Literature Study GuidesJude The ObscurePart 6 Chapters 6 8 Summary

Jude the Obscure | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Jude the Obscure | Part 6, Chapters 6–8 (At Christminster Again) | Summary

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Summary

Part 6, Chapter 6

Arabella comes to Jude's lodgings, pretending her father has kicked her out. Jude tries to get rid of her by offering money, but she insists he put her up for a few days. She finagles Jude into financing a trip to Alfredston so she can get news of Sue and Phillotson. When Arabella returns she tells him they are married, and Jude goes to the tavern to drink his sorrows away. Arabella goes to her father, who is running a pork shop not far away, and asks him to leave the door unlatched. Father and daughter are clearly on speaking terms, despite what Arabella has told Jude. She then fetches a very drunk Jude from the tavern, bringing him back to her father's house.

Part 6, Chapter 7

Over the next three days Arabella keeps Jude drunk enough to be confused while she makes arrangements for them to marry. At the appointed time she tells him he has promised to do so, and her father chimes in to say he has kept Jude at his house the past few days with the idea Jude would make their union legal. Jude does not wish to break his promise: "I'd marry the W[hore] of Babylon rather than do anything dishonorable!" he says. He goes through with Arabella's charade and begins drinking again after the ceremony.

Part 6, Chapter 8

Two or three months later, Jude and Arabella are living in new lodgings and arguing spitefully on a regular basis. Jude is now very sick and asks Arabella to send for Sue. Although Arabella agrees to do so, she never sends word to Sue. After some days pass, Jude decides to go to Marygreen himself in a heavy rainstorm. When he gets there, he has one of the schoolchildren take a note to Sue asking her to meet him in the church.

Sue tells him he did right to marry Arabella, and he disgustedly replies, "If there is anything more degrading, immoral, unnatural, than another in my life, it is this meretricious contract with Arabella." Sue says she has brought her body almost "into complete subjection," and he calls her a "darling little fool." After he accuses her of not being worth a man's love, she runs into his arms, and they kiss passionately. She has not consummated her second marriage with Phillotson. Jude asks her to return to him, but she refuses. Jude deliberately walks out in the bad weather, all the way to Alfredston, and returns by rail to Christminster.

Analysis

As Phillotson takes advantage of Sue's grief, Arabella takes advantage of Jude's. He no longer cares where he is, what he does, or what he is about now that Sue has left him. Nonetheless, he maintains a strong sense of morality and misguided sense of honor. Surely he must know he has been tricked by Arabella and in no way owes her a duty to remarry. But by this time Jude no longer cares what happens to him. After the ceremony the two begin living in marital hell, and Jude deliberately goes out in a rainstorm to see Sue, purposely walking a long distance in the bad weather to make himself sicker.

He tries one last time to convince Sue of her error, telling her they are acting by the letter of the law but "'the letter killeth,'" quoting Corinthians in the New Testament. These words of the epigraph appear again as Jude confirms his feelings about the spirit as opposed to the letter of the law: the letter of the law in religious matters may violate the tenets of Christianity if people do not interpret them with mercy and compassion. Jude asks Sue not to turn away from him and to be merciful, but she is too far gone to be redeemed by his love. Sue is more interested in punishing herself than she is in saving a man who loves her like no other. In one sense it is a kind of narcissism, even though she is destroying her own self. Jude is right; she is not worthy of his love.

Both he and Sue have come full circle in their marriages, both correct in the letter of the law and disastrous in its spirit. Sue has married Phillotson for penance; he has married her for convenience. With a conspirator, this time her father, Arabella has once again tricked Jude into a marriage that his integrity will prevent him from refusing. Interestingly, the two who initiated these re-marriages have had support from others, urging them and abetting their plans. The only voice of reason and truth, Mrs. Edlin, is ignored by those with ulterior motives, once again a voice against the hypocrisy of religious practices and the laws of marriage.

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