Another factor that plays a role in causing tragedy in the lives of the lovers is the tyranny of the society. By doing this, Hardy attacks the human institutions and throws light on social injustices and poverty. In the novel, society bullies both Jude and Sue. The people in the novel
are indifferent to people of doubtful conduct and hence refuse lodging to the Jude, Sue and the children. After the hanging episode, the owner is actually relieved to be getting rid of them as opposed to showing sympathy for their loss. The suicides of the children are a direct consequence of having been refused lodging, for Father Time wouldn’t have committed the deed if they had gotten accommodation in a house and no tragedy would have befallen.
Jude’s hunger for attending college also becomes impossible because he is denied education in Christminister because he was poor. When asked why he loves the college by Sue, he replies: “I love the place- although I know how it hates all men like me- the so-called self-taught,- how it scorns our labored acquisitions, when it should be the first to respect them; how it sneers at our false qualities and mispronunciations, when it should say, I see you want help, my poor friend.” Hardy manages to include the tragedy of unfulfilled ambition. Thereafter, Jude is subjected to menial work instead of getting a good education. Thus, both love and ambition are shattered.
According to Shakespeare, for a tragedy to occur, the protagonist must have a hamartia, be of noble birth with a high standing so that the fall will be great and hence arousing feelings of fear and pity. His fate affects the destiny of the whole nation. However, Hardy’s novel, although is a tragedy, has deviations from this structure. Neither Jude nor Sue are from a high standing and come from economically lower classes. They also do they show a tendency to act in a certain way that can be inevitably marked as a hamartia which could eventually cause their tragic fate unlike Shakespearean heroes whose hamartia determine their fate. In Shakespeare tragedies, the hero is superior to the society while in Hardy’s tragedy, the society is superior and dictates power over the piteous hero. These subversions mark Hardy as a modernist and also show his originality. Despite all these deviations from the classic Shakespearean structure of tragedy, the
novel arouses feelings of fear and pity and unavoidably causes catharsis. Fear is aroused from the hanging episode and Jude’s death while pity is aroused from the miserable life and love of Jude and Sue.
The tragedy of Jude the Obscure does not arise out of Hardy’s pessimism, but out of his realism. He wrote of the narrow-minded world he lived in that is oppressive and what it is capable of. Living in an age where people were split between two worlds in the Victorian era, he perfectly captures the lives of the semi-fictitious couple who were torn between the conventional system and the rebellious life, who eventually succumbs to the cruelty of the society. Thus, this is what makes the novel an exalting tragedy and the brilliance of Hardy’s creativities is not left glorified.