires Jude with the desire to go on to the university. He tells the young Jude to be kind to animals and birds, and kindness then becomes one of Jude's strongest qualities. He is like Jude in many ways; he is honest, decent, good-hearted and loyal. Though Sue treats him rather unfairly, she herself admits he is a kind, considerate and tolerant husband: "he's as good to me as a man can be and gives me perfect liberty. which elderly husbands don't do in general..." (Thomas Hardy, 2000:306). When Sue's marriage to him fails, he is pained and bewildered to find that she does not love him, yet so deeply does he love her, that he is willing to set her free. He cannot bear to keep her against her will. His friend, Gillingham, describes him as a "sedate plodding fellow" and is amazed that such a respectable, conservative man could take such an unconventional step. He is generous to the extent that he is willing to blame himself for the tragedy of his marriage. He laments, "She was a pupil-teacher under me. I took advantage of her inexperience and took her out for walks and got her to agree to a long engagement before she well knew her own mind."
However, his kindness and generosity to Sue lead to his financial and social ruin. His career is shattered, and he becomes a pathetic figure. Years later, beaten and impoverished, he cannot really be blamed for seeking to regain some social standing by remarrying Sue. Even then, he treats her with great sensitivity and consideration, agreeing to a marriage in name only until Sue insists on sharing his bed.
Hardy's knowledge of the Bible is remarkable. Christianity does not appear as a central concern of any of the main characters before Tess and Jude, and it looms larger in Jude than in any other Hardy's previous novels. Whenever we talk about Hardy's attitude towards Christianity, one stereotyped idea will creep over us: Hardy is a pious believer in his early age and he abandons his Christian beliefs later on because of the development of science and the appearance of Darwin's theory.
In this novel, Hardy uses fully the symbols of animals, colors, weather, names of places and the religion images to indicate the fates of the main characters as well as the theme of the novel. In the realistic novel Jude the Obscure，the employment of symbolism helps to reveal the protagonist's spiritual and moral predicament more powerfully. In the poetic dreamland created by symbolic language and a series of images，the relationship between man and society, man and man, man and "himself" appears to be estranged and antagonistic，which reveals the then increasingly apparent problem of alienation in western society. Symbolism in this novel enables readers to go deep into the inner world of the characters. It also reflects the writer's deep concern for humanity—he appeals for the return of humanity while lamenting the loss of it.
However, a neglected aspect is that few people have studied symbolism in Jude. In fact, the use of symbolism in Jude and in Hardy's other novels is quite deliberate and intentional. Symbolism in Jude and Hardy's other novels differs from that of those symbolists' in Symbolism Movement. Symbolism in Symbolist Movement refers to the representative of the author's attitude towards the reality around him. While Hardy's symbolism is permeated with the spirit of realism and the symbolic images in his works come from those universal archetypal patterns in world literature.
Symbolism is one of the outstanding artistic techniques in this novel and is Hardy's chief means of showing the unity of man and his natural and social environment. The use of symbols helps to deepen the characters more vividly, deepen the main theme of the fiction, and reveal the inward Hardy's ideological thought and the essence of his tragic vision. The symbols also enhance the novel to a considerable aesthetic effect and Hardy's maturity in writing skills.