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JUDE THE OBSCURE BY THOMAS HARDY - FREE NOTES
Little Father Time is depressed and gloomy at their inability to find lodgings. Before they go to bed, Sue talks to him and tells him that another baby is on the way. Little Father Time is horrified at the thought of another mouth to feed and bitterly blames Sue for having ruined them. He declares it would be better if he and the other children were gone.
The next morning Sue goes out early to meet Jude and to tell him that she has failed to find any lodgings. When they return, Sue goes to wake the children but finds that Little Father Time has hanged the younger children and then himself. Sue is overcome with horror and falls unconscious. Jude too is overcome with grief. Later there is a coroner's inquest and then a funeral, which Jude does not allow Sue to attend. Jude, however, learns that Sue has gone on her own to the graveyard and is telling the gravedigger to stop filling the grave and to show her the dead children. Jude takes her back home, but her agitation and wild grief have already affected her health. She gives birth to a stillborn child.
The events in this chapter bring the novel to a climax. The tragedy of the children's deaths has often been criticized as being overly sensational and melodramatic, straining all standards of credibility.
The organ music from the College Chapel playing the 73rd Psalm, "Truly God Is Loving Unto Israel," strikes another note of improbable irony. Hardy seems determined to force things with great speed towards an unhappy ending. In a book that is otherwise quite realistic, this chapter seems rather clumsy and excessive and has led some critics to condemn the novel as an artistic failure.
The death of the three children has left Sue emotionally scarred. She begins to develop an obsession about religion and her own sinfulness. She regards the tragedy as a judgment of God and begins to talk of "self-renunciation" and starts attending the church of St. Silas. Jude is amazed and disturbed at Sue's strange behavior and proposes that they marry. But Sue refuses, saying she is still morally bound to Phillotson, and that she and Jude ought not to behave as man and wife.
One day while Jude and Sue are debating such matters, Arabella turns up. She has read of the tragedy in the papers, and after going to visit Little Father Time's grave, she has come to pay them a visit. While they are talking, Sue suddenly denies that she is Jude's wife and leaves the room. Arabella tells Jude that she is now living at Alfredston with her father, who has returned from Australia. Later, after Arabella leaves, Jude goes to look for Sue, and he finally finds her in St. Silas' church where she lies prostrate before a cross. She tells Jude that the death of the children is a divine punishment for her sins and that she is still Phillotson's wife. They discuss their relationship, and Sue admits that she gave herself to him (Jude) because she was jealous of Arabella. Jude cries out that Sue does not and never has loved him as he loves her. He begs her not to abandon him lest he fall into the temptation to drink. But Sue is adamant and insists that they live separately because her conscience demands it, although they can still be friends and meet occasionally.
Sue and Jude have traveled in opposite directions and have now adopted each other's original stance: Sue is turning to religion, and Jude is more than ever a part of the secular world. The tragedy of the children's deaths affects each of them differently: Jude is now hardened and skeptical about religion and tradition, while Sue is exhibiting self-torment and guilt. Sue's new feeling regarding the indissolubility of their former marriages and divine retribution reveal her mental state: "We should mortify the flesh--the terrible flesh--the curse of Adam." Jude wonders what has come over her: "She was no longer the same as in the independent days when her intellect played like lambent lightning over conventions and formalities, which he at the time respected, though he did not now." He is angry and bitter at her, and says, "After converting me to your views on so many things, to find you suddenly turn to the right-about like this..." But nothing can move Sue now. Finally, Jude makes an impassioned plea: "Do not do an immoral thing for moral reasons." Jude displays honesty and goodness of heart, but his fate is the same as that of the Christminster undergraduate in his relationship with Sue. In this chapter Hardy presents lengthy discussions on marriage, sexual relations and religion in the conversations between Sue and Jude.
Phillotson and his friend, Gillingham, had noticed Sue, Jude and the children in Christminster on Remembrance Day. One day at Alfredston, Phillotson reads about the death of the three children, and he is moved with compassion for Sue's woes. He meets Arabella again, and she tells him that the oldest child (Little Father Time) was hers and Jude's. She also informs him that Jude and Sue had never married and that they are now separated. Arabella tells Phillotson that Sue still considers herself to be his wife. Assuming that the tragedy would have united Jude and Sue in their grief, Phillotson is astonished to hear Arabella's account. He now begins to hope for reconciliation with Sue on the grounds of her innocence at the time of the divorce. Although Gillingham advises against it, Phillotson writes to Sue and asks her to remarry him. Sue accepts this offer and one evening she goes to see Jude. They walk to the cemetery together. She tells him that she is returning to Marygreen to remarry Phillotson, as she still considers him her husband. She considers the death of the three children as a kind of warning to mend her ways. Jude is horrified at her decision, but Sue is adamant and will not listen to his protests. She even says he should return to Arabella.
The reader finds Arabella scheming to get Jude for herself: she is devious enough to contact Phillotson and give him Jude's address. Phillotson has been reduced to financial and social ruin, and one cannot really blame him for seeking to remarry Sue in order to regain some respectability and acceptance. Gillingham, of course, is always sensible and practical. His is the voice of reason, telling Phillotson to leave Sue alone. Sue, meanwhile, is in the grip of self-torture and blame. Her sudden obsession with religion springs from a feeling of guilt over the children's deaths, and she seeks to punish herself by "renouncing" Jude at the children's graves. Jude is anguished at her decision to marry Phillotson and points out that since she does not love Phillotson, it will be "fanatic prostitution." He is amazed at her perverse reasoning: "I never knew such a woman for doing impulsive penances, as you, Sue." As the chapter ends Jude and Sue part at the cemetery. "Let our farewell be there-- beside the graves of those who died to bring home to me the error of my views," says Sue.