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JUDE THE OBSCURE - FREE ONLINE NOTES/ANALYSIS
After the wedding, Jude finds life in Melchester terribly depressing without Sue. He unrealistically hopes Sue will come back to him some days later. Hearing Aunt Drusilla is sick, he goes to Marygreen to visit her. At the same time, his old employer offers him work at Christminster. Aunt Drusilla is worse than Jude expected, and so he writes to Sue, suggesting she come and see her aunt. He offers to meet her at Alfredston Road on his way back from Christminster.
At Christminster he is haunted by painful memories and decides not to stay there. He steps into a pub with his friend Tinker Taylor (the same pub where he had boastfully recited the Creed). At the bar, he is startled to see Arabella working as a barmaid. He goes up to her, and she explains that she returned from Australia three months ago. He arranges to meet Arabella later that evening in order to decide what to do. Therefore he has to miss his meeting with Sue.
The reappearance of Arabella at this juncture in the novel is an example of the fantastic coincidences that one encounters in Hardy's prose. There is a kind of inevitability about it: Jude cannot escape his fate. He is upset at his inability to keep the appointment with Sue at Alfredston. In his simplicity he thinks of this as a kind of divine punishment: "Arabella was perhaps an intended intervention to punish him for his unauthorized love." For him it serves as a reminder that he is still morally and legally bound to Arabella.
Having spent the night together as man and wife, Jude and Arabella return to Christminster the next day. Arabella tells Jude that she has remarried a Sydney hotel manager while in Australia, and that her new husband is thinking of following her to England. Jude is amazed and angry, but Arabella appears unconcerned about the fact that it is a bigamous marriage and invalid according to law. She declares that she may return to her Australian husband.
They part and Jude continues walking through Christminster when he suddenly meets Sue, who has come to look for him. She is anxious at his not having kept his appointment and afraid that he might have been drinking. Jude does not tell her about Arabella's return, and they take the train back to Marygreen to see Aunt Drusilla. Jude has a feeling that Sue is not very happy with Phillotson although she speaks of him as a kind, generous husband. When they reach Aunt Drusilla's cottage, they are surprised to see that she is up and about, against doctor's orders. She tells Sue that marrying Phillotson was indeed a foolish thing to do. Sue is distressed and later admits to Jude that as Aunt Drusilla says, she should not have married. Asking Jude not to visit her, Sue leaves and goes back to Phillotson.
Jude remains at Marygreen, trying to discipline himself by reading church history and sermons. A few days later a letter from Arabella announces that she has rejoined her Australian husband in London, who is now running a pub in Lambeth. She hopes Jude will keep quiet about their earlier marriage.
Hardy brings out the contrast between Arabella and Sue even more sharply in this chapter. As soon as Jude sees Sue, he repents the night he has spent with Arabella. Sue appears almost "ethereal" and "incarnate as to seem at times impossible as a human life." Although Sue is all praise for Phillotson as a husband, Jude is sensitive enough to sense her unhappiness: "There was something in her face which belied her late assuring words. (...) He was convinced she was unhappy although she had not been a month married." After Aunt Drusilla's criticism, Sue almost admits the truth: "Perhaps I ought not to have married." The reader realizes that what Jude suspected all along is true: this marriage is a disaster and his fears were not unfounded.
Arabella, for her part, appears to be quite amoral. She has no qualms about her bigamous marriage to the Australian. Of course, in Victorian England, being married to two husbands simultaneously would have carried a five-year prison term, but Arabella can obviously count on Jude to remain silent about the matter. The Australian husband is unaware of Jude's existence. The chapter ends with two marital triangles and five tangled lives.
Determined to overcome his passion for Sue, Jude returns to Melchester and plunges seriously into his studies for the ministry. He begins to realize that his passions conflict with his aim of being a clergyman, and he decides to take up sacred music as a hobby. He joins a church choir and is deeply moved by a new hymn the choir is learning for Easter. On learning the composer is a professional musician living at Kennetbridge, Jude decides to meet him, hoping that the man will understand his spiritual conflict. But Jude is bitterly disappointed with the meeting. The man is interested only in making money and is planning to go into the wine trade, which will be far more lucrative as a business than music. Jude returns to Melchester where he finds a letter from Sue, inviting him to lunch with her that very Sunday. He immediately forgets all his resolutions and arranges to meet her later that week.
The reader sees in this chapter Jude's growing self-knowledge. He realizes that his attachment to Sue is incompatible with his priestly ministry: "his passion for Sue troubled his soul." He is tormented by doubts about his vocation: "he was a man of too many passions to make a good clergyman." One can sense his moral indecision getting the better of him. His tendency toward childish idealism is seen in his impulsive visit to the unknown composer at Kennetbridge. In his misery and loneliness he hopes for guidance and comfort; he is "a hungry soul in pursuit of a full soul." But the composer turns out to be a shrewd businessman, and Jude returns depressed and let down by reality. He cannot find a single person who can understand him. He has been disappointed even by Sue, who is now preoccupied with her own problems.
The letter from Sue shows Jude thoroughly at her beck and call. All his good resolutions and self-discipline conveniently vanish. His response to her request is immediate. His moral indecision indicates that his calling is now in doubt. He is seen drifting away from his long-held aspirations, torn as he is between two conflicting forces.