Summary and Analysis
Part 5: Chapter 4
The morning after the boy arrives, Jude and Sue discover he is called Little Father Time because, as he says, he looks so old. Jude and Sue give notice of their wedding and invite Mrs. Edlin, the widow who took care of his aunt, to come. The night before they are to marry, Mrs. Edlin tells a tale about a man hanged near the Brown House, a man who may have been an ancestor of Sue and Jude. The next day they go to marry at the registry office, but after watching other couples, first Sue and then Jude decide the setting is too sordid. They go to a parish church to watch a wedding, but they agree they can't go through with a ceremony like that they both experienced before. They decide that the compulsion of marriage is not for such as they, and Sue says, "If we are happy as we are, what does it matter to anybody?"
These scenes make clear that Jude and Sue will never submit their relationship to the forms of society. In the registry office and in a church they watch others marry, just as before Sue's marriage to Phillotson they walk down the aisle of the church in a pretense of marriage. More important is the reason for their not going through with marriage. Sue says it is as if "a tragic doom" guided the destiny of their family in this respect. The idea that something outside their lives frustrates everything they do will come into their thoughts more and more, and of course is symbolized in the figure of Little Father Time. It has been in the background from the beginning of the novel but comes to the fore in this living symbol.
This idea is echoed in the tale Mrs. Edlin tells of the man hanged near the Brown House. Mrs. Edlin, who in her person and in her sense of family history is very much a part of the Wessex landscape, is used here to illustrate the idea of the doomed family.