Jude Fawley, an intelligent and sensitive young Wessex schoolboy, is encouraged in his scholarly pursuits by the local schoolmaster, Mr Phillotson. Jude dreams of studying at the university of Christminster, the author's fictional representation of Oxford. Yet, soon Jude is deceived into marriage and then deserted by the duplicitous Arabella Donn, and he travels to Christminster to work as a stonemason while continuing his studies in the hope of being admitted to the university one day. There, Jude falls for his free-thinking cousin Sue, but with the pair living together out of wedlock, the pressures of poverty and social disapproval soon threaten to ruin their lives.
Full of passion, anger, fatalism and tragedy, Jude the Obscure attacks the inequalities and hypocrisies inherent within Victorian society's attitudes towards marriage, social mobility, education and the role of women. The novel, which caused an immediate uproar on its publication, is now widely considered to be one of the great works of the nineteenth century and the apotheosis of Hardy's fiction. This edition is fully annotated and contains extra material.