Jude the Obscure

Jude the Obscure Summary and Analysis of At Marygreen: Chapters 7-11


Chapter VII

Jude had planned to study the Greek version of the New Testament on Sunday, but he cannot resist calling on Arabella instead. He is put off when her father remarks in a businesslike manner that Jude is “courting” his daughter. However, when the two go walking near the barn, Jude is so taken with Arabella that he forgets his scholarly ambitions entirely. Arabella spots a fire on the horizon and suggests they go see it, but it is further than they expected and by the time they arrive, it has been put out. They stop for tea at a pub on the way back, but the tea takes so long to arrive that they end up ordering beer. Arabella complains that the beer is adulterated but drinks it anyway. The women who work at the pub are surprised that Jude is keeping such questionable company.

As they walk home, Jude thinks he is being very bold with Arabella by taking her arm, but Arabella silently wishes he would go further. Despite this rocky start, they kiss several times before returning to Arabella’s home, several hours later than Jude had planned. When they arrive, Arabella’s family and neighbors are awaiting them. They treat Jude as though his courting Arabella were a very serious thing, which makes him uncomfortable. Nevertheless, he remains infatuated with her. Meanwhile, Arabella tells her friends Anny and Sarah every detail of her new relationship with Jude. She says he is just the type of man she wants to marry. They suggest a way for her to ensnare him in marriage. Although this part of their conversation is not related explicitly, Hardy strongly implies that they tell Arabella to get pregnant out of wedlock.

Chapter VIII

One day when Jude calls on Arabella, her pigs have escaped. He helps her fetch them and put them back into the pen, but one gets out of their reach and leads them to the edge of the Donn property before escaping entirely. Jude and Arabella give up and have a moment of sexual tension, but Arabella is affronted when Jude tries to kiss her and treats him coldly as they walk back to her house. That Sunday, she hears from a neighbor that Jude has always planned to move to Christminster, which she did not know. Arabella realizes that she needs to seduce Jude into marriage before he leaves town, so she asks her parents to go call on their friends on Sunday night. They agree, and Arabella invites Jude inside after their weekly walk. She shows him her hen's egg, a delicate egg she is carrying between her breasts until it hatches. She teases him and it is alluded that they have sex.

Chapter IX

Two months later, Jude plans to break up with Arabella so he can move to Christminster. As he begins to broach the topic, she announces that she is pregnant (although she is not yet sure, a fact she does not tell Jude). Jude quickly agrees to marry her, although he knows that she is “not worth a great deal as a specimen of womankind” (61). They marry the following week. The villagers are smug about the failure of Jude’s scholarly ambitions, but everyone agrees that the marriage is consistent with his honorable character.

The newlyweds buy a cottage outside of Marygreen since they cannot afford to live in town and need the extra income from keeping pigs and a vegetable garden. On their wedding night, Jude is surprised and annoyed to discover that Arabella wears hair extensions, a habit she picked up while working as a barmaid in Aldbrickham - a fact Jude did not know. One day, Arabella runs into her friend Anny while doing errands in town. She confesses to Anny that she is not actually pregnant - it turned out to be a false alarm. Anny comments that this is an excellent ‘double trick’ - much better than forcing a man into marriage by actual pregnancy. Arabella insists that she made a genuine mistake. When she reveals the news to Jude, she does so in a casual, offhand way. Although he is not angry at Arabella, Jude becomes frustrated with the institution of marriage more generally.

Chapter X

One day, Jude and Arabella need to slaughter their pig. They normally hire a man named Challow to do this, but he does not show up. Arabella volunteers, but Jude insists on doing it, even though he is uncomfortable killing an animal. She explains to him that he must slit the pig’s vein and allow it to bleed to death slowly so the meat will not be bloody. Jude is horrified by this. He slits the pig’s throat quickly and violently, granting it a quick death. He is so disturbed by the sight of the pig bleeding to death that he kicks over the bucket of blood in frustration. The waste of the blood - which could be used to make sausage - irritates Arabella, who is already upset at Jude for not listening to her instructions. Challow arrives just as they finish the task.

On the way back from his apprenticeship in Aldbrickham, Jude overhears one of Arabella’s friends, presumably Anny or Sarah, speaking to another girl in a shed. The friend is bragging about having put Arabella up to pressuring Jude into marriage. Jude is furious when he hears this. He calms himself down by eating dinner at Aunt Drusilla’s. When he gets home he gently confronts Arabella about the matter, but she coldly replies, “Every woman has a right to do such as that. The risk is hers” (71). Jude remains level-headed, and explains to her that it is wrong to play a trick like that when a man’s future is at stake.

Chapter XI

The next morning, Jude and Arabella continue to bicker about the circumstances of their marriage. In the heat of the argument, Arabella throws Jude’s books on the floor, and continues to do so even after he asks her to stop. He is overcome with anger and grabs her by the arms until she promises to stop soiling his books. She does, but then walks into the village, mussing her hair and unbuttoning her gown. She tells the villagers that Jude beats her and makes her work on a Sunday, and claims that ‘ill-use’ runs in Jude’s family––his father abused his mother, and his aunt abused his uncle. Jude has heard nothing of this, so he goes to Aunt Drusilla to inquire about it.

Aunt Drusilla explains that Jude’s parents disagreed frequently, until finally they gave up and went their separate ways, at which point Jude’s father took Jude to South Wessex, where they lived until Jude’s father died. His mother drowned herself after the separation. Likewise, Jude’s father’s sister left her husband when they stopped getting along, and moved to London with her lady maid. Aunt Drusilla believes this is because the Fawleys are ill-suited for marriage. She mentions that Jude’s parents split up on the road to the barn, near a gibbet that is also related to the family history - although she doesn’t want to get into that right now.

On the way back from Aunt Drusilla’s, Jude contemplates suicide. He walks to the middle of a frozen pond and jumps a few times, but is unable to break the ice. Instead, he goes to a pub and gets drunk. When he gets home, Arabella has left with her possessions, leaving behind a note saying she is with friends and will not return. A few days later, he gets a letter from Arabella, saying she wants to move with her parents to Australia and asking his permission. Jude grants it, and sends her all the money he has.

When he hears that the Donns are having an estate sale to prepare for their move, he sends Arabella all of the household possessions. In the broker's shop a few days later, he sees a photograph of himself that he gave to Arabella as a wedding present. This obliterates any remaining feelings he had for her. He buys the photograph and burns it. Several days later, he sees a milestone on the road leading to Christminster. On the back of the milestone, he finds the words "THITHER J.F.", which he had carved when he was younger, along with an arrow pointing in the direction of Christminster. Jude realizes that he is finally free to realize his dream of being a scholar, and resolves to go to Christminster at the end of his apprenticeship.


In these chapters, Hardy’s methods of characterization remain consistent with his earlier strategies. He continues to resist direct assessments of his characters, and instead reveals their personalities through telling moments. One such incident is when Jude first discovers that Arabella wears hair extensions. The extensions themselves are symbols of Arabella’s shallowness and artificiality, and hearken back to earlier hints at this side of her personality, such as her tendency to create dimples by sucking the inside of her cheeks.

However, the interaction also reveals a new side to Jude’s personality. Although he is initially upset and even a bit vindictive at Arabella’s accessorizing, he thinks it over and decides that perhaps there is no great harm in a woman wearing extensions. Hardy reinforces Jude’s newfound maturity and thoughtfulness by showing how he resists losing his temper when he first learns the true circumstances of his marriage to Arabella.

In the second half of "At Marygreen", Hardy foregrounds his critique of marriage as an institution. When Jude and Arabella marry, the narrator comments that it’s odd how no one at the ceremony notices how foolhardy it is to base a permanent contract on temporary feelings. By framing this comment in broad terms rather than making it about Jude and Arabella specifically, Hardy makes it clear that this is not just a story about one unhappy marriage, but rather a critique of the practice as a whole. In an unusual moment of wisdom, Aunt Drusilla makes a similar comment.

Although Arabella is depicted as flighty and inconsiderate, Hardy complicates this portrayal when she and Jude must slaughter the pig. He is careful to treat this scene evenhandedly; although he is sympathetic toward Jude’s distaste for killing animals, he also acknowledges the validity of Arabella’s point that “poor folks must live” (69). Arabella’s deft handling of the slaughter contrasts sharply with Jude’s incompetence, and for the first time, Hardy allows us to understand why some of the townspeople think Jude ridiculous. He is so absorbed in his studies that he has lost touch with the realities of country life. Whatever her negative qualities, Arabella is the one who keeps the household finances in a difficult situation.

Given that this section takes place in a village, it is perhaps appropriate that most of Hardy’s symbols are drawn from the natural world. The Cochin hen's egg is a particular multilayered symbol. On the most superficial level, it evokes Arabella’s fertility, something that Arabella is conscious of and uses to seduce Jude. She even emphasizes this symbolism by holding the egg between her breasts. However, the egg could also be a reference to Arabella’s natural, even atavistic qualities. Unlike Jude, she is engaged with the world around her and proves herself adept at old-fashioned farming tasks like butchering a pig. By literally nursing an animal, she demonstrates a connection to the natural world that Jude, with his love for books and stonemasonry, lacks.