Jude the Obscure

Jude the Obscure Summary and Analysis of At Aldbrickham and Elsewhere: Chapters 5-8


Chapter V

Arabella and Cartlett go to an agricultural fair in Stokes-Barehill, near Aldbrickham. They spot Jude, Sue, and Father Time, who have also come to enjoy the fair. Jude and Sue look very much in love, although their demeanor is somewhat darkened by Father Time’s obvious melancholy. Arabella splits up with her husband and follows Jude and his family without letting them know she’s there. As she does this, she runs into Anny and Physician Vilbert. They follow Jude and Sue into an art exhibit, where a model of Cardinal College in Christminster that Jude and Sue designed together is on display. Vilbert sees Arabella watching Jude, and offers to sell her a love potion. Arabella buys it, claiming it is for one of her female friends. Meanwhile, Jude, Sue, and Father Time look at the flower display. Time says he cannot enjoy the flowers because he knows they will be dead soon.

Chapter VI

Word spreads in Aldbrickham that Jude and Sue are not married. Time is bullied at school, no one orders headstones from Jude anymore, and women look away when Sue passes them on the street. Jude and Sue try to alleviate this by going to London for a few days and changing Sue’s name to Mrs. Fawley when they get back, but not everyone believes that they went through with the marriage.

Jude gets a job restoring the Ten Commandments inside a nearby church. He allows Sue to assist him with the carving. Time interrupts them - he has run away from school at midday because of bullies teasing him about his mother. The churchwarden and the parishioners see Sue working alongside Jude and are shocked. The churchwarden tells a story about another church that hired drunk workers to repaint the commandments, and the workers left out the word “not” in each item.

Although Jude and Sue are able to see the humor in the situation, they are upset when the contractor who gave them the job dismisses them before it is finished. Jude becomes an officer in the Artizans’ Mutual Improvement Society, an intellectual collective for workers. However, he is forced to resign when they hear about the incident with Sue at the church. Jude and Sue realize they cannot live in Aldbrickham, so they hold an estate sale and make plans to move elsewhere. No one will pay very much for their things because Jude and Sue are so disgraced. They sell Sue’s pet pigeons to the poulterer next door, although Sue is so upset at the thought of them being killed for meat that she frees them. When she gets home, she and Jude talk about how the world is full of “mutual butchery” (304) while Time listens intently.

Chapter VII

For the next two and a half years, Jude, Sue, and Time live an itinerant lifestyle, moving to a new town whenever Jude can get some freelance stonemasonry work. One day, Arabella - now dressed in a widow’s mourning clothes - and her friend Anny go to the spring fair in Kennetbridge. Arabella sees Sue and Time selling cakes and gingerbreads shaped like the buildings of Christminster. As Sue and Arabella catch up, we learn that Cartlett died six weeks ago, and Sue has started selling baked goods since Jude became too sick to work. She and Jude have had two children and Sue is pregnant with a third. Arabella advises Sue to resign herself to an unsatisfying life.

Chapter VIII

Arabella goes back to Anny and confides in her friend that she still loves Jude. Anny’s advice is more sensible this time - she tells Arabella to do her best to stay faithful to her dead husband. On their way back to Alfredston, Arabella and Anny pick up a hitchhiker who turns out to be Mr. Phillotson. Although his career was destroyed, Mr. Phillotson does not regret giving Sue the divorce because he knows it was the right thing to do. Arabella tells him that Sue is also suffering financial misfortune. According to Arabella, Phillotson was wrong to divorce Sue because she was not yet Jude’s lover at the time they split up, and they both could have avoided disgrace and poverty if they had stayed married. When Sue gets home, Jude is feeling better and suggests they move back to Christminster. Although his academic career never worked out, he still loves the city.


In the first half of Jude the Obscure, Hardy focuses almost exclusively on Jude’s relationships with the people around him. This is not so in the second half. The novel’s omniscient narrator turns his attention to other characters more and more frequently as the novel nears its close. In these chapters, Hardy highlights the relationship between Sue and Arabella that we first witnessed in Chapter II of “At Aldbrickham and Elsewhere”.

Despite their different personalities, Arabella often assumes the role of mentor when she is talking to Sue. This is partly because Arabella has a bossy personality (she also gives unsolicited advice to Phillotson), but still Arabella seems to have some insight into Sue’s feelings and emotions that no other character does. In Chapter II she correctly infers that Sue is insecure about her relationship with Jude, and when they meet in Kennetbridge, Arabella picks up immediately on Sue’s dissatisfaction with her life.

Country life is a very important theme in this novel, and in this section, Hardy emphasizes the relationship between rustic life and superstition (Webb 3). Arabella buys a love potion from Physician Vilbert, and Anny suggests that she put her hands on a lock of Cartlett’s hair to help eliminate her feelings for Jude. However, even characters that are ostensibly intelligent submit to the logic of superstition. For example, Jude and Sue are unsettled when they hear Widow Edlin’s story about the gibbet, even though they don’t know whether they are actually related to the father in the story.

The Widow Edlin’s story is an example of this section’s preoccupation with the oral tradition. In these chapters, we get two long, verbatim representations of minor characters telling stories - first the Widow Edlin about the gibbet, and then the churchwarden about the drunk workers. These stories are usually rendered phonetically in the rural dialect. Importantly, the Widow Edlin and the churchwarden speak with thicker accents when telling the stories than they do in conversation, which suggests the close relationship between the oral storytelling tradition and country life.

Another motif recurs here - Jude and Sue's relationship to animals. In Chapter X of "At Marygreen", Jude and Arabella's differing reactions to the pig-killing precipitates the dissolution of their marriage. Jude's sensitivity evinced by his squeamishness while killing the pig is echoed in Chapter II of "At Shaston", when the suffering of a caught rabbit keeps both he and his cousin awake. As opposed to the earlier scene, here the similarity of the lovers' reactions communicate their compatibility; the next day, they kiss for the first time. In this section, Sue is distraught when her pet pigeons are auctioned off to a poulterer. On a whim, she frees her pets when she comes across the poulterer's shop. Sue realizes her sensitivity gets the best of her, but she can't help but lament the "mutual butchery" inherent in Nature. Indeed, Sue, also trapped by circumstances beyond her control, wishes to free herself.

Although Jude has been somewhat itinerant for the entire novel, he moves cities every month or so after the people of Aldbrickham find out he was not married to Sue. This lifestyle is unusual for a character in a rustic novel, since most Victorian novels that take place in the countryside put great emphasis on the character of the specific town where the novel takes place. Examples of this include George Eliot’s Middlemarch and Hardy’s The Return of the Native. The fact that Jude the Obscure takes place in so many locations sharpens its satirical edge, since it means that the points Hardy makes about rural life are easier to generalize.