Jude the Obscure: Character Profiles
Sue Bridehead, Jude’s cousin, is “pretty, liquid-eyed, light-footed,” slight and pale. This main character is described as having an elusive “double nature.” She is an “ethereal, fine-nerved, sensitive girl, quite unfitted by temperament and instinct to fulfill the conditions of the matrimonial relation.”
Mrs Edlin, a widowed friend of the Fawleys, lives at Marygreen but goes to aid Jude and Sue in various other places. With the wisdom of age, she advises the young people, but they don’t often heed her.
Drusilla Fawley is Jude and Sue’s aunt and the baker at Marygreen. She raises Jude and tries throughout her long life to advise him and Sue well. She is gruff and practical but kind.
Jude Fawley is dark-haired and thoughtful; he is the novel’s protagonist. From childhood forward, he displays the ability, discipline, and love of knowledge that a scholar needs, but his low social rank and poverty prevent him from pursuing an education. He learns to take delight in his stone work.
Arabella Donn is a “fine dark-eyed girl, not exactly handsome, but capable of passing as such at a little distance,” with “a round and prominent bosom, full lips, perfect teeth.” She is the young woman who decides to capture Jude for her husband. The daughter of a pig farmer, Arabella is practical and earthy—“a complete and substantial female animal”—and a foil for Sue.
Gillingham is a teacher at Leddenton and friend and advisor to Phillotson; his belief is that a wayward woman should be “smacked” till she knows her place, but there is no evidence that he is himself married.
Richard Phillotson is a schoolteacher and failed scholar. He is at first Jude’s mentor, then his ally in keeping Sue close by, and then his rival and eventual victor in the struggle for possession of Sue. Despite his weaknesses, Phillotson is a kind man who recognizes Sue’s fine nature and Jude’s love for her.
Vilbert is a quack physician who passes in and out of scenes throughout the novel’s long time line. He is an audacious liar and a source of comic relief in the otherwise dark novel.
Many other villagers and townspeople play minor roles in the novel, including Arabella’s parents and her friends Anny and Sarah; Challow, the pig-butcher; Troutham, the Marygreen farmer who employs Jude as a child; Miss Fontover, house mistress and Sue’s employer in Christminster, a devout woman; Mr. Highridge, curate to Marygreen; and Tinker Taylor, Uncle Joe, and other stone workers in Christminster; and unnamed characters.