Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
JUDE THE OBSCURE BY THOMAS HARDY - FREE NOTES
The next year in February, Jude and Sue are still at Aldbrickham, but they have not yet become lovers. Jude was divorced from Arabella two months earlier, and now news arrives that Sue's divorce from Phillotson has come through. They are now both free to marry and they both go out for a walk to celebrate their freedom. Jude raises the question of their marriage, but Sue is extremely reluctant to enter into matrimony. She prefers the present arrangement of living together as friends without any physical relations. She denounces the institution of marriage as a sordid contract and fears that such a binding agreement will extinguish all love between them. Jude laments her lack of passion and wonders about her ability to love, but he finally gives in to her and allows her to have her way. Jude continues with his job of cutting and lettering headstones, and Sue helps him with this. His new work is not as prestigious as cathedral masonry, yet he manages to support them both with his earnings.
Though Jude and Sue are now free to marry, Sue evades the issue. It seems that she is looking for excuses not to treat her freedom as real. She claims her freedom has been obtained under "false pretences," as she and Jude were not really having an adulterous relationship. She also feels that an "iron contract should extinguish all tenderness" between them. Actually, she dreads the physical aspect of marriage. She wishes to continue this curious relationship with Jude; she wants them to be more than friends, but less than lovers.
Jude's impatience with Sue grows. He feels that her unwillingness to make a commitment reflects an inability to love. "You are as slippery as an eel," he says in relation to the question of marriage. Sue does not realize that a man of Jude's passionate nature can feel tormented by such an incomplete relationship. But when she becomes tearful in self-defense, Jude lets her have her way.
One day while Jude is out, Sue is distressed at having been visited by a fleshy, coarse woman: Arabella. Late that night Arabella returns and calls on Jude, telling him she has something important to discuss. Jude talks to her from the window, and Arabella asks him to come to the inn where she is staying. Her Australian husband has not married her after all and she is in trouble. Jude, feeling sorry for Arabella, gets ready to go, but Sue protests that Arabella is not his wife now. Jude firmly replies that neither is Sue, and he leaves the house in search of Arabella. Not finding her, he returns to change into his boots, as it has started to rain. Sue, consumed with jealousy, protests again, but Jude is firm and tells Sue bluntly that he has been patient enough with her. Sue is forced to make a decision and finally gives in and agrees to marry him. The next day Jude goes off to make arrangements, and Sue, regretting her harsh treatment of Arabella, goes to visit her at the inn.
She finds her just getting up from bed. Arabella guesses that it is because of her visit that Sue and Jude have become lovers. A telegram arrives for Arabella from her Australian husband, Cartlett, who finally agrees to marry her. Arabella's problems are solved and she advises Sue to marry Jude quickly. Sue is about to leave and Arabella tells her that she will write to Jude about an important matter.
In this chapter, Sue finally becomes Jude's mistress and agrees even to marry him. However, her actions are propelled by jealousy and fear concerning Arabella and her influence over Jude. Sue agrees to become Jude's lover because she fears losing him, as she says: "Very well then--if I must, I must. Since you will have it so, I agree . . . I give in." It seems that she is giving in against her own inclinations.
Jude for once has spoken plainly: "I've waited with the patience of Job and I don't see that I've got anything by my self-denial..... I do love you Sue, though I've danced attendance on you so long for such poor returns." Jude firmly seizes a temporary advantage because of Sue's jealousy.
The contrast between Sue and Arabella is clearly brought out during their conversation. Arabella is in bed; she is inelegant in appearance, crass in speech and behavior and has a cynical attitude. Sue, dainty and refined, is appalled by Arabella's crudeness.
The chapter ends on a note of grim foreboding. Arabella says she will write to Jude about some mysterious business, which she has not yet discussed with him.
Jude and Sue leave for the parish clerk's office to put up the banns for their marriage, but again, Sue gets cold feet about the wedding, and they decide to think it over. Hence it is delayed once more. In the meantime news comes from Arabella that she has now married Cartlett. There also comes the stunning revelation that she had a son by Jude eight months after their separation. The child will soon be arriving from Australia, and Arabella wants Jude to take charge of him. Jude and Sue, although initially dismayed, feel sorry for the unwanted child. Although he may not be Jude's, both Jude and Sue agree to keep him. Sue even considers marriage for the boy's sake, as it will make for a more natural home. The boy arrives the next night all alone from London; he is a solemn, anxious child, with an unnaturally old appearance. Sue and Jude welcome the boy and pity him.
Both Jude and Sue are now legally free to marry, but again they procrastinate. Sue talks about how "hopelessly vulgar an institution legal marriage is--a sort of trap to catch a man." She feels the compulsion inherent to the bond will ruin their relationship: "The men and women of our family are very generous when everything depends upon their goodwill, but they always kick against compulsion." Her feelings are of course partly influenced by Arabella's comments about marriage.
Now the two consider themselves "married" in a way, although they will never celebrate their status with a formal ceremony. They have finally begun to live as "man and wife." However, the irony lies in the fact that Arabella has brought about this "union." Sue, unfortunately, has to assume Arabella's tactics to maintain her hold over Jude.
The child that Arabella sends to them is an unusual character. He appears incredibly old, pale and wizened, quite unlike a normal child, with his unsmiling face and "saucer eyes." Hardy most likely meant him to be a symbol (of suffering humanity or of Jude's doomed romances) rather than a real child. Sue is seen at her best in her generous sympathy and acceptance of the boy, and she even allows him to call her mother.
Jude's allusion to Job is significant. Hardy uses the symbol of Job very appropriately to describe Jude's life; like Job, his life too is filled with unexplained and undeserved suffering.