Jude the Obscure
by Thomas Hardy
Jude the Obscure Part Sixth: At Christminster Again Summary
- O, Christminster, we knew we'd see you again. You appeared in the first part, so we were sure you would appear in the last as well.
- And here you are. Anyway, Jude takes the family to Christminster on Remembrance Day—the day when all the Doctoral students graduate from the colleges. (Why does Jude keep doing this kind of stuff to himself? Does he love misery, or what?)
- This is the perfect opportunity for Jude to tell his tale to some of the people he once knew—saying that society will not accept a self-taught man.
- Jude announces: 'I'm an outsider to the end of my days!' (6.1.51)
- Guess who else happens to be in the crowd? Yep, old man Phillotson.
- Having kids can make things tough on a family looking for a place to stay. Sue and Jude struggle to find lodging.
- And Sue is pregnant again, making everything even more difficult.
- The only solution is to break up the band for a while. Sue and the children take one room, but Jude must find lodging elsewhere.
- Sue tells the landlady that she and Jude are not really married. (Why, Sue, why?)
- This does not go over well, of course. The landlady's husband tells them they will have to leave the following day.
- A black cloud of melancholy hangs over the scene like some sort of, well, dense black cloud. Sue is depressed. Little Father Time is depressed.
- All we need is Marvin the Paranoid Android to make a perfect storm of misery in this room.
- Sue tells LFT that it is hard to find lodging with the children.
- Huge mistake! If that wasn't bad enough, Sue then tells LFT that she is having another baby.
- Huge, huge mistake!
- He doesn't take this well, knowing it will be even more difficult to survive with another child in the family.
- LFT flips out at Sue.
- In the morning, Sue goes to eat breakfast with Jude at his lodging.
- They return to the place where Sue was staying with the children. There is no noise. The kids must be sleeping.
- Oh, if only the kids were sleeping.
- Sue and Jude find the two babies and Little Father Time hanging by box chords.
- Little Father Time has killed the babies and himself. His note simply reads, 'Done because we are too menny.' (6.2.40)
- The funeral is held, but Jude goes without Sue.
- Later, Sue tries to stop the man from burying the children. She wants to see them again.
- It takes all of his strength, but Jude gets Sue away from the cemetery.
- Sue miscarries. Yes, this book has gotten incredibly depressing really fast. Sorry, everyone.
- There's really no way for them to come back from what has happened, but Sue tries to recover, both physically and mentally.
- As Jude goes back to work on his stonemasonry, Sue turns more and more to religion, reversing many of her earlier opinions about rigid Christian morality.
- Finally, Sue says she will never marry Jude, and that she still belongs to Phillotson.
- At this point, you might get angry and yell at the book for completely crushing your hopes for these people. This does not mean you are crazy. This just means that Hardy is a brilliant writer and a complete jerk to his readers. We admire him even as he hurts us so much.
- Just when things surely can't get any worse, Arabella shows up. Oh honestly, what now?
- Sue proves that she has really changed by announcing that Jude still belongs to Arabella morally speaking, despite their perfectly legal and justifiable divorce.
- Sue then kicks Jude out of their house.
- They share a last kiss, and then she pushes him away. AAAAAAAARGH!
- There is really nothing uplifting to say about the awful turn that these characters' lives have taken, except maybe to be thankful that at least no one gets eaten alive by rats.
- This actually happens in Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel The Jungle. If possible, The Jungle is even grimmer than Jude the Obscure, which is obviously really saying something.
- Clearly, the decade from 1896 to 1906 was a very dark time for literature.
- The schemer is at the top of her game now: Arabella meets with Phillotson and sets her plan—presumably called "Operation Get Jude Back at Any Cost Because I Am Completely Insane"—in motion.
- Guess what? Sue goes to see Jude to tell him that she is going to remarry Phillotson. She suggests that he should take back Arabella.
- Once again, Jude and Sue part ways. Seriously, how is it possible for a book to keep twisting our hearts so very much?
- Surprise, surprise: there are no happy endings here.
- Sue returns to Phillotson. She tells him that all of her children have died as a judgment on her for having them while living in sin with Jude. (Oh, Sue. No.)
- While Phillotson is glad to have Sue back, he is upset to see that she still pulls away from him physically.
- Sue blames the weather and a sudden feeling of cold for her shudder away from him, but it's clear that there are still Issues between the two.
- In a final act of purging her previous "adulterous" (6.5.29) life, Sue destroys a beautiful nightgown she had bought to impress Jude.
- The widow Mrs. Edlin tries to convince Sue not to marry Phillotson again.
- She also tells Sue that it's sinful to use religion to claim that her children should never have been born. (Sue, please, pretty please—listen to the widow! She's right on both counts!)
- Of course, Sue doesn't listen (when does she ever?), and Sue and Phillotson remarry.
- However, Phillotson says he will not 'intrude on [Sue's] personal privacy' (6.5.80). While Phillotson says he's not remarrying Sue for social reasons, he does admit that the main reason they should remarry is to repair their public reputations. How romantic.
- Wouldn't you know it, Arabella shows up at Jude's.
- She claims to have left her father's home without a penny after he called her lazy one too many times.
- Jude gives Arabella money for the train and tells her to get him news of Sue and Phillotson.
- When she returns, Arabella tracks Jude down at a bar.
- Arabella confirms that Sue and Phillotson have remarried, but that the whole ceremony was quite sad.
- Apparently, Mrs. Edlin has been quite open in sharing Sue's view that she has to be with Phillotson no matter what her own feelings might be, because God is demanding it of her.
- She proceeds to get him seriously drunk and takes him to her father's house.
- Well, we can all see the writing on the wall: with the whole pregnancy scam thing in Part First, we've already seen that Arabella is going to make things happen once she's set her mind to it.
- She sends for Jude's belongings and has them brought to her father's house.
- Knowing that Jude can't really stand her, Arabella pretty much keeps Jude drunk for days to confuse him and then informs him that he promised to marry her.
- When he says he has no memory of that, Arabella and her father band together to question Jude's honor. No good can happen when Jude feels that his honor is being questioned.
- Drunk, Jude and Arabella remarry. Brutal. Just—beyond brutal.
- Death is pretty much the only escape for Jude at this point. His body seems to agree that this stuff can't go on, because Jude gets very sick.
- He and Arabella fight constantly. Arabella scolds Jude for getting too sick and making her support him in their marriage (which is rich, given that she had to get him drunk to marry him at all.) Seriously, people, can you think of any novel villain who is as awful as Arabella without having actually, y'know, murdered someone?
- In one last attempt to experience any sort of joy, Jude asks Arabella to send for Sue. Of course, Arabella refuses. Jude physically attacks her and threatens to kill her, which is definite proof of how far the once-honorable and gentle Jude has fallen.
- But he lets up before he truly hurts her.
- Lying is like second nature to Arabella, so she says she will send a letter to Sue.
- Surprise, surprise—she never does. Because we've all come to trust Arabella's word so much up until now, right?
- Jude sneaks out of the house and braves the rain and sleet to go see Sue one more time—because what is cold or sleet or even Death itself to a man in love? (At least, that's what romance novels teach us.)
- Jude and Sue meet for the last time in a church.
- Sue really twists the knife here by actually congratulating Jude on doing the right thing by remarrying Arabella.
- Jude tells her his second marriage is "degrading, immoral, unnatural" (6.8.46)—sure proof that Jude, at least, doesn't buy the rightness of Sue's sudden return to rigid marital morality.
- After some talk, Sue finally rushes and kisses Jude, confessing her love for him once more. (Please, Hardy, just this once, let things work out. Pleeease.)
- Nope, it's a no go. Of course. Jude asks Sue to come with him, but she won't. As Jude walks into the rain and sleet, Sue closes her ears so she will not hear him coughing as he walks away.
- Arabella meets Jude on the train platform just to inform him that he's certainly going to die, now, since the bad weather has ruined his health.
- Jude agrees, and he's glad of it.
- At least he's seen Sue one last time. (Once again, we have to wonder what Arabella is getting out of all of this: is it fun for her to watch Jude commit extended suicide by weather?)
- As Jude and Arabella walk through the streets of Christminster, Jude looks around at the city he once dreamed of. He can remember his first walk through the city, and now this is the last one.
- All of those great scholars he dreamed of joining seem to be laughing at him now.
- Meanwhile, back in the agony of Sue and Phillotson's marriage, Sue is talking to Mrs. Edlin about the fact that she just can't seem to sleep with Phillotson. And he's not asking her to—but she feels like she owes him.
(Oh god, Sue, why are you punishing yourself like this? Honestly, we wish we could pay for all of these characters to have a nice round of therapy.)
- When Phillotson comes home, Sue confesses to him that she has seen Jude.
- She swears on the Bible that she will never do it again. Phillotson forgives her, and Sue follows him into his room.
- Sue and Phillotson have sex for the first time since their remarriage. She is repulsed by him and disgusted by the act, but she does it anyway.
- Jude feels a bit stronger, and even puts in some time working—but his sickness soon comes back, and Arabella can see that it's going to be the last one.
- Mrs. Edlin comes to see Jude, and Arabella leaves the two of them alone.
- Jude comes right out and asks if Sue and Phillotson are living "as husband and wife in name" (6.10.13)? (In other words, are Sue and Phillotson having sex or what?)
- Mrs. Edlin (who seems amazingly observant, we have to say) recognizes that Sue seduced Phillotson right after she last saw Jude, even though she didn't really want to.
- Jude regrets that his and Sue's ideas were "fifty years too soon to be any good" (6.10.16) to them.
- The doctor arrives and Mrs. Edlin lets him in: it's the old quack, Dr. Vilbert.
- As Jude lies close to death, Arabella starts making moves on Dr. Vilbert. She gives him a glass of wine and jokes that she's used that old love potion that he sold her in Part Fifth, Chapter 5.
- As the two of them go off to have sex, Arabella thinks to herself that Jude's about to die anyway, and 'Weak women must provide for a rainy day' (6.10.31). She's extremely practical, that Arabella.
- Arabella looks at Jude sleeping and tries to figure out how close he is to death. (We can't even say we're shocked at her behavior, anymore—we're just exhausted by Arabella at this point.)
- She soon grows impatient just waiting and goes out because she hears the sound of music, leaving Jude to suffer on his own.
- Dying, Jude calls for water to Arabella—and then to Sue.
- As he lies in bed, he hears the sounds of the Remembrance Day celebrations from outside, when the Doctoral students at Christminster receive their degrees. It's a bitter sound for poor Jude, considering his lost dreams of scholarship.
- Arabella arrives at the public celebrations, where everyone is cheerful. A group of men invite her to a boat race with them—as long as she can spare the time from her sick husband?
- Arabella checks in on Jude before she hits the boating extravaganza. She finds him dead.
- But hey, a little thing like a dead husband isn't going to stop her from having fun. Annoyed that Jude should choose this horribly inconvenient time to die, Arabella closes the door and tells the men who have invited her that her husband is sleeping, and that her father is looking after him.
- Arabella goes to the boat race, where she flirts with Dr. Vilbert, while all the while Jude is lying dead in his bed.
- Two days later, at Jude's funeral, only Arabella and Mrs. Edlin are present.
- Arabella speaks maybe the first truth she's said in the whole novel, saying of Sue: 'She may swear that [she has found peace] on her knees to the holy cross upon her necklace till she's hoarse, but it won't be true […] She's never found peace since she left his arms, and never will again till she's as he is now!' (6.11.74).
- At last, we've hit tragic rock bottom: Jude is dead and Sue is alive but suffering horribly. Sigh—what a long, strange road it's been, right, guys?
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