Jude the Obscure

Jude the Obscure Summary and Analysis of At Christminster Again: Chapters 6-11


Chapter VI

Arabella comes to Jude’s apartment in Christminster and asks to stay with him. Her father has borrowed all of her money and then kicked her out of the house, and she has nowhere else to go. Jude reluctantly agrees. Although he claims that he doesn’t want to hear about Sue’s wedding to Phillotson, Arabella sees through this ruse and offers to go to Alfredston and talk to Anny if Jude will pay for her ticket. Jude does this, and Arabella returns with news that Sue has married Phillotson, although the wedding had a curious, melancholy tone to it. She also insinuates that she would like to get remarried to Jude. Jude has no interest whatsoever in remarrying Arabella, so he goes to a bar and gets drunk trying to forget Sue. Arabella finds him there and buys him more drinks. When Jude gets too intoxicated to walk home by himself, Arabella takes him to her father’s house, apparently in hopes of rekindling their romance.

Chapter VII

The next morning, Arabella seems to be on friendly terms with her father. She explains to him that she wants to remarry Jude, and enlists his help in keeping Jude at the house until she can persuade him. For the next three days, Arabella makes sure that Jude is drunk more or less all the time, obtains a marriage license, and plans to get him to re-propose to her at a small party. When he hears about the party, Jude asks her to invite his old friends from the pubs. At the party, Jude drunkenly promises to marry Arabella several times, and she holds him to this promise in the morning, even though he can’t remember making it (or how he got to Arabella’s house at all). They marry at the courthouse while Jude is still drunk.

Chapter VIII

Jude’s health declines after the marriage and he is unable to work. He and Arabella get along terribly, and both regret remarrying. Jude asks his wife to send for Sue, since he believes he is dying and wants to see her one last time. Arabella reluctantly agrees after extracting a promise that Jude and Sue won’t be alone together. However, Jude infers that Arabella won’t actually send for Sue, so he goes to Marygreen himself despite his illness. He demands that Sue get back together with him. Sue is initially indignant, but she quickly admits that she still loves Jude and her marriage to Mr. Phillotson is only nominal. Nevertheless, she will not run away with Jude. Jude dejectedly returns to Christminster, stopping first to feel for his youthful carving behind the milestone. It is still there, "but nearly obliterated by moss".

Chapter IX

Arabella meets Jude at the train station, and as they walk back to their apartment, Jude rambles about how he can see the ghosts of Christminster’s great academics in the streets, and they are laughing at him. At Marygreen, the Widow Edlin walks in on Sue obsessively cleaning the house. Sue confides in her about Jude’s visit, and admits that she is still in love with her cousin. Later that night, Sue goes to see Mr. Phillotson. When he stops snoring in bed for a moment, Sue speculates that Phillotson might be dead and then she would be free to go to Jude. However, Phillotson is not dead. Sue asks him to have sex with her, to make up for the time she jumped out the window when he came into her room. She also confesses to meeting with Jude and kissing him. After making Sue swear never to see Jude again and asking three times if she is sure she wants to do this, Phillotson obliges - despite Sue's obvious aversion to him.

Chapter X

Jude’s health continues to suffer, and he often rants to Arabella about his old dreams of becoming a professor. In a moment of generosity, Arabella offers to send for Sue, but Jude declines since he knows Sue no longer wishes to see him. The Widow Edlin comes to visit, and when Jude asks how Sue is, she tells him that Sue and Mr. Phillotson have started being intimate. When Physician Vilbert comes to give Jude his medicine, Jude yells at him until he goes away. Downstairs, Arabella prepares Vilbert some wine and puts the love potion in it. She flirtatiously tells him she has done so, and she and Vilbert kiss.

Chapter XI

Jude is dying. Instead of tending to him, Arabella goes to a Remembrance Week fair. Alone in the apartment, Jude calls out for water but no one brings any. He hears the music from the concert through his window and sings along. Meanwhile, some of Jude’s co-workers invite Arabella to come watch a boat race with them. Arabella wants to go, but she feigns a sense of duty to care for Jude. For the sake of appearances, she runs upstairs to check on him before going to the river, and discovers that he is dead. She pretends not to have noticed this, and goes down to the races, where she encounters Vilbert. Vilbert wants to put his arm around Arabella, but this makes her uncomfortable so she goes back to town and gets an undertaker to remove Jude’s body. The only two people at Jude’s funeral are Arabella and the Widow Edlin. The Widow tells Arabella that Sue is doing badly because she does not really love her husband. Arabella speculates that Sue will never be at peace until she joins Jude in death.


In Jude the Obscure’s final chapters, Hardy uses numerous framing devices. Early in the novel, we mostly learned about events from Jude’s perspective. However, many of the key plot points in “At Christminster Again” are filtered through the consciousness of minor characters like Tinker Taylor or the Widow Edlin. These characters are relatively flat and extraneous to the plot, but they allow the narrative to get some distance from the main characters before its close. We have spent most of the novel inhabiting the perspectives of Jude and Sue, and now Hardy uses the minor characters to show us how the average person in Wessex might react if they witnessed the story’s dramatic events.

Arabella’s character undergoes significant changes in these chapters. Her manipulative side, which we first saw in "At Marygreen", comes out in full force when she gets Jude drunk so that he will marry her. This incident contrasts starkly with Arabella’s manipulation as a young girl. When she coerced Jude to marry her, she did not realize that she was not really pregnant. By the end of the novel, Arabella is fully aware of what she is doing and simply doesn’t worry about the repercussions her actions have for Jude.

The novel’s final chapters also continue the book’s motif of superstition. Widow Edlin’s folk tale about devils disguising themselves as husbands foreshadows the way Sue’s marriage to Phillotson will seem to drain the life from her. Physician Vilbert’s fake medicines also play an important role here; the fact that Arabella consults Physician Vilbert instead of a real doctor speaks both to her rustic naïveté and to her lack of consideration for Jude.

Jude’s final meeting with Sue allows Hardy to raise questions of what constitutes a ‘real’ marriage. According to Jude, he and Sue are already married because of their deep feelings for each other and their shared experiences. The newly religious Sue believes that legal marriage is more important than individual feelings. Ultimately, the novel suggests that any sort of formal commitment - whether it’s verbal or on paper - has the potential to poison a relationship. The Widow Edlin remarks on how marriage has changed in the fifty years since her own wedding, echoing Jude and Sue's lament that they were born in the wrong time. Through their tragic romance, Hardy anticipates the changing of social mores, but not soon enough to spare his characters - or himself - from scandal.

These questions about the authenticity of a marriage may seem applicable only to the situations in this novel. However, Hardy’s interrogation of these issues touches on broader questions of morality. Does being good mean following society’s rules, or following one’s own inclinations? Is it possible to be morally right while disobeying social codes, as Phillotson does by allowing Sue to separate from him? These are the deeper problems that Jude the Obscure attempts to address.