Jude the Obscure

Jude the Obscure

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Little Father Time Character Analysis

Jude’s son with Arabella, he was born in Australia and sent to England to live with Jude years later. The boy was never named or given love, and his nickname is “Little Father Time” because he seems old beyond his years. Jude and Sue christen him as “Jude,” but his old nickname sticks. Little Father Time is a world-weary, depressed child who lacks any curiosity or joy. He is portrayed as a result of the divorce, lovelessness, and bad luck in his life, and in this he acts as a symbol as well as a character. Little Father Time ultimately takes Sue’s depressed words to heart and kills himself and Sue’s two children in order to try to free Sue and Jude from their burdens.

Little Father Time Quotes in Jude the Obscure

The Jude the Obscure quotes below are all either spoken by Little Father Time or refer to Little Father Time. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Marriage Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Jude the Obscure published in 1998.
Part 5, Chapter 4 Quotes

“Nobody thought o’ being afeared o’ matrimony in my time, nor of much else but a cannon-ball or empty cupboard. Why when I and my poor man were married we thought no more o’t than of a game o’ dibs.”
“Don’t tell the child when he comes in,” whispered Sue nervously. “He’ll think it has all gone on right, and it will be better that he should not be surprised and puzzled. Of course it is only put off for reconsideration. If we are happy as we are, what does it matter to anybody?”

Related Characters: Sue Bridehead (speaker), The Widow Edlin (speaker), Little Father Time
Related Symbols: Little Father Time
Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:

Jude and Sue have adopted Little Father Time, and begun the process of getting married; however, the Widow Edlin has told a story about an unhappy marriage in their family that causes them to doubt whether they should proceed, and eventually they decide to postpone the wedding. In this passage, the Widow Edlin comments that nobody was afraid of marriage in the old days, and treated the whole matter casually. This illustrates the way in which Sue and Jude are distinctly modern figures, representing a new era. Unlike the Widow, they place a great deal of emphasis on the emotional aspect of marriage, and how it might change their relationship.

Meanwhile, Sue pleads that the Widow not mention the fact that she and Jude did not go through with the marriage to Little Father Time. Although she strives to live freely and unconventionally in her own life, Sue is evidently concerned with how this lifestyle will affect her adopted son. While she claims that "If we are happy as we are, what does it matter to anybody?", it is evident that Sue realizes that it does matter, even if she disagrees with the logic people use to judge unmarried couples. Overall, this passage confirms the difficulty of negotiating a life that runs counter to societal norms and expectations.

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Part 6, Chapter 2 Quotes

“It would almost be better to be out o’ the world than in it, wouldn’t it?”
“It would almost, dear.”
“’Tis because of us children, too, isn’t it, that you can’t get a good lodging.”
“Well – people do object to children sometimes.”
“Then if children make so much trouble, why do people have ‘em?”
“O – because it is a law of nature.”
“But we don’t ask to be born?”
“No indeed.”
“And what makes it worse with me is that you are not my real mother, and you needn’t have had me unless you liked. I oughtn’t to have come to ‘ee – that’s the real truth! I troubled ‘em in Australia; and I trouble folk here. I wish I hadn’t been born!”

Related Characters: Sue Bridehead (speaker), Little Father Time (speaker)
Related Symbols: Christminster, Little Father Time
Page Number: 333
Explanation and Analysis:

In Christminster, Sue, Jude and the children have been refused lodging because of the fact that Sue and Jude aren't married. Sue is deeply depressed, and in this passage talks to Little Father Time about the difficulty of life. Although she doesn't mean to, Sue inadvertently confirms Little Father Time's suspicions that she and Jude would be better off if the children didn't exist. (This will eventually lead to Little Father Time's horrific murder-suicide.) The boy's world-weary personality suggests that, despite his young age, he understands the world better than the adults around him. Aspects of life that adults don't question––such as why people have children, given that life is so hard––trouble Little Father Time. His philosophical reflections on these matters show both his intelligence and his deep pessimism about life.

“No,” said Jude. “It was in his nature to do it. The doctor says that there are such boys springing up amongst us – boys of a sort unknown in the last generation – the outcome of new views of life. They seem to see all its terrors before they are old enough to have staying power to resist them. He says it is the beginning of the coming universal wish not to live.”

Related Characters: Jude Fawley (speaker), Little Father Time
Related Symbols: Little Father Time
Page Number: 337
Explanation and Analysis:

The day after Sue and Little Father Time's conversation about life, Sue goes to bring the children breakfast only to discover all three children hanged––Little Father Time has murdered the others before killing himself. Though all three are dead, Jude summons a doctor anyway, who confirms that there is no hope for them and adds that Little Father Time was in some sense predestined to commit suicide. The doctor even suggests that Little Father Time's actions were representative of "the coming universal wish not to live." This remarkable statement is surprising given the shocking nature of the murder-suicide. Little Father Time's actions completely contradict the way children are expected to behave, and thus the doctor's words indicate the boy's total dissimilarity from traditional ideas of childhood innocence.

Indeed, as Jude stresses in this passage, Little Father Time seems to have bypassed this state of innocence altogether, arriving at a sorrowful, pessimistic view of the world before he is old enough to be able to properly cope with suffering. The doctor's suggestions that Little Father Time is representative of a more general "wish not to live" emphasizes Little Father Time's association with a bleak, cruel future. At the same time, this death-drive itself is a cancellation of futurity, suggesting that even as Little Father Time symbolizes the coming of modernity, this future world is just darkness, nihilism, and death.

The boy’s face expressed the whole tale of their situation. On that little shape had converged all the inauspiciousness and shadow which had darkened the first union of Jude, and all the accidents, mistakes, fears, errors of the last. He was their nodal point, their focus, their expression in a single term. For the rashness of those parents he had groaned, for their ill-assortment he had quaked, and for the misfortunes of these he had died.

Related Characters: Jude Fawley, Little Father Time
Related Symbols: Little Father Time
Page Number: 337
Explanation and Analysis:

Little Father Time has hanged his siblings and then himself in a horrifying murder-suicide. A doctor has told Jude and Sue that Little Father Time's nihilistic view of the world is symbolic of a new desire for death among the younger generation. Jude and Sue go to see the children's bodies, and feel that Little Father Time's face "expressed the whole tale of their situation." This passage utilizes the language typically used to describe parental love for children in positive terms, while twisting it in a decidedly sinister way, suggesting that Little Father Time has paid for his parents' "accidents, mistakes, fears, [and] errors." Once again, Little Father Time is represented less as an individual character than a symbol for some of the novel's key themes—a kind of Christ figure of modernity, who dies without reason or hope because of the sins of the world.

Part 6, Chapter 3 Quotes

“I see marriage differently now!... My babies have been taken from me to show me this! Arabella’s child killing mine was a judgment; the right slaying the wrong. What, what shall I do! I am such a vile creature – too worthless to mix with ordinary human beings.”
…He returned vehemently… “You make me hate Christianity, or mysticism, or Sacerdotalism, or whatever it may be called, if it’s that which has caused this deterioration in you. That a woman-poet, a woman-seer, a woman whose soul shone like a diamond – whom all the wise of the world would have been proud of, if they could have known you – should degrade herself like this! I am glad I had nothing to do with Divinity – damn glad – if it’s going to ruin you in this way!”

Related Characters: Jude Fawley (speaker), Sue Bridehead (speaker), Arabella Donn, Little Father Time
Related Symbols: Little Father Time
Page Number: 350
Explanation and Analysis:

Following the children's deaths, Sue and Jude and have moved to Beersheba, where they live in a state of depression and despair. Sue has declared that they are being punished by God, and thus have "no choice" but to "conform." In this passage, Sue explains her dramatic change of heart, telling Jude that she interprets Little Father Time killing her children as "the right slaying the wrong." Jude responds by telling Sue that she makes him "hate Christianity, or mysticism, or Sacerdotalism," and feel glad that he's not religious. Jude's reply is interesting, as it highlights the fact that he has now taken on Sue's previous beliefs wholeheartedly, and is indeed defending them from Sue herself. Jude and Sue have switched places, and Jude is now the one speaking with Hardy's skeptical and pessimistic but defiant voice.

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Little Father Time Character Timeline in Jude the Obscure

The timeline below shows where the character Little Father Time appears in Jude the Obscure. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 5, Chapter 3
Marriage Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
...is now Cartlett. In the letter Arabella says that she had given birth to a child by Jude after she moved to Australia. She left the boy with her parents in... (full context)
Marriage Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Sue is upset by the plight of the unwanted child, and she asks Jude if they can take him in. Jude agrees, saying it doesn’t... (full context)
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
The “small, pale child” arrives earlier than expected, so no one is there to meet him at the train... (full context)
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
The child reaches the house just as Jude and Sue are going to bed, and they are... (full context)
Marriage Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
The child immediately asks Sue if he can call her “mother,” and the two strike up a... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 2
Marriage Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
They go to see the children’s bodies, and on Little Father Time’s face they seem to see the expression and condensation... (full context)