Jude the Obscure By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Part 6: Chapters 8-9

Summary

Jude and Arabella are as incompatible now as they were the first time they were married, she complaining about his always being ill and he wishing he were dead. When Jude asks her to write to Sue for him, inviting her to visit, Arabella insults Sue, and he is violent with her but admits he couldn't kill her. Convinced that Arabella has never mailed the letter she wrote, Jude goes to Marygreen in spite of his ill health. When Sue congratulates him for marrying Arabella, he bitterly attacks the way she has changed and tells her she isn't worth loving. She tells him she has not given herself to Phillotson and she loves him; they embrace passionately. When he suggests they run away together, she tells him to leave. He does, passing for the last time the fields where he chased rooks and the ridge-track near the Brown House where so much has happened, even stopping to feel at the back of the milestone the carving he made there. He is back in Christminster late at night.

Arabella awaits Jude at the station, and he tells her he has accomplished the only two things he now wants: to see Sue and to die. As she takes him home past the walls of the colleges, he thinks he sees the eminent men of the past as he did when he first came to Christminster, but now they seem to laugh at him.

At Marygreen Sue tells Mrs. Edlin that Jude has been there, that she still loves him, and that she must now perform the most severe penance, going to Phillotson's bed. Though she asks Mrs. Edlin to stay overnight in the house because she is afraid, she goes to Phillotson, wakes him, and asks him to allow her to come in. She confesses Jude visited and they kissed, but she swears on a New Testament she will never see him again. Phillotson forgives her, and though she at first shrinks from his touch she does take his kiss without reaction.

Analysis

In both Marygreen and Christminster, Jude encounters for the last time those features of the setting that have been meaningful to him: the field where he scared rooks, the Brown House, the milestone; the buildings of the colleges, the ghosts of the great men of the past, who now seem to be laughing at him. He himself seems to be conscious of a farewell.

Jude's desire to run away with Sue and her decision to go to Phillotson's bed measure the extremes of the reversals in belief which have occurred in the two characters. This plus the change in marital relationships shows the structure of the novel moving to its completion. Neither character is as he was in the beginning, and both are seen to go down to defeat.

That they should declare their love for each other after their remarriages makes for a large irony in the novel. Jude's taunt, "Sue, Sue, you are not worth a man's love!" forces Sue momentarily to forget the penance she is determined to make. But it is too late for anything to change. The inexplicable power that has guided their lives so far, hinted at so often in the novel, makes their declarations merely acts of desperation.

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