Jude the Obscure By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Part 1: Chapters 3-4

Summary

At first when Jude reaches a high point outside of town, the "ridge-track," he cannot see Cbristminster; nor can he see it from the roof of a barn nearby, locally called the Brown House. He waits patiently, prays for the visibility to improve, and finally just before sunset does see light reflected from buildings in the city. Frequently thereafter he comes to this high place to look, occasionally at night. On one such occasion he encounters a man driving a wagon who talks to him about Christminster, describing it as a place of learning, religion, and beautiful music. After listening to the carter's account, all secondhand, Jude decides this is the place that may satisfy his need for a foundation. He calls Christminster "a city of light."

Walking home after the occasion of his conversation with the carter, Jude encounters Physician Vilbert, a quack doctor of local reputation. After seeking confirmation of his exalted view of Christminster from the man, Jude says he wants to learn Latin and Greek and offers to advertise Vilbert's pills if the physician will get grammars of the two languages for him. The man agrees, and Jude works hard for two weeks to get orders for him. When they meet again as arranged, Jude has orders for him, the physician has forgotten the books, and the boy realizes the man has no interest in his aspirations. When Phillotson sends for the piano he has left behind, stored with Jude's aunt, Jude encloses in the packing case a request for the grammars. When they eventually arrive, Jude discovers to his dismay that there is no rule or secret by which the words of his own language can be changed into those of Latin or Greek. Appalled by the labor of learning a language word by word and amazed at what prodigious intellects the learned men of Christminster must have, Jude throws the books aside and wishes he had never seen a book and had never been born.

Analysis

Hardy uses a series of major and minor symbols to help convey the meaning of his novel. Certainly one of the major ones is Christminster. In these chapters Jude is to be seen making Christminster into a symbol of all that is good and meaningful in his life. He looks at it from a distance both in the daytime and at night. He wonders where in the lights of the city Phillotson may be. He inquires of everyone he meets about life in that place: workmen, a carter, a quack doctor. From the common talk about it that they repeat to him he forms an idea of it as a "city of light." He even puts himself to the task of learning Latin and Greek on his own in order to be accepted there, and the grammars he finally gets come from a lucky inhabitant of that place, Phillotson.

Considering his age, Jude is likely to have fixed the meaning of Christminster to him forever in his mind. And that meaning, in turn, will affect his own life at every step, as it will affect the lives of others who come into contact with him.

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