Jude the Obscure
by Thomas Hardy
Jude the Obscure Part First: At Marygreen Summary
- The schoolmaster, Richard Phillotson departs Marygreen for Christminster to become a great scholar.
(By the way, Hardy based the fictional city of Christminster on famous real-life English university town Oxford. So Hardy's portrayal of Christminster reflects some of his views on real-world English university culture.)
- Jude, at eleven years old, is bummed out by the departure of his schoolmaster.
- Jude tells Phillotson to leave his piano with Jude's aunt until he can send for it in Christminster.
- It's a really short chapter, but Jude now knows of Christminster, and that is oh so important to everything that happens next.
- Oh, but we can't forget Jude's day job.
- Jude's gainfully employed as the official bird-scarer on a neighboring farmer's property.
- Unfortunately, job security is just about nonexistent in the bird-scaring industry. Jude gets the ax when, instead of shooing the birds away, he lets them eat.
- Depressed and bordering on a life of emo-style sadness, Jude runs into two guys on the road who tell him where Christminster is located.
- Jude follows a path that leads out of his little town. Dreaming of Christminster, he reaches a spot where "all before him was bleak open down" (1.2.42).
- New day job! Jude works for his aunt, now, but in his down time, he's honing his bookworm skills.
- His big dreams just keep getting bigger.
- Jude imagines Christminster as this heaven on earth for scholars—a place where he will finally be able to learn.
(Here, we're imagining Jude as Belle singing at the beginning of Beauty and the Beast: "I want adventure in the great wide somewhere/I want it more than I can teeeeell."
- Jude climbs to a spot where he thinks he might be able to see the city. As the sun sets, Jude sees the lights of Christminster in the distance. 'It is a city of light,' (1.3.42), he tells himself.
- Ah, the innocence of youth.
- Dr. Vilbert, a local quack doctor, meets Jude on the road. Vilbert says he'll give Jude the grammar books he desperately wants if Jude gets Vilbert addresses of people who might buy Vilbert's curing products. This is pretty much the Victorian equivalent of the old Nigerian Prince email scam.
- Jude holds up his end of the bargain, but Vilbert bails, which can only mean one thing: it's time to call in the big guns.
- Jude writes to Phillotson in Christminster, and asks him for some books.
- Good guy that he is, Phil. sends Jude some Latin and Greek books, which fly way over a poor, baffled Jude's head. He's left bummed, lonely, and totally disheartened.
- Flash forward three or four years.
- Jude spends his days reading while carting around baking goods for his aunt. The locals see this driving while reading (is that a DWR?) as a danger to others on the road, even though the horse knows his own way perfectly well without Jude's help.
- The policeman warns Jude to avoid texting—ahem, reading while up on his cart. So Jude gets really good at hiding his books while he's driving his horse.
- By the age of 16, Jude has picked up quite a bit of Latin, and his self-studies have definitely made him stand out in his small town.
- Time for some tragic delusions of grandeur! Jude dreams about becoming a high-ranking clergyman (which is another term for a minister or priest) someday. He decides to refocus his studies on the Gospels instead of the Greek and Roman classics.
- Jude also realizes he'll need to make more money to get to Christminster to pursue his dream.
- Solution? Stonemasonry—the chosen career of budding scholars everywhere (or wait, is that nowhere?). When he's 19, Jude apprentices with the local mason, and launches his career.
- Hardy kicks off this chapter with Jude believing he can make it to Christminster within a year.
- Jude has shifted his dreams of classical scholarship to becoming a Bishop in the church—you know, basic teenage stuff. Wasn't there a whole Katy Perry song about living the teenage dream of becoming a Bishop?
- So, Jude is definitely upping the stakes for this whole becoming-a-scholar thing. But no matter what intellectual pursuit he seeks, Christminster is still the place to make this happen. He commits himself to leading a pure, Christian life. (We sense a but coming Jude's way.)
- While on a walk, Jude gets hit in the face with a bit of pig grease thrown by a group of three girls.
- NBD, right? Wrong. Because one of those girls is the lovely Arabella Donn. Once she enters the scene, Jude's life is changed forever.
- After walking and talking and flirting for a while, Jude and Arabella (he calls her Abbey at some points) plan on continuing to see each other.
- Pig grease and dimples go a long way with young Jude. He starts feeling things for Arabella that he's never felt for a girl before.
- Whatever she offers, Jude knows it is "quite antipathetic to that side of him which had been occupied with literary study and the magnificent Christminster dream" (1.6.62). In other words: this girl means nuthin' but trouble to Jude and to his desire to make it in Christminster.
- Ah, classic pre-date jitters: should I call her? Should I play it cool? Should I just ignore her and pretend like we never even met?
- Jude debates whether or not he should call on Arabella as he promised. He starts to think he may have been a bit hasty. It's not like he's used to this whole love thing—we can cut him a little slack for being fluttery and undecided.
- Deciding it's the classy thing to do, Jude follows up on his promise and calls on Arabella.
- They go for a walk together. Apparently, going for a walk is like the Victorian equivalent of dinner and a movie.
- They see a fire and run to it. (We're guessing there may not be a lot of other entertainment options in Marygreen, Wessex for two kids out on their first date.) It takes way longer to get there than they thought it would.
- Jude and Arabella find their way to a local drinking spot to get some tea. The tea takes too long, so they settle for beer.
- On the wall hangs a picture of Samson and Delilah. Samson's that guy in the Bible who has the bad luck to fall head-over-heels with the traitor Delilah, letting her know that all of his God-given strength is thanks to his uncut hair. Delilah cuts Samson's hair and bam no more strength for Samson.
- As a Biblical scholar, you would think Jude might take this picture as a major Bad Sign about the new lady he's taking out for a drink. But no—we the readers are the ones stuck saying, nooooooo! Don't do it, Jude!
- Jude and Arabella walk home, holding hands. They also share their first kiss! Now, they live happily ever after, right? Right?
- When they get back home, everyone's pumped because they assume that Jude locked it down and that the lovebirds are engaged. Not so much. But we should cut 'em some slack, because back then, that wouldn't have been a totally off base assumption.
- Jude heads home, keeping mum about his love life. Arabella, on the other hand, is blabbing about it to everyone she knows.
- Sure, Jude is a little confused about what he's feeling, but he really wants to see her again. He falls into a typical post-first-date six-day depression until they can go out once more.
- In the meantime, Arabella is all 'I want to marry Jude' to her friends. Luckily, her friends know just what to do.
- Her friends tell her that she needs to do a few things to secure Jude's hand in marriage. And while the book isn't too clear on what these things are, we get the sense that they aren't really appropriate for life before marriage in the 1890s. That is all we shall say on the matter.
- Jude finds Arabella tending to the pigs. Her family is in the pig tending business, which is an invitation to romance right there!
- Time for a good old pig run. A few of the pigs break free, and they end up chasing one for a really long time. They don't catch it, but Arabella is pretty sure it will get back to the house at some point.
- As they walk, they flirt, Jude puts his arm around her, but she refuses to kiss him.
- She refuses again when they get to her house, and Jude returns home thinking he must have overstepped his bounds with her. Jude is kind of foolish that way: he's really not seeing the writing on the wall when it comes to Arabella's intentions.
- But Arabella's no fool, and she knows what she wants. So before their next pseudo-date, she arranges to have the house all to herself.
- You know what that means, Shmoopers…
- After they go for another stroll, she invites him in. They play hide and seek (we guess that's the Victorian version of foreplay), and the game eventually finds them together in a room upstairs. Uh oh.
- Uh oh is right. Next thing you know, Arabella's dropping a bomb in Jude's lap: she's knocked up. Okay, well she doesn't actually say that, because the word "pregnant" doesn't get thrown around in Victorian English literature (or 1950s American television for that matter. Check out the I Love Lucy episode "Lucy is Enceinte" to see how they used to get around it.)
- Before this, Jude was planning to bolt. Arabella was wearing him down, and he wanted to head to Christminster. Not anymore. Jude says that they must get married.
- As Hardy puts it, marriage is "the custom of the rural districts among honourable young men who had drifted so far into intimacy with a woman" (1.9.13). In other words, in this day and age, once a man has had sex with a woman, he has a responsibility to marry her—even though Jude is only sixteen.
- His dreams of being a Bishop are disappearing as we watch.
- Jude and Arabella marry in a small ceremony.
- The couple spends their first night together, and let's just say the honeymoon is short lived. Jude finds out that Arabella's hair is mostly extensions. This is one less-than-subtle sign that he doesn't actually know his new wife that well.
- Next bomb drop! Arabella tells Jude that she's not having a baby after all. Not surprisingly, this kind of floors Jude, but now he is stuck in the marriage.
- The unhappily married couple prepares to kill a pig they've been raising. After all, it's the little things you do together that make marriage fun.
- Arabella wants to kill the pig slowly, because that is best for cooking and selling, but Jude doesn't want the animal to suffer, so he kills it fast, knocking over a bucket of blood in the process. (Ugh. Clearly, these two are not sympatico …)
- Time to get out, Jude! He leaves the house and happens to overhear Arabella's friends talking.
- One of the girls says, ''Tis my belief she knew there was nothing the matter when she told him there was…" (1.10.50). In other words, I think Arabella knew she wasn't pregnant when she told Jude she was. Jude starts to suspect that he's been tricked into holy matrimony.
- The young married couple can't stand each other (with good reason!). They have a pretty serious fight.
- Always the drama queen, Arabella tears at her hair and rips her dress. She stumbles into the street and calls to passersby, 'See how he's served me!' (1.11.10)
- That's pretty much the death knell for this marriage, and Jude just can't deal.
- Depressed as all get out, Jude tries to kill himself in a frozen pond, but the ice won't crack. Jude figures "he was not a sufficiently dignified person for suicide" (1.11.23). Needless to say, this is a low point for Jude.
- Getting dumped by letter may not be the greatest thing in the world, but in this case, we think it's for the best. Arabella leaves a note saying she's gone and won't be coming back.
- She gets almost as far away as possible, heading to Australia with her family. She sells off all of her and Jude's things in the process.
- Jude finds a portrait of himself that he gave Arabella in a small shop. He buys the portrait and burns it. It's another pretty emo moment for Jude when all is said and done, but it also makes him feel a lot better—like deleting pictures of old girlfriends from your iPhone.
- With his wife in another hemisphere and the symbolic rebirth from the burned portrait, Jude's dream of going to Christminster finally returns.
- That's the end of the book's first part. It's also a good spot to take a little break. Why not listen to "Hey, Jude" to keep things appropriately British and Jude-related? The Jude in the song certainly seems a lot happier than our Jude …
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