Jude The Obscure: Part 6, Chapter 4 - Summary & Analysis

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Part 6: Chapter IV

      Synopsis: Phillotson learns about the suicide of a stone - mason's children from newspapers and also from Arabella - she also tells about Sue's mental somersault and her separation from Jude - Phillotson writes to Sue to condone her misdeeds and to get her back - Sue's firm decision to go back to him - she can't escape from her sense of guilt - Sue bids her final farewell to Jude.

      Phillotson learns about the tragedy from the newspapers as well as from Arabella. Both Phillotson and his friend Gillingham saw Jude and others in the crowd at Christminster on the Remembrance Day. They only talked about this after coming back. After a few days he went to Alfredston for shopping. There he was shocked to learn from the local weekly about the, Strange suicide of a Stone Mason's children; realising that they must be the children of Jude and Sue. His heart was full of pity for Sue. Then while walking back to Marygreen he met Arabella on the way. She told him that she had met Jude at Christminster very recently. He asked her how they bore their terrible affliction and was surprised to learn they were doing it in a very strange way. She informed him that a mental volte-face' had taken place in Sue and she was no more living with Jude. Strangely enough she now felt that in the eyes of Heaven and the Church Phillotson was her real husband. And then Jude and Sue were not still legally married. Before parting he took Sue's address from her. This pleased the scheming Arabella Very much, as she felt her dream of capturing Jude again might be realised.

      Phillotson's desire to retrieve his position-writes to Sue after hearing about the strange development in the lives of Jude and Sue, Phillotson took a serious note of the whole situation. Of course he had pity and sympathy for Sue, but he bitterly remembered how he had suffered both socially and economically for being unusually generous to Sue. He also now felt that by getting Sue back and marrying her again he might get some comfort and also retrieve his position to a great extent in his life. So he decided to get her back provided she came willingly. Accordingly, without heeding the advice of Mr. Gillingham, he wrote a carefully considered letter to Sue advising her to come to him at Marygreen, as he had come to know that her views had considerably changed.

      Sue to go back to Phillotson - her final good bye to Jude. On a foggy evening after a few days Sue knocked at the door of Jude. She requested him to come out and accompany her up to the cemetery. On the way she told Jude that she had decided to go back to Richard and remarry him as he was prepared to forgive all her faults and misdeeds. And she requested him to take back Arabella. Jude was aghast. In his fierce anguish he averred that they were still husband and wife as they still loved each other. He finally told her that it would be a 'fanatic prostitution' on her part as she did not really love Phillotson. All his protestation and piteous imploring fell on deaf ears. The blow of her bereavement seemed to have destroyed her reasoning faculty. So by the side of the grave of their children Sue bade Jude her last farewell.

Critical Analysis
      Sue's mental volte-face and sense of guilt leading her to go back to Richard. All the unorthodox and revolutionary ideas of Sue have undergone a thorough change. She is now blindly orthodox in her ideas. A sense of guilt now pervaded her mind as she is convinced that it had been wrong on her part to have left her legal husband for living a sinful and selfish life with Jude. Of course the shock from the tragic death of three children seems to have completely destroyed her reasoning power. So after receiving the letter from Phillotson who is prepared to condone all her acts. She is determined to go hack to him. She now feels that she is still Phillotson's wife in the eyes of Heaven and the Church. So all Jude's earnest implorings and arguments fall on deaf ears. Even when Jude tells her that her act will be nothing but 'fanatic prostitution', as she does not love him, she remains unmoved. Jude tells her that she is unique for "doing impulsive penances" But before parting she pays a fine tribute to Jude. "Your worldly failure, if you have failed, is to your credit, rather than to your blame. Remember that the best and greatest among mankind are those who do themselves no worldly good.... The devoted fail."

      More about Phillotson's character. This chapter also throws considerable light on the character of Phillotson. He still follows his own line of independent thinking and again discards his friend's advice regarding Sue. But life has taught him a very bitter lesson. So he has become somewhat worldly-wise and thinks that by getting back Sue and remarrying her he may retrieve his worldly position to some extent.

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