Jude the Obscure By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Part 2: Chapters 2-3

Summary

Jude's first concern is a job, though his working is to be done only as a way of supporting himself until he can enter the university. He goes to apply to a stonemason recommended by his employer in Alfredston. While there, he notices that the workmen are doing only copying and patching, not realizing that medieval building is coming to an end. He decides, while waiting to hear about the job, not to look up either Sue or Phillotson as yet. Now actually in Christminster he sees how really far away he is from realizing his dream, but he takes the job when offered and sets to work studying late into the night, as before not knowing what the best way is to go about it. By means of word from his aunt he comes upon Sue working in an ecclesiastical warehouse; though he is struck by her appearance and the work she is doing he doesn't speak to her. Nor does he when he sees her on the street. He decides he must think of Sue only as a relative for several reasons: he is married; it is not good for cousins to fall in love; and the family's bad luck in marriage would be even worse with a blood relative.

Though Jude sees Sue at a church service, at the moment feeling repentant of his sensual interest in Arabella, he does not reveal himself to her because he isn't sure of his motives for wanting to know her. Earlier than this incident, while on an afternoon's holiday Sue has bought plaster reproductions of statues of Venus and Apollo. Once home with them — she lives where she works — she doesn't know how to conceal them from the very pious woman who is both her employer and landlady. When the lady sees them wrapped in a corner of her room, Sue refers to them as saints. Alone in her room later, she places the figures on a chest of drawers in front of a print of a crucifixion, from time to time looking up at them from her copy of Gibbon. In another part of the city Jude is earnestly reading his Greek Testament.

Analysis

Here Hardy uses contrasting scenes to show the difference between Jude's impression of Sue and Sue as she actually is. Jude sees her first at work and remarks on what a "sweet, saintly, Christian business" she is in. On another occasion he sees her in church and concludes she is no doubt "steeped body and soul in church sentiment." But another scene shows her admiring and buying plaster reproductions of statues of Venus and Apollo and reading Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

These scenes also help to indicate the differences in beliefs between Jude and Sue which go to make up part of the structure of the novel. That structure can be described as embodied in the reversals of belief in Jude and Sue, the changing marital relationships, and the slow, inevitable defeat of both. Jude's conventional beliefs are partly revealed in the authors he quotes from in the last chapter, as well as in his reverence for Christminster, the old university. Sue is shown to admire pagan statuary and to read the agnostic Gibbon, even as in a different part of the city Jude is poring over his New Testament in Greek.

These scenes also reveal part of the changes in Jude's emotional life. Arabella has left him; though he was attracted to her first of all as an object of sexual desire she proved to be incompatible in other ways. But the desire is aroused and always waiting to be satisfied. He is in love with Sue even before he meets her, though he is still married to Arabella. When he sees Sue he makes her into a saint, but beneath this veneer of interest he himself is aware that he wants her as a woman.

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