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JUDE THE OBSCURE BY THOMAS HARDY - FREE NOTES
Over two years have passed. Jude and Sue lead a wandering life, stopping wherever Jude can find work as a mason. However, he refuses to do any church work. At the little town of Kennetbridge, Arabella and Anny arrive one day. Arabella is now widowed and is in mourning and has come to Kennetbridge to see the laying of a foundation stone of a new chapel. She claims that she has now turned to religion for consolation. She suddenly spots Sue and Little Father Time selling cakes and gingerbread at a stall at the fair. She questions Sue and learns that Jude was very ill that winter, and they have therefore tried their hand at baking in an attempt to earn a living. Sue now has two children of her own and is expecting a third. The cakes Jude makes are shaped like Christminster colleges, with towers and pinnacles and traceried windows, indicating that Jude still has a passion for Christminster.
Jude and Sue's condition has deteriorated and they now live a hand-to-mouth existence. Jude's illness has forced him to give up stone work, and his early experience as a boy with Aunt Drusilla's baking now helps him to earn a living. But his old love and admiration for Christminster is still evident in the cakes that Jude bakes. They are shaped like the buildings of Christminster, and Sue remarks that Christminster is a "fixed vision" with him, which he will never be cured of. She says he still considers it a "center of high and fearless thought," a point of view she obviously does not share; she calls it a "nest of school masters" with a "timid obsequiousness to tradition." The reader can observe a trace of the old Sue in this criticism. Arabella's widowhood is structurally important, but her sudden shift to religion is not completely convincing. She is as selfish and shallow as before.
While returning to Alfredston with her friend Anny, Arabella confesses that seeing Sue has revived her interest in Jude. She cannot bear the thought of his being with Sue. She throws her religious pamphlets into a hedge, saying she does not want to be a hypocrite. On the way they overtake an elderly man who is shabbily dressed. It is none other than Phillotson. Arabella recognizes him and learns that he is now again a schoolmaster at Marygreen, but at a reduced salary. Phillotson has suffered because of Sue. Arabella is now out to make mischief, and tells Phillotson about Jude and Sue's distressing condition. She points out that he should not have allowed the divorce since Sue was not intimate with Jude at that time. Phillotson, though surprised, still believes his decision was right and just. Arabella tells him that he should have used a firm hand with Sue and bullied her into submission. In the meantime Sue returns home to Jude and tells him of her encounter with Arabella. Jude is disturbed and feels it is best to move on to another place; Christminster is considered as the best option. It still holds an attraction for him, and within three weeks they arrive at the city of his dreams.
Arabella's earlier "conversion" is shown to be a sham. Her true nature resurfaces: she is as coarse, cheap and self-centered as before. Her meeting with Phillotson is another of Hardy's strange coincidences. She has not met him since her school days, and now she can give him information about Sue.
Jude's decision to return to Christminster is ominous, and so are his words: "I should like to go back to live there--perhaps to die there." The shadow of death seems to hover over him. Arabella's evil influence seems to surround him as well.
Jude and Sue with their children return to Christminster on Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the founding of the university. Jude makes sure that they arrive on this particular occasion. Instead of immediately looking for lodgings, he wants to watch the celebration. They spend a long time in the rain, watching the procession of young men and college dignitaries, and Jude begins to feel more of an outsider than ever. He is recognized by some of his old drinking companions, who remind him of his failure. He also passes the building where he had decided against pursuing an education. He is moved to make a speech to the crowd, discussing his ambitions, his failure and the reasons for it.
Sue is upset at Jude's misery, especially when she notices Phillotson in the crowd. When they try to find lodgings, they find they are refused everywhere because of the young children. Finally, they manage to secure two rooms for Sue and the children, and Jude leaves to look elsewhere for himself. Sue foolishly reveals to the landlady that she is not married, and the landlady's husband insists Sue leave the next day. After putting the smaller children to bed, Sue takes Little Father Time and goes out to look for another place, but she fails to find anything. Little Father Time is now in a state of despair.
Hardy emphasizes the striking contrast between the gaiety of the festivities at Christminster and the desolate gloom of the homeless family. Jude begins to feel like even more of a failure as he watches the procession. He remarks that it is more of a "Humiliation Day" for him. Jude by now is quite embittered at the loss of his dreams, and his distress is evident in the speech he makes: "It was my poverty and not my will that consented to be beaten." Little Father Time looks gloomily at the "solemn stately figures in blood red robes" and at the overcast sky, and he remarks that it seems like Judgment Day. The rumble of thunder and the gathering storm are symbolic of the terrible tragedy that is about to overtake the family.
The homeless family's being turned away at every door is symbolic of the trials of the Holy Family before the birth of Christ. Sue's typical impulsiveness is revealed when she imprudently reveals her unmarried status to the landlady. Society has rejected them for their unconventionality, and Sue is now beginning to experience the effects of this.