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

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Part 4: Chapter IV

      Synopsis: Phillotson intentionally enters Sue's room - she leaps out of window Phillotson goes to his friend Gillingham, to discuss matters - he raises the question of neighbours and society but can't convince him - next morning he announces his decision to Sue to give her freedom unconditionally - Sue departs after a few days.

      Phillotson in Sue's room - Sue leaps out of the window. Now the husband and wife were living separately on different sides of the same house. Once more he began to take deep interest in his long neglected hobby of Roman antiquities. One night he worked very late and mechanically went to the room which had previously been occupied by both of them but now only by Sue. She was much frightened, thinking that he came there on purpose to sleep with her. She rushed towards the window and before he could understand her intention leaped out and fell on the ground below. Phillotson was horrified. He rushed downstairs, went out and found her lying on the ground. Fortunately, excepting for a few minor bruises she was not much hurt and could go up to her room again by herself.

      Philotson goes to his friend Gillingham to discuss matters. The very next evening after school hours Phillotson walked down to his friend Gillingham's place. Mr. Gillingham was a school teacher there. Phillotson frankly told him all about the tragedy of their conjugal life. His wretched state was that he had a wife he loved but she not only did not love him, but was in love with another person. And then she had a very strong aversion to him as a husband. In fact he was to be blamed for it. Taking advantage of her inexperience he had got her to agree to a long engagement. And now she had firmly asked if she might leave him to go and live with her lover, a cousin of hers. Phillotson finally told his friend that he had decided to let her go and live with any person of her choosing. Gillingham was a worldly type of person and he strongly objected to this. He raised the question neighbours and society. But his arguments could not convince the unfortunate husband. He was unable to put up with such a daily and continuous tragedy as that shared by him and his wife. While returning Gillingham accompanied him for a mile or so and his parting advice was that he should stick to her by any means.

      Phillotson gives Sue her freedom to leave him and to live with any one she likes. Mr. Phillotson had already made up his mind. Next morning at the breakfast table he told Sue that he was giving her absolute freedom to go away from him and to live with any one she liked. After a few days they parted as good friends. He was so good and kind to her before her departure that Sue was moved to pity. She told him that she would ever regard him as a good friend. Just after her departure Phillotson went out and walked for a mile or so. Back home he found his old friend, Gillingham, waiting for him. He was shocked to learn that his wife had left him that very evening. Phillotson calmly told his friend: "I would have died for her; but I wouldn't be cruel to her in the name of law."

Critical Analysis
      The brighter aspects of Phillotson's character. This chapter is quite an important one. Firstly the final break between the husband and wife takes place. At then the most important thing is that it throws a flood of light on the kind and noble shades of Phillotson's character. He is good and wise enough to realise the exact relationship between Sue and Jude. It is according to him Shelleyan - it reminds him of Laon and Cynthia (two lovers united in their revolutionary ideas) in Shelley's The Revolt of Islam. His worldly-wise friend thinks that Sue ought to be smacked and brought to her senses. But Phillotson, in spite of all his orthodox and old-fashioned ideas, feels it is not right "that merely taking a woman to church and putting a ring upon her finger could by any possibility involve one in such a daily, continuous tragedy as that now shared by her and me!" The idea is really revolutionary from an apparently orthodox person.

      Philotson's magnanimity draws our sympathy. It is really magnanimous on Phillotson's part to release Sue without any condition. His love for her is true and sincere. It is pitiable as Sue can neither love him or regard him as her husband. His great act of renunciation excites pity and admiration in us for this noble soul.

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