The Critical Use Of Suicide In Jude The Obscure

2035 words - 8 pages

Islamic suicide bombers are a part of one of the few cultures who view suicide as an honorable and logical decision, but the majority of people recognize suicide as a horrific tragedy. However, regardless of one’s beliefs about suicide, it is undeniable how prevalent suicide is worldwide. Many authors purposefully include suicide in their literary works because of how common it is, as well as because it powerfully conveys characters’ inner- struggles. In his novel Jude the Obscure, author Thomas Hardy has multiple characters commit suicide; the reader learns early on that Jude’s mother committed suicide, Jude and Arabella’s son Little Father Time kills himself after killing his 2 siblings, and Jude indirectly commits suicide after losing the will to live. Hardy uses these suicides to criticize the society, show the rigid social structure, and illustrate the effects of prolonged isolation.
To begin, Hardy uses suicide to criticize society. The society of Hardy’s generation was full of religiously pretentious people who claimed to be perfect and expected the same from everyone around them. They clung to rules and were extremely judgmental and unforgiving. This led to people being placed under tremendous amounts of pressure to do the right thing all the time. This is exemplified in the novel when Jude, Sue and their out-of-wedlock children have a hard time finding a place to stay in London after they were driven out of their old town of Aldbrickham. No one is willing to take them in because of how scandalous their family is. In a moment of weakness, Sue talks to Little Father Time and inadvertently makes him think he is the reason why they are unable to find a boarding room; “’Then if children make so much trouble, why do people have ‘em?’ ‘O- because it is a law of nature.’ ‘But we don’t ask to be born?’ ‘ No indeed.’ ‘And what makes it worse with me is that you are not my real mother, and you needn’t have had me unless you liked. I oughtn’t to have come to ‘ee- that’s the real truth! I troubled ‘em in Australia, and I trouble folk here. I wish I hadn’t been born!’” (342). The failure of people to be forgiving and accepting enough to welcome the family in resulted in Little Father Time feeling fully responsible for their hardships. According to Elisa Freedgood, New York University English Professor, “Thomas Hardy… suggested in novel after novel the power of domestic conventions and the literally fatal trap they can form: in Jude the Obscure (1895), the poignantly named child Old Father Time murders his siblings and commits suicide in order to free his parents of the burden of bringing them up” (185). In the aftermath of the murders and suicide, the parents found a note on the floor: “…in the boy’s hand, with the bit of lead pencil that he carried: ‘done because we are too menny’” (344-345). Freedgood argues that Hardy has Little Jude kill himself to stop being a burden to his parents. Had the society been accepting and forgiving, perhaps...

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