According to philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, religion is a “falsehood. ” The implications of the “death of God” addressed by Nietzsche are portrayed through the characters and the plot itself of the novel Jude the Obscure written by Thomas Hardy. Nietzsche believes that religion has influenced and distorted the value of truth, the influence of morality, and the need for worship, leading people down a path of wandering. The main character in the novel, Jude, experiences many troubles throughout his life, which stem from uncertainty of his beliefs and desires.
Religion seems to be the light Jude should follow, but it is actually an illusion, which leads to a falsehood of truth and meaning, morality, and the church. Friedrich Nietzsche believes that everything that made sense with God no longer exists and religion has led to the death of truth and meaning. This is a common theme in Jude the Obscure. Throughout the book, Hardy displays the feeling that religion is something that people use to satisfy themselves by giving their lives meaning.
This is apparent in the main character Jude, who is an orphan constantly searching to give himself an identity.
Jude gravitates towards people or places hoping to give his life meaning. His relationship with Mr. Phillotson led him to follow a religious path, believing it will help him add meaning to his life. Jude is illustrated as a wanderer, similar to those who are on the path of religion, wandering from place to place to find work and searching for his own identity.
Hardy uses this allusion to convey that a religious path does not provide one true destination, but rather it leaves people wandering. The concept of morality and distinguishing between what is good and evil often causes angst and anxiety among people.
Religion creates a battle of guilt and uncertainty. Throughout the novel, Jude is battling with his religious views and his deepest desires, wanting to be religious like his mentor but also fulfill his desire to stay with Sue. The guilt Jude felt about his longing to be with Sue led him to leave the church. These feelings of guilt caused Jude to move away from the Church and “betray” God, as he states, “The Church is no more to me (Hardy 237). ” Religion produced a falsehood of emotions that only left Jude dissatisfied with his thoughts and actions.
Religion forms an image of an attainable ideal world, but this ideal vision rejects reality. Within the novel, Jude sees in Christminster an attainable, ideal world, similar to the one people see in the Church, heaven. Hardy uses biblical references that lead readers to make a connection between the Church and Christminster. Jude sees Christminster as “the city of the light” and “a place he had likened to the new Jerusalem (Hardy 22). ” Jude sees Christminster as a place where he desires to fulfill his hopes and dreams, but this wonderful world exists only in Jude’s imagination.
Jude runs to religion to escape his problems and what he had hoped to achieve in Christminster was unfulfilled. His love, Sue, left him for the one who brought him to religion, and he was not accepted to any of the colleges he had desired to attend. Like Hardy, Nietzsche explains that religion and the church create a false illusion of the world, which is actually filled with many letdowns. When religion is gone and God is dead, all that is left is the love we have for one another and ourselves. Jude’s tribulations throughout the novel are linked to his internal battle of emotions towards religion and his desires.
Religion is a falsehood that leads to wandering down a path towards an unattainable ideal world. Religion creates one value of truth, but according to Nietzsche and Hardy, there isn’t one single truth and it is impossible to judge the values and correctness of one group. The judgment and hypocrisy Jude felt in the novel led him down a path of unhappiness and emptiness. Jude’s realization at the end of the novel correlates with Nietzsche view on religion; one must choose his own path because when God is dead, all that is left is the individual perspective on reality.