Jude The Obscure: Part 5, Chapter 4 - Summary & Analysis

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Part 5: Chapter IV

      Synopsis: Father Time the nickname of the boy - his tragic face - to marriage registrar's office to take necessary steps - the sight of unseemly marriage upset them return without solemnization - at the church - the marriage ceremony there also does not help - Edlin's tragic tale has an adverse effect - too weak and sensitive to sign the life - undertaking again - postponed at least for the present.

      Tragic face of the boy. The boy was in the habit of sitting silently without taking note of things around with his weird and quaint face. To her query the boy said that he was called Father Time as he looked so aged. He also told them that he was not christened,; because they thought they could save the expenses of a christian funeral if he died early. Jude and Sue decided to christen him and also to get married without any delay for his sake.

      Necessary steps taken to solemnize marriage. In keeping with their decision to marry at the earliest Jude and Sue took necessary steps to solemnize it. This time they wanted to avoid a church, thinking it would be a more private affair at a Superintendent Registrar's office. Jude duly signed the form of notice. But Sue after reading the formal words of the form felt depressed thinking that after this they would become parties and no longer lovers. She expressed her diffidence to Jude. Meanwhile Jude went on with the preparations. He invited Mrs. Edlin, the aged widow who had looked after his aunt in her last illness. She came and brought them some nice presents. She sat with them by the fire-side and told them stories of the unhappy marriages of their ancestors. Then she told the tragic story of one of her ancestors who tried to steal away the coffin of his son from the house of his runaway wife just to bury him in his place. And this brought about his doom and death by hanging. This tragic tale told just on the eve of solemnization shocked and depressed Sue so much that before starting for the marriage office she said to Jude, "It makes me feel as if a tragic doom overhung our family, as it did in the house of Atreus." It cast gloom on Jude's soul also. But still they started for the registrar's office arm-in-arm.

      The repelling atmosphere of the office - no solemnification. Soon Jude and Sue reached the office accompanied by widow Edlin, their only witness. The room seemed to be a dismal and dreary place to them. The sight of a pregnant bride marrying a sullen and reluctant soldier and a jail-bird going to be forced to marry a pockmarked maid upset Sue awfully. She frankly told Jude she was averse to solemnizing their marriage there, it would be better to get it done in a church. Jude acquiesced, and they timidly left the place asking Mrs. Edlin to go home and await them telling her they would call some other witness when required. Then they had a stroll along the streets and talked about their recent experience. Soon they reached their parish church. To their surprise they found a marriage ceremony going on there also. They took a back seat in the church and observed the whole ceremony. But instead of encouraging them the show rather frightened Sue. hey agreed and felt that they were a weak and tremulous pair and too thin - skinned to sign that life-undertaking aging. So they finally decided not to perform it once more, at least for the present. It was a great surprise for the widow to know that they had come back without accomplishing it. They decided not to disclose it to Father Time.

Critical Analysis
      Both are victims of weak and vacillating nature. This chapter clearly reveals how thin-skinned and vacillating both Jude and Sue are. Just the sight of some unseemly marriages turns them away from the marriage office, though they has taken rather a firm decision to solemnize their marriage at the earliest at least for the sake of Father Time. And poor Jude cannot but submit to the whims and odd wishes of his loved one. Then their unorthodox and revolutionary ideas about the institution of marriage adds fuel to the fire. They are really much ahead of their time when they think "domestic ties of a forced kind snuff out cordiality and spontaneousness". It may also be added that the tragic tale told by Mrs. Edlin and the subsequent remarks by Father Time - "If I were you, mother, I would not marry father" - are also contributory factors in making them change their earlier decision.

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