"Jude the Obscure" is the last of Thomas Hardy's novels. Its hero, Jude Fawley, is a working-class young man who dreams of becoming a scholar. The other main character is his cousin, Sue Bridehead, who is also his central love interest. Themes include class, scholarship, religion, marriage, and the modernisation of thought and society.
The novel develops multiple intertwined themes. Most controversially, during England's Victorian era, Hardy criticized revered institutions like marriage and Christianity. He also criticizes the bourgeois values associated with marriage through the tragedy of his star-crossed lovers, Jude and Sue, whose attempts to defy social conventions for the sake of love leads to their misery.
Another major thematic focus of the novel is the issue of fixed class boundaries, particularly with regard to access to higher education for students from the working class. Although Jude wishes to attend the university, he can't afford to get his degree and is thereby shut out from having any economic mobility out of the working class.