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JUDE THE OBSCURE - PLOT SUMMARY
While walking home Jude meets a quack doctor, Physician Vilbert. Jude questions him about Christminster and offers to get orders for Vilbert's pills and potions if Vilbert agrees to bring him his old Greek and Latin grammar texts. Jude works hard for two weeks and keeps his part of the bargain, but Vilbert lets him down. Intuitively Jude realizes the man is a fraud and is bitterly disappointed.
In the meantime, Phillotson sends for his piano, which he left behind with Aunt Drusilla, and Jude secretly encloses a letter asking him to send his old grammar texts. But when they do arrive, Jude finds in dismay that instead of a general rule or formula for translating one language into another, each Latin or Greek word has to be committed to memory individually. Disillusioned by the enormity of the task, he falls into a fit of depression.
Jude's encounter with Vilbert demonstrates his easily trusting and naïve nature. Yet he does not give up and contacts Phillotson, his old teacher. This is Jude's first attempt to enter the world of learning. Hardy emphasizes fundamental points of Jude's character: his enthusiasm, his willingness to work and his idealism. The reader also sees his dogged perseverance when the odds are against him.
During the next few years Jude diligently studies Latin and Greek on his own. He also drives a wagon delivering bread and baked goods for his aunt. Despite the poor texts and the lack of a tutor, he makes remarkable progress due to sheer perseverance and becomes familiar with Caesar, Virgil and Horace. One evening he is so overcome with the beauty of the full moon rising that he kneels on the roadside to recite a poem to Diana, the goddess of the moon and hunting. Later on he realizes that his aim is not only to be a classical scholar, but a clergyman, and he therefore turns to a study of the New Testament in Greek and the Gospels. In other words he shifts his study from secular to religious works.
He begins to wonder how he could earn a living while studying in Christminster, and he decides to work as a stone mason. He gets a job as an apprentice in the town of Alfredston, and returns to Marygreen each weekend. When the chapter ends, Jude is nineteen years of age.
This chapter brings Jude to the end of his boyhood and shows him still persevering in his studies. The account of how Jude reads while going on his rounds is described with realism and humor. His determination to proceed with Greek and Latin is commendable since he has no teacher and must supply the translations and understand the points of grammar by himself.
His decision to take up the trade of stone-cutter and mason indicates that Jude's planning is practical. He is sure that in the University town there are great buildings of stone, which will be in need of repair.
As the chapter ends, Jude is a nineteen-year-old stonemason with some knowledge of Greek and Latin, a rather remarkable achievement considering his environment. But he still does not know the world and the possibilities of wickedness; his efforts have made him learned but, he is not shrewd or calculating. This is a virtue, but one that will make it difficult for him to make his way in the world.
One Saturday afternoon Jude is returning from Alfredston to Marygreen. He mentally takes stock of and is rather pleased at his progress: his fluency in Latin and Greek, his familiarity with Euclid and his knowledge of Roman and English history. He indulges in a pleasant daydream of becoming a D.D. (Doctor of Divinity) and eventually rising to the rank of bishop or archdeacon. He suddenly feels something cold hit him on the ear, and then he notices a nearby pig farm. One of the girls working there has thrown a pig part at him to get his attention, and he enters into conversation with her. She is Arabella Donn and her father raises pigs for a living. Jude is attracted to her, and she manages to extract a promise from him to meet with her the next day. Jude is half-surprised at himself, but the impulse of sexual attraction is something new to Jude and it overwhelms him. Christminster no longer occupies the center of his thoughts.
In this chapter Hardy introduces the first of many conflicts that will radically challenge Jude as he proceeds along his career path. The instincts of the flesh come into brutal collision with Judy's goals of education and self-improvement. Hardy here prepares the reader for the confrontation of a would-be scholar and clergyman with the demands of the weak flesh.
Jude encounters the awakening of sexual emotions with Arabella. She is the first woman in his life and unfortunately the wrong type for him. A part of him recognizes that intellectually, that there is something in her "quite antipathetic to that side of him which had been occupied with literary study and the magnificent Christminster dream." But Jude is too weak to resist although he knows better. Hardy stresses the naïveté and inexperience of Jude. In the words of Arabella's friend, Anny "he's as simple as a child . . . he looked at (you) as if he had never seen a woman before in his born days." Arabella's earthy coarseness and vulgarity is emphasized through her occupation of tending pigs.
It is quite clear that she deliberately sets out to trap Jude. The reader is informed of how without Jude noticing it she gives an "adroit little suck" to her cheeks, resulting in a "production of dimples at will." Anny tells Arabella that Jude is hers if she can set herself to "catch him the right way."
As a result of this newly found passion, Jude will temporarily lose sight of the important goal of pursuing a serious education at Christminster. While a consciousness of his sexuality is part of maturity, it also introduces a conflict in his life. The abrupt manner in which he is roused from his world of dreams is worth noting. Something as concrete and earthy as a pig part stands for the basic instincts against which he must now fight.