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JUDE THE OBSCURE - FREE ONLINE NOTES/ANALYSIS
On Sunday Jude goes to Marygreen to visit Aunt Drusilla, who is now bed-ridden. He cannot help talking about Sue and Aunt Drusilla immediately warns him to stay away from his cousin. His aunt's nurse recounts tales about Sue as a child: her skill at recitation, her cleverness and her unconventional ways. Sue comes across as a fiercely independent child. Jude, on his way back to Christminster, meets some villagers who inquire as to whether he has succeeded in entering the university. They imply that such places are only for those with money. Jude is spurred to make inquiries at Christminster and writes to several masters of colleges for advice. He waits several days but on receiving no response becomes dejected. In the meantime he hears that Phillotson is moving to a bigger school in mid-Wessex, and Jude wonders what implications this transfer will have.
Jude starts making indirect inquiries about entering the university and realizes that an open scholarship is the only solution. But he would need a good deal of coaching for that to be possible. He would not be able to compete with those who have had the benefit of trained teachers all their lives. "Buying" his way into the university is impossible; it would take him fifteen years. The task seems hopeless and he realizes how impractical his illusions have been. He has been stumbling in the dark with his private study.
Finally, one night he gets a note from one of the heads of a college. He advises Jude to stick to his own trade. Although he knows this is sensible advice, Jude is unable to accept it. In utter despair he goes out and starts drinking. He wanders about, enters a music-hall concert and realizes that there are two Christminsters: the population of students and teachers inhabiting the prestigious colleges which forbid him entry and the other Christminster, made of ordinary, common folk and workers. In a fit of rebellion he scrawls a few lines from Job on the walls of the college to which he was denied entry.
Sue's character is established by the stories about her childhood. Hardy uses a minor character, Aunt Drusilla's nurse, to show the reader some revealing traits about Sue. Her artistic temperament and dramatic skills are seen in her fondness for elocution. She also mentions her ability to "do things that only boys do as a rule," like going down to the pond as the only girl among twenty boys. Aunt Drusilla speaks of her as a "pert little thing" with "tight-strained nerves."
Jude suffers another setback in this chapter when he receives the curt note from the master of Biblioll College. It signifies the crumbling of all his dreams and hopes. He realizes that what he has worked so hard for all these years was beyond him, and not necessarily because of any lack of ability. Here, Hardy indirectly criticizes social and educational structures, which are such that a man like Jude--bright, above average, but poor--has no opportunity to prosper. Jude's scrawl on the wall of Biblioll College is a cry of despair.
The next day, in a state of deep depression, Jude goes to a tavern and becomes very drunk. Wallowing in self-pity, he criticizes the university and its scholars and boasts of his own learning. When asked to prove his claims, he recites the Nicene Creed in Latin. He finally leaves the pub and goes out walking. Utterly dejected, he decides to visit Sue at Lumsdon, which he reaches late at night. Sue listens to him as he confesses his misdeeds. Then she encourages him to get some sleep. At dawn, Jude feels ashamed of having come to see her and decides to slip away. On returning to Christminster, he finds he has lost his job and decides to go to his aunt's house at Marygreen. Once there, he realizes his folly and has a talk with a clergyman who is visiting his aunt. The clergyman, Mr. Highridge, suggests that Jude could train to enter the church as a licentiate, rather attend the university.
This chapter is a kind of descent into hell for Jude, "the hell of conscious failure, both in ambition and in love." His great dreams of Christminster have come to nothing, and his hopes for attachment to Sue are doomed as well. The scene in the tavern in all its sordidness depicts the bitterness that has crept into Jude's heart. Although he flies to Sue for comfort, she cannot really do anything for him. The interview with the curate, Mr. Highridge, leaves the reader with some hope that although the university doors are closed to Jude, he may still have a career in the church if he shows enough strength of purpose.
The reader sees Jude now abandoning his plans of learning and attaining scholarship. He has decided on a humbler career in the church, entering as a licentiate and probably rising no higher than an ordinary curate. He realizes that his earlier plans had originated from selfish ambition, whereas his new path will be one of humble service.
He remains at Marygreen doing local jobs, putting up and lettering headstones. A letter arrives from Sue, who writes that she is going to enter a Teacher Training College at Melchester. (Melchester can be identified as Salisbury.) Jude decides that he, too, will go to Melchester and enter a theological college there.
Finally, after Christmas, Sue sends him another frantic letter saying she is lonely and miserable in Melchester and asking him to come. She also expresses her regret at having allowed Phillotson to influence her to move to Melchester. Jude immediately packs his things and leaves for Melchester. This time he has decided to tell her the truth about himself and Arabella and to find out about her feelings for Phillotson. Sue impulsively tells him of her engagement to Phillotson and their plan to marry when her training is over. Jude is upset, but determined to continue seeing Sue. He continues with his job as a stonecutter, first finding work at a cemetery, and later the job which he most loves, the repair and restoration of the Cathedral. He takes lodgings nearby, buys books and settles down to a study of theology.
The reader sees Jude settling down to a sober life of study and work. Yet his decision to go to Melchester is motivated entirely by Sue's presence there. Aware of his own impulses, he realizes that contact with her is dangerous. However, his self-deception is evident when he convinces himself that he will "learn to love her only as a friend and kinswoman."
The reader learns more about Sue in this chapter. She tends to be a person governed by impulse, writing the rash letter to Jude and then regretting it. Her engagement to Phillotson also was probably done on impulse, yet she refuses even to consider the possible consequences, saying: "What does it matter about what one is going to do two years hence!" She finds the discipline and restrictions of the training college stifling. She speaks "with all the bitterness of a young person to whom restraint was new." When Jude suggests sitting in the Cathedral after lunch, she answers in a slightly derisive manner: "I think I'd rather sit in the railway station. That's the center of the town now. The Cathedral has had its day." She has a tendency to scoff at the things that Jude holds dear, and Jude begins to notice this.