Jude the Obscure By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Part 3: Chapters 6-7

Summary

In his new position at Shaston Phillotson, though pursuing his work at the school as well as his interest in antiquities, thinks mostly of Sue: saving money to support his future marriage, rereading her letters, looking at photographs of her. Though for a while he has honored Sue's desire that he not visit her frequently at the training college in Melchester, he grows impatient and pays her a visit only to discover she has been expelled. Entering the nearby cathedral, he encounters Jude and from him discovers the truth about the alleged scandal as well as something of Jude's feelings for Sue.

When Jude meets Sue, finding her evasive about whether she has seen Phillotson, he tells her of his marriage to Arabella. Sue is angry because he has thought of himself first in concealing his marriage and has caused her to allow him to love her, and she asks him how he can reconcile this with his religious beliefs. To Jude's insistence that his marriage is the only obstacle between them, she names several, among which is that she would have to love him. As a reason for not telling her of Arabella, Jude mentions the family's lucklessness in marriage, which momentarily frightens them both. They part, pretending they can still be friends.

When Sue writes to Jude that she is going to marry Phillotson soon, Jude wonders if his revealing his marriage to Arabella has hastened her decision, as he feels his visiting her drunk hurried her engagement. Even more upsetting is a second letter asking Jude to give her away at the ceremony, with its mention of him as her nearest "married relation." At Jude's suggestion Sue comes to stay with him so as to marry from his house, and their behavior toward each other is strained. Certain that she is making a mistake in marrying Phillotson, Jude allows Sue to go into the church a few hours before the wedding to see the place where she is to be married, an odd request that she herself acknowledges is characteristic of her. This and, later, the wedding are painful to Jude, and he wonders if she has willfully wanted him to be present. After the wedding and a meal at Jude's lodgings, when the newly married couple are ready to leave Sue hurries back into the house for her handkerchief. She looks at Jude as if to speak but says nothing and hurries out.

Analysis

Jude is here shown to believe that his telling Sue about his marriage to Arabella has helped to hasten Sue's decision to marry Phillotson, just as earlier he believed that his going to her in despair precipitated her engagement. Even if Jude is wrong in both cases, he believes that he is the unwitting cause. Or, perhaps, it strengthens his growing conviction that some inimical power rules his life and makes his best intentions produce results that undermine him.

In his handling of narrative, Hardy uses two devices here. He has Sue and Jude walk arm in arm down the aisle of the church in which she is to marry Phillotson as a kind of ironical comment on the fact that he is not the one who is really marrying her and as a foreshadowing of the fact that though they try many times to marry they never actually will. Hardy also uses here, and elsewhere, letters between Sue and Jude especially to show the difference between Sue in person and Sue as she writes. Even Jude comments on this difference, remarking that she is nicer in her letters than she is in person.

The treatment of Phillotson in the first part of Chapter 6 is an instance of static analysis of a character, which is used only infrequently in the novel. He is shown in his new situation at Shaston, his interests and habits are catalogued, and his personal appearance at this point is described. Part of the reason for the inclusion of this section is, of course, to show what sort of man Sue is shortly to marry. More often than not, however, Hardy uses scenes and contacts between characters to develop his characterizations.

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