Jude The Obscure: Part 4, Chapter 3 - Summary & Analysis

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Part 4: Chapter III

      Synopsis: The deep and passionate kisses at the parting - burning of all his theological and ethical works by Jude - gives up all his aims to become a servant of the church - back home Sue decides to live apart and requests Phillotson to free - finally decides to stay in the same house but to live apart.

      Unprecedented kiss at parting. After hearing Sue's confession about her tragic married life Jude had to pass a sleepless night. Next morning Sue was to go back and Jude accompanied her for some distance towards Alfredston. When they wanted to part in the silent highway Jude wanted to kiss her. But Sue objected to it if it was given in the spirit of a lover. So they parted and started going in opposite directions. But both of them looked back after moving a few steps. And this was fatal for them, as both of them quickly ran back, met and, embracing most unpremeditatedly, kissed close and long. And this kiss was again a turning point in Jude's life.

      Jude burns all his theological books. Back at the cottage Jude began to reflect on the latest development in his life. To him the kiss was, no doubt, a very pure and inspiring experience, but the unlicensed tenderness for a married woman was absolutely inconsistent for him to pursue his idea of joining the church as a licentiate. According to his religion sexual love was regarded at its best as a frailty, and at its worst damnation. Jude perfectly realised that his attachment for Sue was deep and lasting and he was absolutely unfit to become a law-abiding religious teacher. He did not want to be a hypocrite and finality made up his mind to burn all his theological and ethical books. And that very night he burnt them all to ashes. He felt relieved. "In his passion for Sue he could now stand as an ordinary sinner, and not as a whited sepulchre".

      Sue repents - at home sleeps in clothes closet. Meanwhile, after leaving Jude on that silent highway Sue began to repent for having run back and let him kiss her in that way. With tears in her eyes she felt that she had proved herself to be too weak. She decided that she would not write to Jude for a pretty long period. Soon the train arrived at its destination and Mr. Phillotson received her at the station. Finding her in a distressed mood, no tried to divert her mind by talking about his day's doings. Suddenly Sue disclosed to him that she had allowed Jude Fawley to hold her hand for a long time but without divulging that they kissed each other passionately. Her husband did not mind it much. But that night Sue took a strange decision. She felt that she must not live in the same room as her husband any more. So when Mr. Phillotson came up to their bedroom late at night he did not find her in her bed. So, candle in hand, he went out upon the landing and called her by name. She told that she was in the clothes-closet and reading. He retired but when Sue was not back even after midnight he went down to the closet. Sue frankly and firmly told him to his utter shock and surprise that she would be staying there for the night.

      Sue makes up her mind to live apart. Next morning he found her sitting quietly at the breakfast table. While having their meal Phillotson was stunned when Sue proposed that she should be living away from him. He could merely ask, "what then was the meaning of marrying at all? Sue frankly told him that she had merely kept her promise and it had been sheer cowardice on her part not to have broken her promise. Then she asked him if he would permit her to go away. When he tried to raise the question of laws and ordinance, she boldly asserted that if they could make the contract, they had the right to break it. It might not be legal, but it would be quite moral. But when she told that she might be living with Jude after separation, he was not prepared to accept it. She besought him to be her friend and take pity on her. Then they went to the school and they exchanged short notes dealing with the subject from their respective classrooms. Finally it was decided that they should stay in the same house but live apart.

Critical Analysis
      A deep crisis overwhelms the married life of Phillotson and Sue. The passionate kiss at the parting between Jude and Sue was not only a turning point in the life of Jude but also in the lives of Sue and Phillotson. After that Jude burnt all his books on theology and ethics to ashes. And back home Sue decided to live apart from Mr. Phillotson, thereby confusing and stunning her legal husband to the extreme. So there is an overwhelming crisis in the lives of all the three important characters in the novel.

      The revolutionary aspect of Sue's character. The chapter throws considerable light on the revolutionary aspects of Sue's characters. She does not care to think about the orthodox laws and ordinances and boldly asserts, "For a man and woman to live on intimate terms when one feels as I do is adultery, in any circumstances, however legal". We also find Sue to be quite well-read woman, when she freely quotes from J. S. Mill and Humboldt.

      Deep pathos that arouses our sympathy. We find all the three Characters in a prosthetic predicament in this chapter. Sue has committed a blunder by marrying Mr. Plhillotson. So in spite of all her unorthodox utterances and blasphemous proposals, we cannot but feel sympathetic towards her. Mr. Phillotson married Sue in all good faith and when this unexpected and stunning crisis overwhelms him, we feel sad and sorry for him too. When Jude finally gives up all his aims to become a servant of the church and burns all his ethical works, he draws our sympathy. And thus the chapter is pervaded by sadness and pessimism, as all are miserable.

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