Jude the Obscure | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Jude the Obscure | Part 6, Chapters 4–5 (At Christminster Again) | Summary

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Summary

Part 6, Chapter 4

Because he saw them in the crowd on Remembrance Day, Phillotson knows Jude and Sue are in Christminster. A few weeks after the tragedy, Arabella runs into him at the market in Alfredston and tells him what happened. Arabella has stayed longer in Christminster than originally planned, gathering intelligence on Jude's situation. She also informs the schoolmaster that the couple has separated, that they were never married, and that Sue has taken up religion and now believes she is Phillotson's wife in the eyes of God. Arabella also gives him Sue's address. Phillotson begins to think he can remarry Sue on the grounds he wrongfully obtained his divorce; such a move might allow him to get his position back in Shaston. He writes to Sue, who agrees to reunite herself with him in marriage.

When Sue delivers this news to Jude, he remonstrates that she is his wife, they love each other, and their marriage cannot be canceled. However, he comes to realize "[t]he blow of her bereavement ... destroyed her reasoning faculty."

Part 6, Chapter 5

When Sue gets to Marygreen, Mrs. Edlin tries to talk her out of the marriage with no success. Sue still has an aversion to Phillotson, which she tries to cover up; he sees it but is resolved to claim her. Gillingham acts as a witness, and Mrs. Edlin refuses to attend.

Analysis

Mrs. Edlin represents the voice of reason at Marygreen, refusing to take part in a travesty of a remarriage. Arabella is determined to get Jude back, so she feeds Phillotson information that gives him the idea to remarry Sue.

All of Phillotson's goodness with regard to his ex-wife is canceled when he puts a plan in motion to take advantage of her grief and get her back for his own purposes. Phillotson's life has been hard since he allowed Sue to leave, but now he has a chance to improve his situation by reclaiming a woman who is not in her right mind. While Phillotson previously rejected the moral hypocrisy of church and society, he now claims he wrongfully obtained a divorce, when in fact his wife left him for another man and made a life with him. He hypocritically tells his friend Gillingham he considers Sue's interlude with Jude, including her three children with him, as an event that "has done little more than finish her education." The narrator sarcastically notes "[t]o indulge one's instinctive and uncontrolled sense of justice and right, was not, he [Phillotson] had found, permitted with impunity in an old civilization like ours." The schoolmaster has destroyed his better angels.

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