Jude the Obscure
by Thomas Hardy
Jude the Obscure Part Second: At Christminster Summary
- Flash-forward three more years, and it's finally Christminster time! We've heard the legend, and now we're going to see the real thing.
- Brace yourselves, everybody, because it's going to be a bumpy ride.
- First things first, Hardy takes a step back to show us Jude pre-Christminster one last time. At his aunt's house, Jude sees a portrait of his cousin Sue Bridehead. Take note, people, because the girl in that portrait is about to become one of the most fascinating characters in English literature. But now, back to Christminster: Jude finds lodging, and then walks through the city of his dreams in a kind of haze.
- When he gets back to his new home, he has a nice sleep and then wakes up determined to track down Sue Bridehead. Wow, that must be some portrait.
- A guy can't live on dreamy walks through the city and beautiful portraits alone (sadly), so Jude looks for work. He also notices that the city looks different by day than it did by night. The magic of it just isn't quite there. (Uh oh. A bad sign of larger disappointments to come?)
- Sometimes, imagination just isn't enough. Jude requests Sue's portrait from his aunt, and it arrives. Yay, now he can stare at her all the time. (Ew. Just saying.)
- However, his aunt makes it clear that he is not to seek out or bother his cousin. You see, his aunt knows that marriage and relationships don't work in the family (yeah, this cousins thing—already, we can tell that Jude is being unwise) and she's trying to nip their relationship in the bud before it even starts.
- More day job fun! Jude gets work as a stonemason once again.
- All that stalking finally pays off, and Jude learns of Sue's whereabouts.
- He tracks Sue down at her work, but he doesn't talk to her. He just kind of looks at her like the weird loner he's turning into. (Ew x 1000.)
- Hey, if you can't talk to your gal at work, why not try a House of God? Jude tracks Sue down at church. Still no talking, though, just stalking.
- While the reader picked up on it pages ago, Jude starts to realize that his interest in Sue goes well beyond that of just wanting to hang out with his cousin. (Yeah, we've got tons of cousins, and we've never stalked any of them through the streets of a fictional town. Go figure!)
- Heads up. POV shift! For a moment, Hardy moves his focus to Sue and away from Jude, and we see her buy two large figures of Venus (Roman goddess of love and sex) and Apollo (Greek god of light, music, poetry and a heck of a lot more).
- She takes them back to the very Christian place where she works and lives, covering them along the way. She lies to her house mistress (which is like a landlady) and says they are statues of 'St Peter and St—St Mary Magdalen' (2.3.176). This scene gives us a sense of how very strict the people around Sue are about their Christian faith.
- Sue lies awake late at night. Hardy points out that Jude is also awake at the same time. It's a little "Somewhere Out There," if Jude and Sue were adorable singing mice heading towards a happy ending, of course. Which they aren't, unfortunately for them. Still, it's nice.
- While Jude hones his stonemasonry chops by repairing a church, he sees Sue. Lighting bolt! He comes to realize that man needs more than just work in his life. He needs love.
- Jude prays to stop his desire for Sue. (Obviously, this doesn't work.)
- Apparently, stalking can be a two-way street. Sue arrives at Jude's place of business and looks for him. He's not there.
- She leaves a note for him.
- Jude decides it's time to finally talk to her, and he responds to set up a meeting.
- And drumroll, please: Jude and Sue meet at last! This is it, folks. The fateful (or fatal, depending on how you look at it) moment we've all been dreading.
- At this meeting, Jude learns that Sue will be leaving Christminster soon. He can't let that happen—not when their mutual stalking has finally brought them together.
- Jude learns that his old teacher Phillotson never made it as a scholar and is still a schoolmaster just outside of the city.
- Jude arrives at Phillotson's school with Sue. Phillotson doesn't really remember Jude at all, but soon they figure things out and start talking.
- In a bold move to keep Sue in the neighborhood, Jude asks Phillotson to take Sue on as a teacher. Phillotson agrees, and Sue gets a job working at Phillotson's school.
- As a brilliant, charming individual, Sue makes a great teacher's aid right off the bat.
- Sue and Phillotson take their class to Christminster to see an exhibition of a model of Jerusalem.
- Working and lurking (as he so likes to do), Jude sees them there. It's pretty clear at this point that both Jude and Phillotson are in love with Sue.
- And of course, Sue doesn't notice anything of what's going on around her.
- It's time for a rendezvous. Sue tells Jude to come visit her at the school. Cousins who are secretly in love with each other can just hang out as friends, right?
- Feeling like a knight on a grand quest, poor Jude makes his way out there. It all turns sad and ugly when Jude sees Phillotson wrapping his arms around Sue.
- Jude leaves without letting them know he's ever been there. (We imagine it went a little something like this.)
- Nothing like a sick family member to give a guy a break from his love woes. Jude returns to Marygreen to visit his sick aunt. There, they speak of Sue.
- Determined to stick to his dream of scholarship, Jude approaches a headmaster of one of the colleges on the streets of Christminster.
- Jude wants to know what he can do to get into the colleges that seem to be only for the rich kids. He ends up sending letters to various colleges to plead his case.
- Jude finds out that Phillotson is moving.
- A letter from one of the colleges finally arrives. It informs Jude that he "will have a much better chance of success in life by remaining in [his] own sphere" (2.6.50). In other words, don't get any ideas, poor kid—you don't belong here. Yep, that's how they roll at the colleges in Christminster: snobs, the lot of them.
- In a moment of rebellion, Jude goes literary on them, and chalks a bit of scripture on the wall of one of the colleges—Job 12:3 to be exact, which starts, 'I have understanding as well as you' (2.6.59). And that's how you tag, y'all.
- Deeply depressed after rereading the letter from the headmaster of the college, Jude seeks out the "real" Christminster.
- Apparently, the "real" Christminster involves getting drunk and showing off all of the Latin you know to fellow drinkers at the local pub. Not so much our idea of a good time, but hey, Jude clearly needs to blow off some steam.
- Drunk and a total mess, Jude goes to Sue. He sleeps there, and slinks off in the morning, embarrassed by his actions.
- In moments like these, only your old aunt can help you, so Jude goes back to Marygreen. He sees himself as a failure.
- Realizing he will never be a bishop or a scholar as he wanted, Jude sets his sights on joining the church as a licentiate, someone who has a university degree to do a specific profession.
- A licentiate is quite a bit lower down in the pecking order than a bishop, but much more interesting from a spelling perspective.
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