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JUDE THE OBSCURE - BOOK SUMMARY NOTES
In the cold light of morning, Sue takes stock of her situation and regrets her rashness in running away from the training college. She is also afraid of Phillotson's reaction to her departure. She decides to stay with a friend at Shaston, hoping to return later to the training college, after her escapade has been forgotten. Jude accompanies her to the station and is about to confess his love for her and tell her about Arabella, but Sue cautions him, saying that he is not to love her. The day after her departure Sue sends him a short note from Shaston, saying that she now grants him permission to love her.
Jude goes to visit her at Shaston on Sunday and finds her sick in bed. Assuming that she is Jude's mistress, they have refused to take her back at the training college. Jude is distressed; he wants to tell her about Arabella but cannot gather the courage to do so. He reminds her of her engagement to Phillotson and resigns himself to a life of renunciation. But when he returns to Melchester, he receives another note from her, begging him to continue being her friend. She also requests him to meet her when she comes to Melchester for her belongings the following Saturday.
In this chapter Sue's indecisiveness is highlighted. When leaving Melchester, she tells Jude "you mustn't love me, you are to like me, that's all," and yet she sends him a letter the very next day, apologizing and granting him the permission to love her. She does not realize the emotional dilemma she is causing for Jude by giving him conflicting messages. She knows she should not encourage him, as she is engaged to Phillotson, and yet she craves his admiration and support and cannot do without his friendship. Her expulsion from the college brings her life to a crisis point.
The chapter begins with Phillotson, who is now the master of a large boys' school in Shaston. Apart from his work at school, he is also interested in Roman-Brittanic antiquities. He is madly in love with Sue and keeps thinking of her and going over the few letters she has written. He decides to pay an unannounced visit to the training college and is shocked to hear of her expulsion two weeks earlier. He is also told the cause: her apparent licentious behavior with a young man. Sue had not said a word about this matter. He enters the nearby Cathedral in a daze. He finds Jude at work there. Jude explains to him the details behind the episode and confirms Sue's innocence. He also reveals his own feelings for Sue. Phillotson leaves to return to Shaston.
Later the same day, Sue arrives in Melchester to collect her things from the training college, and Jude meets her and takes her to a deserted place. Here he finally speaks of his disastrous marriage to Arabella, and Sue is horrified. She demands to know how he can reconcile his broken marriage with the religious beliefs he upholds so dedicatedly. Reminded of the misfortune that the members of their family have faced in marriage, they finally agree to part as friends.
The reader is given a picture of Phillotson, the middle-aged schoolmaster, but now in love like a young man. He takes delight in re-reading Sue's letters and gazing adoringly at her photograph.
Jude finally tells Sue of his marriage. The setting Hardy uses is symbolic: it is the deserted market place. They walk up and down "over a floor littered with rotten cabbage leaves . . . and decayed vegetable matter and unsaleable refuse." There are overtones of squalor, filth and decomposition. Sue's reaction is one of shock and anger and then genuine jealousy. She wants to know if Arabella is a pretty woman. Finally, she asks him with heavy sarcasm how he can claim to be religious: "your theories are not so advanced as your practice." Jude is terribly distressed at her cutting remarks, and Sue later reassures him they can still be cousins and friends.
A day or two later Jude gets a letter formally signed by Sue, informing him of her plan to marry Phillotson in a few weeks. Jude is stunned by the news and suspects that his own revelation of his marriage may have triggered this rash decision. Before he can collect his wits, she writes a second letter requesting him to give her away at the wedding. She adds a few sarcastic comments on the custom of giving away the bride. Jude agrees and offers to put her up at his lodgings for the required ten days (to meet the residence conditions of the parish). Sue lives in the same house with him, on a different floor, sharing an occasional meal. Her manner is strained and nervous. Jude is convinced she is marrying Phillotson on the rebound, but although he would like to warn her against the marriage, he is helpless.
On the morning of the wedding day, Sue insists on entering the church of St. Thomas with Jude for a kind of rehearsal. She wants to see the aisle where she will walk down with her husband. This and the actual wedding are extremely painful for Jude. After the wedding Sue and Phillotson have a meal at Jude's lodgings and then the newly wedded couple leaves. Sue appears to want to convey something to Jude, but she does not speak and hurries away.
Jude is shattered by the news of Sue's impending wedding: "It passed across Jude like a withering blast." While suspecting that she is doing this because of his revelation of his own marriage, he feels Sue does not really know what marriage means and does not see the enormity of the step she has so hastily taken. However, he himself tries to be heroic: "He determined to play the Spartan, to make the best of it and support her." Her request that he give her away seems an unnecessary cruelty. Jude, unable to bear it, tells her not to be merciless. In fact the whole ceremony is quite an ordeal for Jude. Halfway through the service, he wishes he had not undertaken the business of giving her away. "How could Sue have had the temerity to do a cruelty possibly to herself as well as to him?" he wonders.
Sue's actions betray her insensitivity at the suffering she is imposing on Jude. After the ceremony, when she and Phillotson are leaving Melchester, there is "a frightened look in her eyes" as if she is now aware of the rashness of her decision. Naïve and innocent about marriage as Sue is, she is in for a rude awakening. Jude wonders again if the mistake she is making is retaliation, a way of "asserting her independence" from him.