Job’s Suffering Without Job’s Redemption

Thomas Hardy was raised in a Christian environment, but turned away from the faith in adulthood, eventually arriving at the point where he believed that life had no meaning.  He incorporated that journey from faith to nihilism in the last of his novels, Jude the Obscure, which is the next entry on my literature website.  The story involves a young man from a poor family who longs to become a scholar, and perhaps even a clergyman.  He is thwarted at every step, both by a class-conscious society and the relationships in which he becomes involved, first with a pig farmer’s daughter who seduces him and tricks him into marriage, and then with his freethinking cousin who draws him into her godless philosophy because of his love for her.  His relationships bring him nothing but misery and he dies, penniless and alone, at the age of thirty.  Hardy compares Jude’s suffering to that of Job, but his worldview allows no room for a redemptive ending.  The book is also a critique of the educational system, the class system, the Christian religion, and especially the institution of marriage.  The novel was given such a poor reception by critics, one of whom tagged it “Jude the Obscene” despite the fact that it contains no overt sex or profanity, that Hardy gave up penning novels and spent the last thirty-three years of his life writing poetry.  One might wonder what a person might expect to gain from reading such a depressing book.  Aside from the obvious writing talents of the author, which a believer can appreciate as the result of God’s common grace, Christians can see clearly on display the consequences of the rejection of God and the pursuit of humanist freethinking – a life without hope and suffering with no redemption.  Job’s life ended with the enjoyment of God’s blessing, while Jude’s ended in despair.