Jude the Obscure
Thomas Hardy, Author
Hardy was very obviously in a bad place when he wrote this novel, which really hurt all of the points he was trying to convey. The only thing I got out of Jude was that Hardy was trying to give his critics one more "eff you." Sadly, the points that he wanted to make are good, important points, but his arguments for all of them are so bad, the book is just the muddled mess of a bitter author.
Hardy's hatred of academia is clear in this novel. I've known people like Hardy, and in spite of what the Hardys of the world think, the people with degrees do not care whether or not other people have silly pieces of paper saying that they graduated. His venom against college grads feels like wasted energy. Most people I know now (and maybe it was different then, but I doubt it) don't think that you need a college degree to be smart or successful. Hardy himself is proof of this.
His point that I had the biggest problem with was that of marriage. I agree that neither the government nor society should define what marriage is. But Hardy does not argue this convincingly. His characters are weak, and too afraid to live life in the way that they choose. After feeling pressured into getting married, they again change their minds because they presumptuously believe everyone they see getting married that day is unhappy. Wishy washy! This also fails to take into account that just because some people may choose not to get married doesn't mean that other people would be happy living that way, as well.
The reason I ultimately did not like this book, though, was the couple's "the world is happening to me" attitude, the death of their children being the best example. If you want to psychologically damage a child, go ahead and imply that you don't know why they were born! What an idiotic thing to suggest to a child! It just seems that people are more likely to mess up their kid when they hold the belief that bringing a child into this world is an act of cruelty. Why not believe that having kids is something good you can do? Try your best to put a little good into the world? If you just can't see it that way, don't have kids. Anyway, Jude and Sue, instead of realizing that they raised a mopey emo sociopath, think they are just being punished for being together, and decide to go back to their previous unhappy marriages. Idiots.
As I said before, it's not that the points are bad, it's that the arguments are very poorly carried out. The message that Hardy should have tried harder to convey is: let people live their lives the way they want, and don't worry about what people think of you for living yours the way you want.