Jude the Obscure | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Jude the Obscure | Part 1, Chapters 4–6 (At Marygreen) | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 4

On his way home from the Brown House, Jude runs into the itinerant quack doctor—known as Physician Vilbert and of dubious reputation—and asks him about Christminster. As if he knows it well, Vilbert agrees it's a place of scholarship and religion. When Jude says he wants to learn Latin and Greek, Vilbert promises to get him grammar books in exchange for customer referrals for his questionable medicines. Believing in him, Jude keeps his part of the bargain, but the physician does not keep his. At this time Phillotson sends for his piano; Jude gets the idea to write to Phillotson to ask for some books and places a letter inside the packing case. Phillotson eventually sends him two old books, but Jude is discouraged when he naively discovers there is no easy formula for translating one language into another: he must learn a new language word by word.

Part 1, Chapter 5

Over the next few years Jude helps his great-aunt in the bakery and studies Latin authors, often while delivering baked goods by horse-and-buggy. When he is about 16 he passes the Brown House while reading a particularly moving poem and kneels by the roadside to recite it. Afterward he feels alarmed by his devotion to the Romans; wanting to immerse himself in the Greek of the Christian texts, he finds some at a bookseller in Alfredston. Planning to move to Christminster, Jude needs a way to make a living, so he apprentices himself to a mason. Even though this trade is merely a stepping stone to his scholarly pursuits, he finds himself interested in the work, which he continues until he is 19, living in Alfredston and returning to Marygreen on weekends.

Part 1, Chapter 6

Jude imagines he will move in a year or two and is proud to have acquired "an average student's power to read the common ancient classics" as well as knowledge of ancient history and mathematics. He intends to become a clergyman at Christminster and dreams of rising to a bishopric. In the middle of his musings, a young woman catches his attention by yelling "Hoity-toity" and throwing a pig's pizzle (penis) at him. She and her friends, daughters of pig farmers, are washing the intestines and internal organs of a recently slaughtered animal in a stream. Jude learns the woman is Arabella Donn. Because he feels sexually attracted to her, he asks if he can see her on Sunday, and she readily agrees. Jude has a hard time concentrating on his studies as he anticipates their first meeting.

Analysis

These early chapters develop the reader's sympathy for Jude, who despite having the cards of class stacked against him, begins teaching himself Greek and Latin. There is some humor in the way he conducts much of his studying while he delivers baked goods, since the horse knows the route and he doesn't need to pay much attention.

He experiences for the first time the duplicity of his fellow creatures when Vilbert fails to keep his promise: "[T]he gift of sudden insight ... showed him all at once what shoddy humanity the quack was made of." And when he gets a few shabby books from his former teacher, he soldiers on, dreaming of becoming a bishop. But it is telling that the sole religious feeling Jude exhibits in the entire novel comes in Part 1, Chapter 5 when he is studying verses by the Roman poet Horace, addressed to the Roman gods Apollo and Diana. So moved by the words of the Carmen Saeculare he kneels on the bank of the roadside to recite, like a pagan. The humor and situational irony are obvious: Jude wants to become a Christian clergyman but is moved to ecstasy by Roman or pagan poetry. He himself is unnerved by his response to the poem and immediately begins studying Greek so he can read Christian texts.

Also an instance of situational irony is that Jude is cataloging what he has learned so far and how much more he will learn when he gets to Christminster when Arabella yells "Hoity toity" and throws the pig's pizzle at him. First, the girls are teasing him, calling him snobbish (hoity toity). Second, they are washing the offal (insides of the pig—edible organs), and Arabella's random use of the pizzle to attract Jude's attention, and the specific and heavy-handed "pig" symbolism on the part of the author is used to indicate Arabella's heavily sexualized role in the story. For this reason, then, it is also humorous.

Worthy of note, too, is the location of these events, both of which occur in the vicinity of the Brown House, the site at which he first sees and begins to dream of Christminster. The Latin poetry diverts his attention from Christian writings and thought; Arabella's overt advances and sexuality awaken him to something other than dreams of academic glory.

From the start Arabella is associated with pigs, who are associated in the collective imagination with filth, greed, gluttony, bad conduct, and gross sexuality. Arabella introduces Jude to the world of the flesh, and he suddenly awakens to his sexuality when he meets her: "She ... was a fine dark-eyed girl ... She had a round and prominent bosom, full lips, perfect teeth, and the rich complexion of a Cochin hen's egg ... She was a complete and substantial female animal." The last sentence is telling, as the narrator describes Arabella as a "female animal," rather than as a "woman." An attractive specimen—highly sensuous, physically appealing—descriptions of Arabella make her appear coarse, devious, and well positioned to divert the attentions of the innocent Jude, whose sexual experience up to now has been non-existent. When Jude looks up, he says, "What a nice-looking girl you are!" and, thus, he seals his fate.

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