Jude Fawley is a rural stone mason with intellectual aspirations. Frustrated by poverty and the indifference of the academic institutions at the University of Christminster, his only chance of fulfilment seems to lie in his relationship with his unconventional cousin, Sue Bridehead. But life as social outcasts proves undermining, and when tragedy occurs, Sue has no resilience and Jude is left in despair.
Hardy's portrait of Jude, the idealist and dreamer who is a prisoner of his own physical nature, is one of the most haunting and desperate of his creations. Jude the Obscure is a dark yet compassionate account of the insurmountable frustrations of human existence which reflect Hardy's yearning for the spiritual values of the past and his despair at their decline.