Upon its first appearance in 1895, Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure shocked Victorian critics and readers with a frank depiction of sexuality and an unbridled indictment of the institutions of marriage, education, and religion, reportedly causing one Angli-can bishop to order the book publicly burned. The experience so exhausted Hardy that he never wrote a work of fiction again.
Rich in symbolism, Jude the Obscure is the story of Jude Fawley and his struggle to rise from his station as a poor Wessex stonemason to that of a scholar at Christminster. It is also the story of Jude's ill-fated relationship with his cousin Sue Bridehead, and the ultimate tragedy that causes Jude's undoing and Sue's transformation. Jude the Obscure explores man's essential loneliness and remains one of Hardy's most widely read novels.