Jude the Obscure
by Thomas Hardy
Jude the Obscure Part Fourth: At Shaston Summary
- New town, same story: the Jude-and-Sue doomed love saga continues.
In the classroom at the school where Sue and Phillotson teach, Jude sees the piano that Phillotson left with Jude's aunt back in Part First, Chapter 1, when Phillotson first went to Christminster. Wow, Hardy really keeps an eye on continuity—we're impressed with his attention to detail.
- If this were a scene in a modern romantic comedy (as opposed to the least comedic romance ever), we'd be in for a piano duet of "Heart and Soul" just about now. It's not quite that, but Sue does enter and they do play the piano together.
- They hold hands. And yes, this is a big deal in 1896.
- Jude accuses Sue of being a flirt, which she does not take well. It's go time—Sue kicks Jude right out. Until, of course, she changes her mind yet again.
- As Jude leaves, he watches Sue from a distance. He knows he will go see her again. He can't help himself. In the meantime, he will pray and fast.
- And the letters from Sue keep coming: this one says that Jude absolutely should not come and see her again. Never! Never, she says! (Sue is not a very decisive lady, we have to say.)
- Now, if only there were some family-related incident to bring them together again. Something like—the death of a beloved aunt?
- Sue comes to the funeral, and she and Jude are reunited.
- Not surprisingly, we find out that Sue is unhappy with her marriage to Phillotson.
- Once again, Sue and Jude spend the night in the same house.
- And we get another highly frustrating "will they, won't they" moment. Hardy's really keeping the UST high between these two; it's like the first season of Castle up in here.
- Sue breaks down and cries. She lays her head on Jude, kisses his forehead, and then sends him away.
- Aaaaaaaaaagh! Just get together already, jeez!
- Because this is 1896 and holding hands back then seems to be about equivalent to passionate making out today, Sue confesses guiltily to Phillotson that she and Jude held hands.
- To make matters even worse, she drops this on him: 'Richard…would you mind my living away from you?' (4.3.48) We've got to feel for Phillotson in this scene: that question has to hurt like a kick to the teeth.
- At first, they simply live apart in the same house. And guess what? To nobody's surprise, that's not going to work out well.
- Wife sick of you in every possible way? Why not busy yourself with antiquities studies? Yes, that is what Phillotson does.
- Exhausted one night, Phillotson stumbles into Sue's bedroom.
- And rather than deal with her husband, Sue screams and jumps out a window. Let us repeat that: rather than spending time with her husband, Sue chooses to jump out a window. Here's another tip for all you Shmoopers out there to consider in the future: if your wife leaps out of a building when you enter her room, probably something is not right in your relationship.
- Phillotson feels like he has no choice any longer. He visits his friend Gillingham and tells him that he thinks letting Sue leave is the right thing to do.
- Gillingham does not agree, even though it is clear to Phillotson that Sue and Jude 'seem to be one person split in two' (4.4.30).
- Phillotson is being surprisingly philosophical about this whole business.
- So Phillotson and Sue share their last meal together (at least for now).
- Finally, it happens. Sue leaves Phillotson.
- Good old Gillingham arrives to help the old schoolmaster through these difficult times.
- Hardy pulls a little time travel here (and without the help of a DeLorean or a TARDIS, mind you).
- We learn that, a day before her departure from Phillotson's house, Sue wrote a letter to Jude telling him she would be coming to him.
- As the train arrives after Sue has left her husband, Jude waits for Sue. They travel on together. He knows they need to go somewhere where they are not so well known so they can start a new life together.
- They kiss. And if holding hands is such a huge thing, you can imagine that this scene really seals the nature of their relationship for the readers.
- It turns out that Sue isn't the only one making a big change as far as marriage goes. Jude tells Sue that he is divorcing Arabella. (We're going to take just one second for a history fact check here: divorces may be pretty easy to get now, but back in 1896, it still carried a huge social stigma.
- The fact that people could even get legally divorced in Britain without the Church getting involved was still a pretty new thing at the end of the nineteenth century, thanks to the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857.)
- Even though they plan to live together, Sue makes it totally clear that she does not want to have a sexual relationship with Jude.
- Jude is not totally glad to hear this, but he respects Sue's decision.
- They end up at the inn where Jude stayed with Arabella in Part Third, Chapter 8.
- Sue gets very angry about this, but Jude talks her down, and they make up.
- Meanwhile, the school realizes that Sue has disappeared. Phillotson tells the truth about his wife's departure, believing he did the honorable thing in letting her go. The school disagrees, and they try to force him to resign. (What?! Firing a guy because his wife just left him? Can't anybody catch a break in this novel? 1896 sounds like the worst non-medieval time ever.)
- Soon, Phillotson is fired. During the town meeting that leads to his dismissal, a fight breaks out between those that agree with his decision and those who don't. (Clearly, there are a lot of repressed emotions and cultural conflicts developing around this issue of marriage.)
- The stress of it all causes Phillotson to fall ill. Good old Gillingham arrives to help, and he sends a letter to Sue to let her know that Phillotson isn't feeling so hot.
- Sue arrives and nurses Phillotson for a bit. In a way, they make up, but it is clear that she doesn't want to be his wife. Sue also tells him that she and Jude have not been physically intimate in any way.
- Despite being kind of dull, Phillotson is an honorable guy. He decides he should grant Sue a divorce.
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