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JUDE THE OBSCURE - FREE ONLINE NOTES/ANALYSIS
Some weeks later Jude and Sue go by train from Melchester for an afternoon's outing to Wardour Castle. While wandering through the picture galleries, Jude is fascinated by the religious paintings of del Sarto, Guido Reni, Dolci and others. Sue is more interested in Lely and Reynolds. They decide to walk over the hills to another station to catch the train back, but they walk further than planned and stop at a shepherd's cottage to rest. They are told they have missed the train and they are offered accommodation for the night. When told they are not married, the shepherd arranges separate bedrooms for them. The next morning they return to Melchester. Sue is worried at having stayed away overnight without permission. She gives Jude a very recent photograph of herself. The college porter receives her with a questioning look.
Jude does not realize the inconsistency of his position as his friendship with Sue deepens. He is still tied to Arabella, and Sue is engaged to Phillotson. He spends a day out with her and though it is an innocent escapade, he becomes emotionally involved. The reader is shown further glimpses of Sue's nature; she does not share Jude's preference for devotional paintings or even religion.
When Sue claims to be enjoying the outing and the rustic setting, Jude does not believe her. He feels she is a conventional city-bred type: "You are quite a product of civilization . . . you seem to me to have nothing unconventional at all about you." But Sue violently disputes this, saying, "you don't know what's inside me . . . the Ishmaelite." Indeed, these lines are significant, for although Sue is quite serious, Jude has not yet understood her or how independent and unorthodox she is. Her words are prophetic and ominous: they (Jude and Sue), like Ishmael (in Genesis), will be outcasts. As the angel said to Hagar: "And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren" (Genesis 16.12). (Hagar was an Egyptian slave. When Sara found she could not conceive, she gave Hagar to Abraham, and Ishamel was born from that union.)
There is much speculation at the training college when Sue does not return that evening at prayer time. Everyone wonders about the young man she has gone out with, and some of them are convinced that Jude is only posing as her cousin. The situation takes a serious turn because a similar incident occurred the year before: a young man had managed to seduce a student of the same college, maintaining that he was her cousin. The mistress inquires about the two photographs on Sue's dressing table. One is of Mr. Phillotson, and the other is of an unknown undergraduate. The next morning, when Sue does return, she is punished and kept in solitary confinement. The other students feel the punishment is too harsh and prepare to protest. In the evening it is discovered that Sue has escaped from a back window. She turns up at Jude's place. She is soaked and shivering with cold. Jude immediately takes her in and offers her some dry clothes and brandy. Sue is so tired that she falls asleep while relating her story.
Hardy presents a rather bleak picture of life at the training college, but it is probably near the truth, as Hardy's own cousin had attended such an institution. In any case the authorities are afraid of a scandal.
On Sue's part, it is perhaps naïve of her to expect that she can get away with spending a whole night out. It is typical of her impulsiveness that she rushes to Jude, thus making things worse for herself. The students at the college are apparently quite spirited; all seventy of them protest the harshness of the punishment, and in the geography lesson they even dare to organize a pen-down strike. However, their murmurs are ineffectual and hopeless. Hardy indicates that the laws of nature in that age were heavily weighed against women : "every face bearing the legend 'The weaker' upon it, as the penalty of the sex wherein they were moulded."
When Sue gets up, Jude gives her some supper and they begin talking. Sue does not know Latin or Greek but has read most of the classics in translation along with much other serious literature. She confides in Jude that she developed her literary preferences from a Christminster undergraduate with whom she became very friendly at the age of eighteen. She had even lived with him in London for fifteen months, although not as a lover. They would read and go on trips together, and he later became a reporter for a London newspaper. He eventually died of tuberculosis and left Sue some of his money. Jude is astonished at Sue's story and is puzzled at the strange combination of innocence and unconventionality in her.
When Jude asks her to join him in his nightly prayers, she refuses vehemently, criticizing religion and the intellectual life of Christminster. She offers to make a new copy of the New Testament for Jude, arranging the books chronologically, and is particularly critical of the conventional Christian interpretation of the Song of Solomon. They are on the verge of quarreling when Sue confesses she had expected Jude to be a kind of comrade and intellectual companion. Now she finds him too conservative. Jude, in turn, wishes that like her, he could accept her as a friend and forget her sex. They both eventually drop off to sleep in their chairs, as they are overcome with fatigue.
This is one of the most important chapters in the novel. The dialogue between Sue and Jude reveals the great difference in their views. Jude is conventionally Christian in his beliefs, while Sue is unabashedly agnostic, attacking Jude's most cherished views. Sue refuses to pray with him, saying she does not want to seem like a hypocrite. She has rearranged the New Testament for herself (beginning with Thessalonians, followed by the Epistles, and ending with the Gospels) and has had the whole volume rebound. She criticizes the Song of Solomon and condemns the ecclesiastical interpretation of it as misinterpreting the Bible. She believes it should be taken literally, as a celebration of human love, not divine love. Jude is shocked and pained at her criticism and describes her as "quite Voltairean." (Voltaire was the leading philosopher of the French Enlightenment. His views often challenged the authority of the Catholic Church.) The extent of her reading--the Greek classics, Catullus Martial, Juvenal, Boccacio, Defoe, Smolett, Fielding, Shakespeare and the Bible--amazes him. An "educated" girl in Victorian times would have learned sewing, music and painting, but not philosophy. Jude finds Sue's religious views shocking. Her condemnation of Christminster's intellectual life as "new wine in old bottles" dismays him. Jude still feels Christminster has in it "much that is glorious" and still decides to take Christianity on trust: "I suppose one must take some things on trust. Life isn't long enough to work out everything on Euclid problems before you believe it. I take Christianity."
Sue's attitude to the opposite sex is one of honesty and independence. She is extremely unconventional in her emphasis on the possibility of friendship without sex. "I have no fear of men . . . I have mixed with them almost as one of their own sex." Jude is amazed at her story of living with the London writer and yet refusing to be his mistress. She seems to be a strange mixture of boldness and innocent idealism. Sue wishes she could have Jude as a comrade. "I did want to ennoble some man to high aims," she confesses to him. Jude also wishes they would be just friends and realizes that she is "nearer to him than any other women he had ever met."