Literature Study GuidesJude The ObscurePart 1 Chapters 7 9 Summary

Jude the Obscure | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Jude the Obscure | Part 1, Chapters 7–9 (At Marygreen) | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 7

Jude is at his Aunt Drusilla's house reading a newly acquired Greek Testament, something he has looked forward to all week. He spends two days a week in Marygreen, but despite his resolution not to meet Arabella, he feels obligated to keep his word, and "a compelling arm of extraordinary muscular power seized hold of him ... [and] seemed to care little for his reason and his will, nothing for his so-called elevated intentions, and moved him along ... towards the embrace of a woman ... whose life had nothing in common with his own except for locality." With the intention of returning early to continue his reading, Jude goes to Arabella's home and takes her out for a walk, and they stop at an inn and have a beer. The two kiss, and when he brings her home, neighbors and her parents speak to him as if he is Arabella's sweetheart. Jude returns to his lodgings, keeping his adventure under wrap. Arabella, however, does not. The next day when she talks to her friends, embellishing conversations and events of the previous day, about the best way to catch Jude as a husband, they advise her to get pregnant.

Part 1, Chapter 8

Jude is on his way to his great-aunt's and deliberately diverges toward Arabella's house, hoping to glimpse her. He happens to find her trying to recapture some new pigs that have run away, and he helps her. Afterward she attempts to advance the relationship physically, but he doesn't take the hint. Although he is physically drawn to her and thinks of her often, his mind is still on his studies, which he has been neglecting. On Sunday she asks her parents to allow her to have the house to herself in the evening, and the narrator implies Arabella teases Jude into becoming sexually intimate with her.

Part 1, Chapter 9

Two months pass, and Arabella is becoming impatient. One evening Jude tells her he wants to end it because he plans on going away. Arabella then breaks down and says she is pregnant, and Jude immediately agrees to marry her, despite his feeling that "Arabella was not worth a great deal as a specimen of womankind." People of the parish think Jude is a fool whose aspirations have come to nothing.

On his wedding night Jude learns some of Arabella's hair is fake and that she worked briefly as a barmaid in Aldbrickham. He is repelled by the false hair and taken aback by the knowledge that she has lived elsewhere than the pig farm, thinking of her as innocent and unworldly. After the wedding she tells her friend Anny she was "mistaken" about being pregnant. Anny admires Arabella's cunning. Later Arabella tells Jude, who feels the injustice of his predicament but attempts to resign himself to it.

Analysis

Hardy uses landmarks and allusions to reinforce the story line and themes. Significant action occurs at or around the Brown House, the place from which Jude first sees Christminster, dreams his dream, and glimpses the city from afar. When Jude suggests he and Arabella walk up to the Brown House, thinking they'd turn back, she diverts him—the diversion foreshadowing the altered the course of his dream. This time the diversion has him running toward destruction—a fire that may foreshadow his dreams up in flames, with Arabella directing his course.

Remaining far later than he intended and neglecting his reading—another omen of the future—Jude ends up at a rundown tavern—"circular beer-stains on the table ... spittoons underfoot filled with sawdust" with Arabella. Amid the squalor and its "depressing effect" on Jude—and once again a symbol of the situation soon to befall him—a picture of Samson and Delilah hangs on the wall. In the biblical story of Samson and Delilah a seductive woman tricks a man who loves her into telling her the secret of his superhuman strength. He confesses it is his hair, and Delilah betrays Samson and allows his enemies to cut off his hair and defeat him. The story is an archetypal representation of female duplicity and betrayal and is reinforced later when Arabella, in a garish parody of the Samson and Delilah story, removes some of her false hair, a fashion of the time but shocking to Jude.

Jude willingly engages in a sexual relationship with Arabella, answering the natural call of his physical body, but he has walked into a trap. Even if country people like Jude knew about early forms of contraception, it is doubtful they would would have been available and he was too naïve to be prepared. Birth control basically meant abstention, and sex before marriage was prohibited for all Christians. However, many young Christians tended to ignore this prohibition, and common practice was for a man to marry a woman he impregnated, either because was honorable or was forced to do so by relatives. Jude knows what religion tells him and what is at stake when he becomes intimate with Arabella, if he stops to think at all.

As a result he, as well as other young people of the era, is forced into the narrow choice of marrying too early or with the wrong partner to obtain sexual satisfaction. The inexperienced and unsuspecting Jude is further tricked by Arabella's willingness to take advantage of custom in landing him as her husband. Being unscrupulous, Arabella is willing to go beyond the advice of her friends: to lure Jude into premature intimacy and become pregnant. However, Arabella follows only part of that advice. Using her own wiles, she pretends to be pregnant when she is not, pulling this trick on Jude when she feels him distancing himself from her. The narrator implies she may have gotten the idea from the quack doctor, Vilbert, who noted she was gloomy and has her tell him "experiences." The narrator notes that "but before he left her she had grown brighter" and "kept an appointment with Jude."

When Jude says he is going away and wishes "some things had never begun," she springs the news on him. Although Jude's choice to go down the wrong path must be laid partially at his door, at the same time he is a victim of his society's rigid rules governing sexual behavior, which disregard the instincts of nature. Society and religion have some success in suppressing and controlling those instincts but only at great cost to the individual. Jude feels his fate keenly: "He was inclined to inquire what he had done ... that he deserved to be caught in a gin which would cripple him, if not her also, for the rest of his lifetime?" The gin, an inhumane steel trap, is a symbol of incarceration and thwarted aspirations, leaving its victims maimed and in severe pain, if not dead.

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