Jude's story -- his futile desire to better himself through education, his failed marriage and doomed love for the free-spirited Sue Bridehead -- shows with heartbreaking clarity the devastating effects of prejudice and oppression upon innocent minds, and forms a passionate plea for tolerance. It was met with widespread condemnation upon first publication in 1895 and, as a result, was the last novel Hardy ever wrote.
“Yea, many there be that have run out of their wits for women, and become servants for their sakes. Many also have perished, have erred, and sinned, for women. . . . O ye men, how can it be but women should be strong, seeing they do thus?” —Esdras.