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Literature Study GuidesJude The ObscurePart 6 Chapters 1 3 Summary

Jude the Obscure | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Jude the Obscure | Part 6, Chapters 1–3 (At Christminster Again) | Summary



Part 6, Chapter 1

The Fawleys return to Christminster on Remembrance Day, an important holiday to honor fallen military service members that includes a procession of house heads and newly made doctors (the equivalent of Ph.D.s). While they are waiting in the crowd, Jude gets drawn into a conversation that turns into an oration about fortune, vocation, class barriers, and the limitations of poverty. Jude portrays himself to the crowd as a noble failure, but Sue is mortified by his performance. After the procession finally passes, the family leaves to look for temporary lodgings. Jude gets rooms for Sue and the children and then leaves to find a room for himself. When the landlady closely questions Sue, she reveals they are not legally married, and the woman asks her to leave in the morning. Sue doesn't want to bother Jude with this new problem, so she immediately goes out with Father Time to look for a new place to stay but does not find one.

Part 6, Chapter 2

The family's homelessness leaves a deep impression on Father Time's psyche. As he asks questions, Sue answers him as if he were an adult. As a result he learns that people don't like to rent rooms to a family with children and finds out another is child on the way. This news appalls and angers him, and he says, "If we children was gone there'd be no trouble at all!" Sue sends him to bed, and she leaves very early in the morning, while the children are still sleeping, to meet Jude for breakfast and discuss their situation.

The couple returns to Sue's rooms to feed the children, but to their horror, they find Father Time has hanged his two siblings as well as himself, leaving a note of explanation: "Done because we are too menny." Sue goes to pieces and blames herself; Jude holds himself together for her sake. Sue cannot attend the burial, but later she goes to the cemetery and pitifully asks the gravedigger to let her see the children one last time. Jude convinces her to go back to her lodgings; she has a miscarriage and loses her last child.

Part 6, Chapter 3

Jude and Sue find other lodgings, and he finds work while she convalesces. Arabella is notified about the death of her son. When she visits Jude and Sue, she begins talking hypocritically about her love for her son after Sue tells Arabella she isn't married to Jude. In her grief Sue begins to believe God is punishing them for transgressing the rules of religion. Jude tries to recall her to her former self, but he fails. She tells him, "We ought to have lived in mental communion, and no more." She blames herself, however, for giving in to Jude's wishes because of her jealousy over Arabella. Jude accuses Sue of never loving him sufficiently, and she responds that at first she wanted him only to love her because she had a woman's "inborn craving ... to attract and captivate." But she says she did love him later, even if that love began "in the selfish and cruel wish to make your heart ache for me without letting mine ache for you." Jude agrees to put an end to their sexual intimacy, and she begs him to understand she is not banning him from her bed because of dislike but as a matter of conscience.


Jude has taken on many of Sue's attributes, including her masochism, and so he puts himself in Christminster on Remembrance Day, the better to lacerate his soul with his failure to realize his ambition. Hardy takes the opportunity to put some of his own views about what is wrong with society in the mouth of Jude Fawley, who says he was beaten by his poverty. "It takes two or three generations to do what I tried to do in one," he says. "I was, perhaps, a paltry victim to the spirit of mental and social restlessness that makes so many unhappy in these days," meaning those who try to rise above their class status most often get squashed. Jude's outbursts in Christminster frame the plot of the novel; his first drunken rant as an angry young man confirms his inability to gain access to opportunities, leading him on the path his life will take. The second oration shows him as a disillusioned, defeated adult at the end of the path, a victim of an unyielding system. The final horror of his life takes place soon after in Christminster, the city of his dreams—or in this case, a nightmare too gruesome to be contemplated but not completely inconceivable as foreshadowed by family history and local lore.

After the procession Jude and Sue go door to door looking for lodging, but much like a perverse version of Mary and Joseph of the New Testament, they find there is "no room at the inn" for them. When Jude finally finds rooms for his wife and children, Sue foolishly admits to the landlady that she is not married to the father of her children, a comment that begins the final cascade of catastrophic events. Surely Sue must have realized, in some part of her mind, she was risking their survival by making this confidence to a stranger. But her stubborn adherence to her own principles—since she considers herself bound to Jude—allows her to tell this woman her whole story, including the information that both she and Jude were previously married to other people and have tried and failed to marry a couple of times. She compounds this error by confessing to Father Time that "[a]ll is trouble, adversity, and suffering," as if the child weren't depressed enough. She tells him, in all honesty, that people object to renting to couples with children and then commits a third error by telling him she is pregnant with a fourth child. Why she would confide in him at this moment of terrible trouble and lay an additional mental burden on him has no sensible answer. Sue is wallowing in her own voluptuous grief, and she doesn't consider the child, or his last comment to her: "If we children was gone there'd be no trouble at all!" In one evening's thoughtlessness, she is instrumental in destroying her children.

As if that were not enough, Sue reveals to Arabella, who visits after the funerals, she is not really married to Jude. The revelation sets the wheels in motion for Jude's ex-wife to reclaim him. A new, fundamentalist self—or perhaps a self previously hidden in the shadow but now dominating Sue's consciousness—determines that Sue and Jude are sinners, and their sin is the reason their children have been taken from them. Jude must now agree to live again in celibacy, and what is worse, she negates their entire life together by saying she should never have given in to him nor had his children. Jude and Sue have now changed places. He has given up all religious superstition, while she wishes to be scourged so the evil can be taken out of her and she can divest herself of her "monstrous errors ... and sinful ways." While it is understandable for Sue to break down over her unbearable grief, it is hard to accept her not recognizing herself in part as the engine of her own—and others' destruction.

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