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Jude the Obscure

Thomas Hardy

Part V: At Aldbrickham and Elsewhere

Part IV: At Shaston

Part VI: At Christminster Again

Summary

Some months later, Jude receives word that Sue's divorce has been made official, just one month after his own divorce was similarly ratified. Jude asks Sue if she will consent to marry him after a respectable interval, but she tells him that she worries it would harm their relationship. Jude worries because Sue has still not declared her love for him. One night, Jude returns home to find that a woman has come to see him while he was away. Sue suspects it was Arabella. A knock comes on the door and Sue knows it is Arabella again. Arabella tells Jude she needs help. Sue begs him not to go see her at her lodgings, as she asks. Jude hesitates, and Sue says she will marry him immediately. Jude stays home. In the morning, Sue feels guilty about her treatment of Arabella and decides to check on her at the inn. Arabella treats Sue rudely but asks if Jude will meet her at the station. Sue and Jude postpone their wedding and one day receive a letter from Arabella. It explains that Arabella gave birth to Jude's child in Australia, and their son has been living with her parents in Australia, but they can no longer care for him. Sue says she would like to adopt him so Jude writes to Arabella. The boy arrives sooner than they expected and walks to their house on his own. Sue tells him to call her "mother."

At an agricultural show in early June, Arabella spots Jude and Sue with her son, who is called Little Father Time because of his adult demeanor. Arabella attends the show with her new husband, Cartlett. She points out the family, and Cartlett remarks that they seem to like each other and their child very much. Arabella declares that it cannot be their child because they have not been married long enough.

Jude has trouble getting work, so he proposes that they move again. They find that people do not believe they are married. Jude wants to live in London because it would allow them more anonymity.

Two and a half years later, at the Kennetbridge spring fair, Sue encounters Arabella in mourning for her husband. Sue is selling cakes at the fair. She explains that Jude caught a chill while doing stone work and has been ill. Arabella is jealous and discusses her feelings with a friend as they drive toward Alfredston. She recognizes Phillotson on the road and offers him a lift. He says he is the schoolmaster at Marygreen again.

Sue goes home and tells Jude about Arabella. He says that when he recovers he would like to go back to Christminster, though he knows the town despises him; perhaps he will die there.

Commentary

Jude and Sue are both able to obtain divorces from their first marriages, so legally they can marry each other. Jude decides that he can be happy without being legally married to Sue as long as he is with her, and the two do not tell their neighbors whether they are married or not. However, they live as though they are married and are therefore considered sinful by people around them. The idea of raising Jude's son prompts Sue to think about formalizing their marriage, but ultimately they do not marry. The uncertainty surrounding their status foreshadows difficulties to come, as there is a sense of illegitimacy lingering in their relationship.

When Arabella sees Jude and Sue with her son she immediately points out to her new husband that the child is too old to be Sue's son, as though claiming motherhood from a distance. Sue immediately develops a relationship with the boy, although she dislikes the fact that he was born of Jude's first marriage. The child's old, world-weary face points to both his premature wisdom and his ability to see beyond childish things. In his eyes there is a danger that Sue senses but cannot, at this stage, define.

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