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JUDE THE OBSCURE - PLOT SYNOPSIS
The next day, a Sunday, Jude plans to read his New Greek testament. But eventually, all his good intentions evaporate, and he goes off to visit Arabella, promising himself that he will return in two hours. Arabella's father accepts Jude as his daughter's suitor, but Jude is embarrassed at this interpretation. He goes out walking with Arabella, and before he knows it, they have walked a great distance. They are forced to stop at an inn for tea, but only beer is available. Later, they walk home together in the dark, often stealing kisses, and Jude returns home quite late in the evening. His Greek and Latin are forgotten and he is obsessed with Arabella. Arabella discusses her success with Jude with her friends, and they advise her to seduce him so that he will be forced to marry her if she becomes pregnant.
This chapter shows Jude's weakness when confronted with the demands of the flesh. Events are rapidly moving towards disaster for him. All his noble ambitions related to Christminster are forgotten in this new, all-consuming passion for Arabella. The Greek text he had planned to read is significant (II Corinthians, Chapter 3, Verse 14) which says, "But their minds were blinded ..." Hardy reveals here how Jude's mind is blinded by an unworthy passion.
At the inn where they stop one cannot miss the symbolism of the picture of Samson and Delilah on the wall. Jude is naïve and inexperienced, while Arabella is shrewd and understands how to ensnare him. When they reach her home, Jude finds Arabella's parents and neighbors sitting around and speaking in a congratulatory manner, as if he is now Arabella's suitor. Jude for some time feels trapped, and rightly so: "He had not meant this; a mere afternoon of pleasant walking with Arabella, that was all he had meant."
However, Hardy emphasizes that Arabella's plan works because of Jude's essential decency and innocence. Arabella would not plan to trap him into marriage had she not realized Jude's integrity. Like Samson, Jude will be shorn of his freedom through his very strength: his decency and honesty.
One evening Jude happens to meet Arabella, who is chasing some pigs that have escaped from their sty. At this time Arabella flirts outrageously with Jude and leads him on, but Jude does not take advantage of the situation. As a result, Arabella displays her irritation. She tries a second time. The next day she contrives to get her parents out of the house for the evening so that she can bring Jude in and spend some time alone with him. After a walk she invites him inside and plays a game of seduction with him. She informs Jude that she is performing an ancient custom of hiding a hen's egg inside her bodice to make it hatch. She manages to tantalize and tease him in this manner until Jude is carried away by passion and makes love to her. Hardy makes it clear that Arabella's seduction has led to the consummation of their passion.
Hardy shows the reader how an important event develops in the world of this novel. The seduction of Jude occurs against the realistic backdrop of country pursuits, pig-keeping and fowl- breeding.
The reader can clearly see that Jude has been trapped; he does not really know what he has been doing. Moreover, his seduction of Arabella will be the reason for his downfall. It is quite obvious that Arabella is seducing Jude so that he will marry her; she is afraid to "let him slip through (her) fingers." Her insecurity is natural, but her approach to her goal is ruthless.
Two months later Jude tells Arabella that he plans to go away to Christminster. He wants to break off his relationship with her. But Arabella bursts into tears and tells Jude she is pregnant with his child. Jude is stunned at this news. He becomes aware of how his cherished plans of pursuing a university education will have to be forgotten. Being an honorable man, he agrees to a quick marriage. Jude takes his bride to a small cottage on the downs.
Jude gradually discovers that Arabella is not the simple country girl he had assumed her to be. Her abundant brown hair is false, as are her dimples, and she has even served as a barmaid at Aldbrickham. Arabella later tells one of her friends that she has only pretended pregnancy and jokes about it. Later, Arabella confesses to Jude that she had been mistaken about the pregnancy. Jude is dumbstruck with surprise. It is only then that he realizes how he has been tricked into an unnecessary marriage.
The reader witnesses how Jude's honest, unsuspecting nature leads him to tragedy. Arabella plays on his essential innocence. Jude is quite aware that the marriage is a mistake: "he knew too well in the secret center of his brain that (Arabella) was not worth a great deal as a specimen of womankind." Yet he wants to do the honorable thing. The people in the parish, too, remark "what a simple fool young Fawley (is)." Although he is considered to be naïve, he is trying to be honest and conscientious.
Jude's eyes are opened when he realizes that the pregnancy was a sham. His whole life has been ruined for nothing; his marriage is compared to being "caught in a gin which would cripple him, if not her also, for the rest of a lifetime." Hardy here is making a satirical dig at the institution of marriage. The discovery of Arabella's former occupation as a barmaid, her wig and her faked dimples all are symbolic manifestations of Arabella's falsity. Jude's dislike of artificiality is consistent with his honest, trusting nature. At the end of the chapter, the reader sees Jude finally disillusioned, and it is a pitiful sight. His young life has been altered due to his inexperience and a temporary weakness. Arabella, of course, is triumphant at having acquired a husband. She and Anny gloat over her "stroke of genius' in tricking Jude.