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Literature Study GuidesJude The ObscurePart 4 Chapters 4 6 Summary

Jude the Obscure | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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



Part 4, Chapter 4

One night Phillotson is distracted and accidentally enters his old bedroom. Sue jumps out of the window. Her fall is not serious, since the window is on the first floor, and she says she must have been asleep. Phillotson is so disturbed by this that he visits his friend and fellow schoolteacher, Gillingham, and reveals to him his marital woes, telling him Sue is in love with someone else. Gillingham tells him to "Stick to her," but the next morning Phillotson does the opposite and tells her she can go to Jude. When Gillingham comes to visit his friend, he finds him alone. "I would have died for her," Phillotson says, "but I wouldn't be cruel to her in the name of the law."

Part 4, Chapter 5

Sue writes her cousin about her intention to leave her husband, and Jude plans to move them to Aldbrickham, a larger town. When Sue arrives, Jude tells her Arabella has asked for a divorce so she can legally marry her second husband, and he has agreed. Jude has booked a room at a hotel, but Sue is not ready to sleep with him. He feels jealous when Sue says she almost loved Phillotson at the moment he released her. "Sue, sometimes ... I think you are incapable of real love," he says, and he wonders if he will suffer the same fate as Sue's unfortunate Christminster undergraduate friend who died of unrequited love.

Inadvertently, Jude books rooms in the inn in which he stayed with Arabella after their reunion in Part 3, Chapter 8. One of the maids recognizes Jude and tells Sue about it. Naturally she feels jealous, especially because he never mentioned they had been intimate that night. Sue feels betrayed, but Jude thinks she is being unreasonable, since Sue was still with Phillotson at the time and they had made no promises to each other. They patch up their quarrel and retire to their separate rooms.

Part 4, Chapter 6

When the school board learns Phillotson has allowed his wife to go to her lover, they are appalled and ask him to resign his position. The situation turns public, and the schoolmaster subsequently gets very ill. Gillingham writes to Sue, who comes to visit her husband. Phillotson doesn't tell her the trouble she has created for him and assumes she is sleeping with Jude. She mentions Jude's divorce, and after she leaves Phillotson resolves to give her a divorce as well.


Phillotson's decision to allow Sue to go to Jude shows a depth of compassion and mercy that is particularly admirable and in contrast to the judgmental condemnation of the so-called Christian community he lives in. By law he would have been in his rights to keep Sue by force. Despite some minimal progress having been made by the mid-19th century in the relaxing of marriage laws and expectations, England was still a long way from granting women equal rights in the marriage contract. Women were still, by and large, the property of their husbands. Furthermore, Phillotson's ego is dealt a severe blow when Sue jumps out of the window, forcing him to face up to the degree of aversion she has felt in having physical contact with him. His liberal behavior, his kindness, and his willingness to show such a degree of selflessness and love for someone else will cost him his career. Nonetheless, Phillotson sticks to his guns and never shows he regrets his decision to let his wife go, even though his best friend and his entire community stand against him. In addition to reflecting his moral rectitude, his behavior shows how much he loves Sue. When Phillotson writes to Jude, charging him to be tender and kind, he says, "You are made for each other; it is obvious, palpable, to an unbiased older person. You were all along 'the shadowy third' in my short life with her."

Jude is disappointed to learn Sue wants to maintain a chaste relationship, but, in fact, their relationship is already sexual in its Victorian way—they have been kissing and holding hands for a while. By holding back on consummating the relationship, however, Sue keeps the advantage in the power relations of this couple. Furthermore she appears to have some aversion to coitus, even with a partner she finds physically pleasing, perhaps because she feels overwhelmed by the degree of intimacy required by sexual intercourse; she also objects to being put in a position of vulnerability by a man. In her worldview the most important part of a relationship is the mental and spiritual sympathy or connection two people feel for each other, and as she has said to Jude previously, this sentiment is also a form of eroticism. In Part 3, Chapter 4 she notes "People say I must be cold-natured—sexless ... But I won't have it! Some of the most passionately erotic poets have been the most self-contained in their daily lives."

Sue feels sexual jealousy when she learns Jude has slept with Arabella recently and feels betrayed. While it is true she was married to Phillotson at the time, she does have a right to be angry with Jude for withholding this information, since the two of them had an understanding between them of what they meant to each other. But Jude does not want to jeopardize what is between them, and thus he kept silent.

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