Jude the Obscure | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Jude the Obscure | Part 2, Chapters 5–7 (At Christminster) | Summary

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Summary

Part 2, Chapter 5

Phillotson is pleased that Sue is bright and an excellent teacher. He gives her private but chaperoned lessons in the evening and is developing feelings for her. One evening when Jude comes to visit, he sees the pair of them under an umbrella. Jude notices Phillotson put his arm around Sue's waist. He feels despair and thinks Phillotson, 20 years her senior, is too old for Sue. He leaves without speaking to them. He notices the situational irony in their relationship: to keep her nearby he introduced them and thus is himself the cause of their recent intimacy.

Part 2, Chapter 6

The next Sunday Jude visits his sick great-aunt in Marygreen. She has sold her business and has a widow living with her to help her. Jude inquires about Sue, and Miss Fawley is sorry to realize he has met her. Miss Fawley did not like Sue much as a child because she was "impertinent," independent-minded, and likely to do all the things the boys did.

When Jude returns to Christminster, he summons the courage to write to some of the heads of colleges about his desire to pursue a university degree. Meanwhile Phillotson is moving to a larger school farther south. In the interim Jude learns he could attend college only by qualifying for a scholarship, for which he has not accumulated enough knowledge, or by paying his own way, which would require 15 years to save enough money.

He finally gets a short letter from one of the college heads advising him to stay in his "own sphere." Deeply distressed, he wanders about the town, seeing it more realistically and believing he could handle disappointment better if he could court Sue. As an act of vengeance, he writes a line from the Book of Job on the wall of the college whose head sent the letter.

Part 2, Chapter 7

Dejected Jude goes to a tavern and gets drunk. At one point he tells his drinking companions he is equal to the university scholars in learning, and one wit challenges him to recite the Creed (Christian statement of belief) in Latin. He does so successfully, although one undergraduate criticizes him for saying the Nicene instead of the Apostles' Creed. There is a lot of noise and raucous behavior at the tavern. Jude calls his audience a pack of fools, leaves, and makes his way to Sue's cottage, hoping for some solace. She sets him up in an easy chair downstairs, and he slips away in the morning before she wakes.

Back at his lodgings, he gets a note of dismissal from his job. He returns to Marygreen, where he talks to the curate and learns he can enter the church as a licentiate without having a university degree.

Analysis

Jude is forced to face more deep disappointment and disillusion in these chapters. The first comes as he sees Phillotson put his arm around Sue and must accept the fact that he introduced them. It was not uncommon for older men to marry much younger women, despite Jude's objection that Phillotson is too old for Sue. But a possible liaison between them brings home to Jude the unwelcome fact he still legally "belongs" to Arabella.

When Jude returns to Marygreen and inquires again about Sue, his great-aunt again expresses that she is ill-disposed toward her niece since she was brought up by her father to dislike the Fawleys. Her recollections of Sue as a child indicate the beginnings of the unconventional woman that Sue is. Miss Fawley's companion and nurse is introduced in Chapter 6. Mrs. Edlin is a widow who takes care of Miss Fawley until her death and will act as a friend to Jude and Sue as their story develops.

People back home ask Jude how he is getting on in Christminster, queries that spur him to take action to advance his plan to matriculate at the university and then face the rejection of a class-bound and indifferent university system that can make no provisions for a man like him. Once again Jude gets drunk to cope with his anguish. The people in the tavern make fun of him, egging him on to recite the Creed. They understand better than he that class boundaries are impenetrable, an important theme in the novel.

Jude gets drunk and impressively recites the Nicene Creed instead of the Apostles' Creed, as challenged. The Apostles' Creed is thought to date from the first or second centuries, whereas the Nicene Creed was created in 325 CE when Emperor Constantine, who wished to impose Christianity on the Roman Empire, asked Church fathers to convene in the city of Nicaea and lay out the tenets of a uniform belief system. More specific about certain aspects of Christian belief, the Nicene Creed influenced later versions of the Apostles' Creed. Jude recited this version because he learned it as part of his Latin studies and argues it is "more historic." Later Jude is ashamed of his performance in the tavern, not only because it loses him his job (since he missed work and perhaps his drunken behavior was reported to his employer), but also because he blasphemed by reciting a sacred prayer in a pub. He is also ashamed because Sue has seen him in a drunken condition.

When he returns to Marygreen, bowed and beaten, and awakens in his old room at his great-aunt's house, the narrator says, "[i]t was hell—'the hell of conscious failure,' both in ambition and in love." Jude admits his ambition for the church was entirely worldly and now hopes to do something good for society by becoming a licentiate—a priest without full ordination but still able to minister to the needs of the congregation.

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