Jude the Obscure | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Jude the Obscure | Part 5, Chapters 1–3 (At Aldbrickham and Elsewhere) | Summary

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Summary

Part 5, Chapter 1

In February of the following year, Sue and Jude are still living in Aldbrickham in a platonic relationship and working together lettering headstones, something of a comedown from his previous work in cathedrals. After Sue gets notification her divorce has been made final, she jokes that her freedom has been obtained under false pretenses, since she has not technically been living "in sin." Jude notes they may now marry as his divorce already final, but Sue fears a marital contract will ruin their happy life. Jude is frustrated because Sue has made no declaration of love to him, and they almost get into an argument about it.

Part 5, Chapter 2

A few weeks later Arabella visits Jude's home, wishing to speak to him alone. Sue does not want him to walk back with her to the inn where she is staying, and Arabella disappears while they are arguing. He insists he must find Arabella; he owes her that much. "If she were yours it would be different!" Sue says. Jude answers, "Or if you were." At that point Sue declares she loves Jude and consents to engaging in a complete sexual relationship. Jude embraces her and wants to arrange the marriage as soon as possible.

The next morning Sue feels remorse about turning Arabella away and goes to the inn to find her. Arabella knows, when she sees Sue, she has only recently slept with Jude. His country wife is not interested in getting him back, she says, and advises Sue to marry Jude right away. While Sue is visiting, Arabella gets a telegram from her second husband, Mr. Cartlett, saying he agrees to remarry her and make it legal. She then tells Sue she will write to Jude about the business she came on.

Part 5, Chapter 3

After talking to Arabella Sue does not want Jude to cheapen their relationship with a vulgar legal contract and asks him to put off the marriage. About three weeks later they see an announcement of Arabella's marriage in the paper. Arabella also sends a letter informing Jude that eight months after leaving him she gave birth to his child. Because Arabella's parents no longer want to keep the child and she cannot keep him with her new husband, she wants to turn the boy over to Jude. Sue agrees they should take the child, a sad little boy with an old man's demeanor who clearly is Jude's son. The child immediately asks to call Sue mother, triggering her empathy, and she embraces him without reservation.

Analysis

The hypocrisy of religion is evident in Sue's playful comment to Jude about her divorce—that is, whether it is legal because it was procured under pretense. A divorce in the 19th century required adultery—having sex with a partner outside of marriage—and Sue did not become intimate with Jude sexually until after her divorce. But while Jude and Sue are common-law husband and wife in all ways except not engaging in sexual intercourse at the time of the legal proceedings, they are certainly lovers. Sue has abandoned her marriage with Phillotson for a common-law partnership with Jude, and they are married according to the spirit, if not the letter of the law. Therefore, it is hypocritical, both legally and morally, to say that the divorce was procured under pretense.

Sue's aversion to the marital contract represents her fear of losing her freedom and putting herself entirely in the power of a man. This fear is part of the reason she refuses further intimacy with Jude, even though she does love him. When Arabella returns as a threat to her happiness, she quickly takes the relationship to the next level. Jude pushes his advantage in this regard, insisting he must go out to see Arabella that night but immediately relents when Sue throws her arms around him and declares her love. She adds, "I ought to have known that you would conquer in the long run, living like this ... I do belong to you, don't I? I give in!" Knowing Sue is honest and genuine, independent of mind and spirit, readers might not think she is being devious, however suspect the moment of her revelation may be. If she were Arabella, on the other hand, there would be no question. But her declaration certainly comes at a critical moment.

Little Father Time enters the story in Part 5, Chapter 3, "a poor child seemed to be wanted by nobody," according to Sue. Critics have berated Hardy for creating Father Time, whom most consider a two-dimensional character overburdened with heavy-handed symbolism. While this opinion may be valid in part, it is also recognized that children who have been seriously abused or neglected often present themselves very much as Father Time does: seriously depressed and wise beyond their years. Sue and Jude take on the child wholeheartedly, recognizable as Jude's son, and now Sue has one more reason to go through with the marriage ceremony.

Jude and Sue express a view many decades ahead of their time when Jude says: "The beggarly question of parentage—what is it, after all? What does it matter, when you come to think of it, whether a child is yours by blood or not?" This statement is a strong critique of patriarchy.

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