Jude the Obscure By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Part 1: Chapter 10-11

Summary

When the pig killer doesn't come to kill the pig Jude and Arabella have been fattening, Jude is forced to do the job. He wants to kill it quickly so as to be merciful, but Arabella insists it should slowly bleed to death so that the meat will be better. Jude sticks the pig deeply and it bleeds quickly, much to Arabella's disgust and anger. Coming home from work that day, he overhears Arabella's girl friend tell another girl she put Arabella up to tricking Jude. When he confronts Arabella with this, she makes light of it, saying many girls work the same deception. But Jude insists she was wrong to so trap him into a marriage satisfactory to neither of them.

When the next morning, a Sunday, in the course of her work with the pig's fat Arabella tosses some of Jude's books aside, he gets angry at her. She leaves the house and, disheveled, walks up and down the road in front, lamenting her ill-treatment and accusing Jude of being like his father and his father's sister in their relationship to their spouses. When Jude goes to his aunt to ask her about this, she tells him his parents couldn't get along and separated, his mother later drowning herself. His father's sister couldn't get along with her husband and eventually left him, taking her daughter Sue with her.

In despair Jude walks out onto the ice of a pond as if to drown himself, but the ice doesn't break. He decides to do something more suitable to his degraded state and goes to get drunk. Coming home later, he discovers Arabella has gone, leaving him a note that she will not return. In a few days she writes to say she wants no more of him and she is going with her family to Australia. Jude replies that he has no objection and sends her money as well as his household goods for her to include in the auction the family is going to have.

Later, in a secondhand store he discovers among the goods from the sale that the dealer has bought a photograph he gave Arabella. This puts an end to whatever feeling he may yet have for her. On a stroll one evening he comes to the place on the ridge-track from which he has so often looked for Christminster and realizes that though much has happened he has still not achieved his ambitions. These ambitions are reawakened by his seeing on the back of a milestone nearby an inscription he carved to symbolize his goal in life. He decides to go to Christminster as soon as his apprenticeship has ended.

Analysis

Several aspects of the setting are made use of in these chapters. The Brown House on the ridge-track was important earlier as marking the spot from which Jude first looked out at Christminster. Now, it is revealed that he inscribed a symbol of his aspirations on the back of a nearby milestone. Jude also learns that his parents separated in this very same location, and his aunt hints too that a gallows which once stood here is somehow connected with the history of the family (much later in the novel, Jude hears this tale from Mrs. Edlin).

It is said that Arabella's deception of Jude is a common practice in the locality if a girl wants to make sure she gets the man she chooses to marry her. Above all, there is the killing of the pig, a commonplace practice certainly but one which is used here to reveal important differences between Jude and Arabella. To her the killing of the pig is an ordinary action to be done in a businesslike way. To Jude it is an occasion for scruples. As a person who is said to be unable to hurt any living thing, he is forced into being the one who kills the pig. He doesn't want to do it and tries to kill it quickly, contrary to the best local practice. His desire not to let the pig suffer is reflected later in the novel when he mercifully puts an end to a rabbit caught in a trap. And he himself, near the end of his life, wishes someone would dispatch him as he killed the pig.

The vivid details of this last scene, incidentally, were found disgusting by many of Hardy's contemporary readers, the contention being, apparently, that realism can be carried too far.

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