Literature Study GuidesJude The ObscurePart 6 Chapters 9 11 Summary

Jude the Obscure | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Jude the Obscure | Part 6, Chapters 9–11 (At Christminster Again) | Summary

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Summary

Part 6, Chapter 9

On the platform Arabella meets Jude, who admits he wished to kill himself by going out in the rain. Even though he has come from Sue, she takes him back home. Sue confesses to Mrs. Edlin as well as to her husband that she has kissed Jude but now renounces him, even swearing on the New Testament. She begs entry into Phillotson's bedroom, wishing to consummate their second marriage. Although she tries to hide her aversion, he sees it. Nonetheless, he continues, and "clenching her teeth she uttered no cry."

Part 6, Chapter 10

Jude recovers despite himself and works for several more weeks. After Christmas he gets sick again. Arabella abuses him verbally, saying he married only to get a nurse. One day Mrs. Edlin visits him unexpectedly; when he inquires whether Sue's relations have changed with her husband, Mrs. Edlin tells him the truth. Jude laments the time was not "ripe" for him and Sue: "Our ideas were fifty years too soon to be any good to us," he says.

The quack doctor Vilbert has been treating Jude, but today Jude throws him out. When Vilbert comes downstairs, he and Arabella begin kissing. Because Jude is likely to die soon, she needs a new man waiting in the wings.

Part 6, Chapter 11

Jude has not recovered by summer. Arabella plans to attend Remembrance Week festivities, and she slips out of the house before her father arrives to sit with a sleeping Jude. Jude wakes up and asks for water, but no one is there. Arabella comes back to the house and is invited to the "boat bumping" (racing) by two of Jude's former workmates, who have come to ask about him. Arabella runs upstairs, but her father has still not arrived. As she checks on Jude, she realizes that "[t]he bumping of nearly thirty years had ceased." Disappointed he "should die just now," she goes down to join the workmen.

Arabella returns much later in the evening and makes funeral arrangements. Two days later she buries him with the Widow Edlin in attendance. Arabella asks about Sue, and Mrs. Edlin says she has aged and is quite miserable since she can't stomach her husband. Mrs. Edlin asks if Jude forgave Sue, and Arabella responds she doesn't think so. Moreover, Arabella doesn't believe Sue will ever find peace, despite what she says, until she herself is in the ground.

Analysis

The immorality of certain Christian ideas as interpreted and propagated by the orthodox churches are evident in the behavior of both Sue and Phillotson. Sue continues to "crucify" herself on the cross of her husband, forcing herself to have sexual relations with him although he is repulsive to her. Phillotson knows her feelings toward him have not changed, yet he allows her to continue this penance because in the eyes of the law she is doing her duty and he is doing nothing wrong. Arabella continues to take care of Jude in his sickness, no doubt because in her own primitive way she loves him. Nonetheless, whatever feelings she has for him are not overshadowed by her practicality: she begins a relationship with Vilbert while Jude is dying and allows herself to have a good time on the day of his death, even as he begins decomposing in his bed. Arabella is shrewd enough to know Sue will never have any peace, despite her newfound piety. Sue cannot kill off what she felt for Jude, and she will never find a way to love Phillotson.

Jude's perverse pilgrim's progress ends, not in redemption, but in annihilation. He does not die in the arms of the woman he loves. Neither does he fulfill his purpose in life nor does he experience a spiritual or divine connection. He dies without love, without family, and without God.

What is to be made of this grim, grim tale? Perhaps Hardy thought that since God had disappeared from the world in his time he felt that people should be allowed to make themselves happy, as best as they could, without the interference of an oppressive society and tyrannical religion—so long as what they did caused no harm to others. Hardy's last novel, a poetical and allegorical work, has at its core a painful and persistent grief against a repressive and unjust world.

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