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Free Study Guide-Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy-Book Notes Summary
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JUDE THE OBSCURE BY THOMAS HARDY - FREE NOTES

CHAPTER 4

Summary

The next day, Jude and Sue discover that the boy is called by the nickname, Little Father Time, because he looks so old. Sue remarks that his face is like the mask of Melpomene (the Greek muse of tragedy). They decide to have him christened on their wedding day.

Widow Edlin is invited for the wedding, and she brings a number of gifts with her. Unfortunately, the night before the wedding, she narrates a gloomy tale about a Fawley ancestor who was hanged at the gallows near the Brown House. The story casts an aura of sadness over the listeners.

The next day Jude and Sue set off for the registry office where they are to be married. But Sue is depressed by the squalid surroundings. They retreat in horror and instead go to the parish church, where they witness another wedding. This is a normal wedding, but Sue feels she cannot go through this kind of ceremony again. They keep debating the issue and decide that the marriage contract is one that will kill all spontaneity in their relationship. They return home and inform the confused Mrs. Edlin that they have not yet tied the knot.

Notes

For one of Sue's temperament, her dismay at the proceedings at the registry office is understandable, because in those days a registered marriage was not the usual thing for decent couples. But her aversion even to a church wedding is more important to the novel as a whole: "The flowers in the bride's hand are sadly like the garland which decked the heifers of sacrifice in old times,' she remarks morbidly. She tells Jude, "let us go home without killing our dream," claiming, "if we are happy as we are, what does it matter to anybody?" Sue's words reveal the nature of her relationship with Jude: as a couple, they can never abide by tradition and socially accepted norms.

Mrs. Edlin's robust common sense and cheerfulness provide a distinct contrast to the mood of Jude and Sue. She is amazed at their hesitation regarding marriage: "Nobody thought o' being afeard o' matrimony in my time." Mrs. Edlin is the local "historian" of the village and relates important parts of their family's past. From her, the reader is reminded of the unhappiness endemic to the Fawleys, as when she recounts (on the night before Jude and Sue plan to marry) how a relative of theirs was hanged.


CHAPTER 5

Summary

One summer day, Jude, Sue and Little Father Time go to visit The Great Wessex Agricultural Show at Stoke-Barehills. There are many visitors and sightseers, among them Arabella and her husband, Cartlett. On seeing Jude and his family, Arabella follows them without their knowledge. Arabella observes Jude and Sue together, and their obvious devotion to each other arouses her jealousy. Arabella also meets her old friend, Anny, and Physician Vilbert, from whom she buys a love potion. Jude and Sue meanwhile, unaware that they are being watched, take delight in the show, admiring a model of Cardinal College, which they themselves made. They move on to a pavilion of flowers, where Sue is enchanted by the roses. But Little Father Time does not share their enthusiasm although they try to get him interested in the exhibits.

Notes

The town that Hardy calls Stoke-Barehills is probably the town of Basingstoke. The chapter depicts Jude and Sue enjoying ordinary life together in harmony: "(T)hat complete mutual understanding in which every glance and movement was as effectual as speech . . . made them almost the two parts of a single whole." Arabella too notices the close bond and Jude's obvious devotion to Sue: "He's charmed by her as if she were some fairy." It becomes clear that she is bitterly jealous. Her own marriage has grown stale, and she now seems to long for Jude again. Her friend, Anny, notices this and comments that she (Arabella) always wants another man more than her own. Arabella is shrewd enough to notice that Sue lacks the capacity to love Jude as he loves her: "I am inclined to think that she don't care for him quite so much as he does for her. She's not a particular warm-hearted creature..." The fact that perhaps even Jude and Sue themselves are ignorant of this inbalance emphasizes Arabella's shrewdness. It is hinted that Arabella will attempt to get Jude back, as she suspects that he has not yet married Sue.

Jude and Sue's joy is clouded only by Little Father Time's lack of enthusiasm about the exhibition. He makes an important remark on the roses at the end of the chapter: "I should like the flowers very, very much if I didn't keep on thinking they'd be all withered in a few days." Strange as this comment may seem from a young child, it does function to foreshadow the unhappy events to come.

CHAPTER 6

Summary

Jude and Sue's postponement of their marriage is noticed by the neighbors at Aldbrickham, who begin to gossip about them. Little Father Time is teased at school. Sue and Jude decide to go off to London for a few days and then return, pretending they have been married there. But the scandal continues, and the neighbors begin to snub them. Jude and Sue are deeply hurt and think of moving away. In the meantime Jude gets a new job at the country church nearby, where he has to restore the lettering of the Ten Commandments. Sue, who is now expecting a baby, goes to help Jude with his work. Unfortunately, the churchwarden and the cleaner recognize them, and they begin to gossip. Eventually, Jude loses his job because of the rumors. Later he is forced to resign from the committee of the local Artisans Mutual Improvement Society, whose members also hear of the scandal. Sue and Jude finally decide to move away from Aldbrickham, and they arrange to auction off their furniture. Although they are not certain where they will go, they decide against going to London. Jude cannot even decide what he will do for a living, since he has already given up on his church work.

During the sale Jude and Sue overhear much of the local gossip about their unmarried status and are appalled. Sue is upset at the sale of her pet pigeons to the poulterer, and passing by the shop later, she sets them free. Her remarks on nature's law of "mutual butchery" leave Little Father Time very disturbed.

Notes

The short spell of happiness in their lives, as portrayed in the previous chapter, is over. Jude and Sue now face many hardships. The neighbors snub them, Little Father Time is taunted at school, and Jude loses his commissions and his job at the church, until finally they have no choice but to leave Aldbrickham. Sue's action in freeing the trapped pigeons is typical of her emotional impulsiveness. The incident is also symbolic of Sue's constant desire for freedom from the laws of a society, which harshly punishes those who do not conform. She made a mistake in marrying Phillotson and again, she has made a mistake in not marrying Jude. It is poor Little Father Time who seems to suffer the most.

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