HomeLiterature Study GuidesJude The ObscurePart 1 Chapters 10 11 Summary

Jude the Obscure | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Jude the Obscure | Part 1, Chapters 10–11 (At Marygreen) | Summary



Part 1, Chapter 10

The pig the Fawleys have been fattening all autumn must now be slaughtered, but the pig killer, Challow, fails to arrive on time because of snow. Jude and Arabella must do it themselves. Arabella wants Jude to stick the pig slightly, causing it to die slowly and not bloody the meat. Refusing to make the pig suffer, Jude kills him quickly. "The blood flowed out in a torrent," the narrator says, and Jude accidentally knocks over the pail placed to catch the blood, losing most of it. Challow finally arrives and helps disassemble the pig.

Jude now finds the road to Alfredston unpleasant, as it reminds him of Arabella. Not long after slaughtering the pig, Jude passes near the stream where Arabella first approached him. He overhears her friends Anny and Sarah talking about how they advised her to get pregnant and that Arabella likely knew she wasn't pregnant when she said otherwise. When he comes home, Jude reproaches his wife for taking her friends' advice and entrapping him.

Part 1, Chapter 11

The next day while melting down the pig's fat, Arabella continues to argue with Jude, claiming he was not much of a catch. She throws his books on the floor and gets pig fat on them. He physically restrains her, disheveling her in the process, and she tells Jude he will abuse her as his father did his mother. Jude suddenly realizes their lives are ruined, and he walks into Marygreen to ask his aunt about his parents.

Miss Fawley says his parents separated when he was a baby. Not long after the separation his mother drowned herself (Jude came to his aunt after his father died). His father's sister also left her husband, and his cousin Sue was raised by her father. The girl lives in Christminster, but her father has moved back to London. "The Fawleys were not made for wedlock," says Jude's aunt ominously.

While walking home Jude tries to drown himself but cannot get the ice on the pond to crack. Unsuccessful at suicide, he steps into a local tavern to drown his sorrow; it is the same one in which he first drank a beer with Arabella. He knows the place because of the picture of Samson and Delilah on the wall. When he gets home, Arabella is gone. A few days later Arabella writes that she is leaving for Australia with her parents to start a new life. His last shred of sentiment disappears when he discovers his wedding present to her—a framed portrait of himself—up for sale in a shop in Alfredston. He discovers the carving he made years ago on a milestone along the road: "Thither J.F." with a hand pointing toward Christminster. He now determines to go to there after finishing his apprenticeship.


In these two chapters Jude's disastrous marriage quickly unravels. The problem of marriage, an important theme in the novel, is demonstrated as Jude and Arabella's basic incompatibility shows itself in the incident of the pig killing. Jude is a sensitive intellectual who can't bear to see any creature suffer, whereas Arabella is a hard-headed and hard-hearted realist who fully embraces the necessity of violence for the sake of survival. Like the coarse creature she is, she has no respect for Jude's academic leanings and human sensibilities. She is sacrificing him easily with no second thoughts.

Hardy embraced Darwin's theory of evolution, but he couldn't help seeing nature's cruelty in the laws of predator and prey and the inexorable mechanism of the food chain. Jude is an example of a more evolved human, who perhaps becomes less fit to live because his sensibilities are more refined. Jude would rather have gone without the meat than destroy a creature, saying "I have fed with my own hands." Arabella's response is he is a "tender-hearted fool." In fact Arabella considers him a fool despite his knowledge.

Jude finds the entire event revolting and is particularly appalled by the method of processing the meat for maximum convenience: starving the pig ahead of time "to save bother with the innards" and allowing the pig to bleed out slowly so that the blood does not spoil the meat. Arabella criticizes Jude for being ignorant and not knowing these basic facts of slaughter. The narrator vividly describes the slaughter of the pig, far messier when Jude refuses to cruelly prolong the animal's life. Jude says "Thank God! ... He's dead," to which Arabella replies, "What's God got to do with such a messy job as pig-killing, I should like to know! ... Poor folks must live!" Arabella understands that the idea of the compassionate God of Christianity contradicts the necessity of what poor folks must do, an observation that shows situational irony and perhaps a certain macabre humor. Arabella is completely at home and at ease in the realm of pigs; Jude is disgusted and angry when traces of pig matter touch his books, for these are two worlds he likes to keep separate. Indeed the couple's words and actions reflect their outlooks and underscore their incompatibility.

After the pig slaughter Jude discovers Arabella's duplicity through the author's heavy-handed use of coincidence, employed throughout the novel—a device not uncommon in novels of the period—when he overhears her friends talking at the very spot where he first met Arabella. As he and Arabella continue arguing the next day, he realizes "[t]heir lives were ruined ... by the fundamental error of their matrimonial union: that of having based a permanent contract on a temporary feeling which had no necessary connection with affinities that alone render a lifelong comradeship tolerable." This sentiment goes back to Hardy, whose views on marriage contrasted greatly with accepted practices.

When Arabella's taunt leads Jude to ask about his parents' marriage, readers may well see foreboding in Miss Fawley's revelations. Both his parents and his first cousin's parents suffered unhappy marriages and separated. Jude's new marriage is already a misery as well.

Newly informed of this information he thinks of his mother's suicide; however, because he is already being depicted as unworthy of notice, as insignificant, he is unsuccessful in his attempt to drown himself in the frozen pond. "He supposed he was not a sufficiently dignified person for suicide," Jude muses, and for the first time he resorts to liquor to numb himself to despair. The pain of existence is another important theme in the novel, and Jude uses drink on several occasions to cope with life when it becomes unbearable.

The ever-practical Arabella puts an effective end to the marriage and leaves Jude free to pursue his Christminster dream. However, her departure doesn't change the fact he is still not free to begin another relationship: they are not divorced.

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