Jude the Obscure

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Richard Phillotson Character Analysis

Jude’s schoolmaster at Marygreen who moves to Christminster and fails to be accepted at the university there. Phillotson remains as a teacher, and he later hires Sue and falls in love with her. They marry, but Sue finds she cannot live with Phillotson as a husband. Though Phillotson is a conservative man, he finds that letting Sue leave him feels like the most moral decision, and he sticks by it even when he is punished by society for his disgrace and loses his job and respectability. Phillotson is a kindly, ethical man, but Sue’s lack of love for him causes him great torment.

Richard Phillotson Quotes in Jude the Obscure

The Jude the Obscure quotes below are all either spoken by Richard Phillotson or refer to Richard Phillotson. 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 4, Chapter 2 Quotes

Jude, before I married him I had never thought out fully what marriage meant, even though I knew… I am certain one ought to be allowed to undo what one has done so ignorantly. I daresay it happens to lots of women; only they submit, and I kick… When people of a later age look back upon the barbarous customs and superstitions of the times that we have the unhappiness to live in, what will they say!

Related Characters: Sue Bridehead (speaker), Jude Fawley, Richard Phillotson
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:

Jude and Sue's aunt has died, and they have met in Marygreen for the funeral. Sue has confessed that she likes Phillotson as a friend but finds him repulsive as a husband. She tells Jude that she wishes it were possible "to undo what one has done so ignorantly," and that she believes people in the future will look back on marriage as a "barbarous custom." Although Sue has previously claimed to be more pagan than modern, in this passage she strongly identifies herself with a more enlightened, fair, and rational future that she imagines will follow the era in which she lives. Note the similarity between Sue's objection to marriage and that expressed by Jude; both point to the absurdity of committing forever to feelings that can change so quickly.

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Part 4, Chapter 3 Quotes

“What is the use of thinking of laws and ordinances,” she burst out, “if they make you miserable when you know you are committing no sin?”
“But you are committing a sin in not liking me.”
“I do like you! But I didn’t reflect it would be – that it would be so much more than that… For a man and woman to live on intimate terms when one feels as I do is adultery, in any circumstances, however legal. There – I’ve said it!... Will you let me, Richard?”

Related Characters: Sue Bridehead (speaker), Richard Phillotson (speaker)
Page Number: 222
Explanation and Analysis:

Jude and Sue have parted ways, kissing passionately before doing so. Jude has decided that, since he loves Sue so fiercely, he cannot join the clergy; meanwhile, Sue is tormented by her feelings for Jude, and hides from Phillotson in a closet. Phillotson confronts her, and Sue tells him vaguely that she is "miserable" and that living intimately with him would constitute "adultery... however legal." Sue's words reveal her strong opposition to legalistic understandings of morality. Rather than judge her own behavior against moral rules and societal norms, Sue evaluates her situation as individual and unique. At the same time, it is clear that she is very much concerned with morality, a concern made evident by her reference to adultery and "sin." 

Part 5, Chapter 8 Quotes

“She’d have come round in time. We all do! Custom does it! it’s all the same in the end! However, I think she’s quite fond of her man still – whatever he med be of her. You were too quick about her. I shouldn’t have let her go! I should have kept her chained on – her spirit for kicking would have been broke soon enough! There’s nothing like bondage and a stone-deaf task-master for taming us women. Besides, you’ve got the laws on your side. Moses knew… ‘Then shall the man be guiltless; but the woman shall bear her iniquity.’ Damn rough on us women; but we must grin and put up wi’ it – Haw haw! – Well; she’s got her deserts now.”
“Yes,” said Phillotson, with biting sadness. “Cruelty is the law pervading all nature and society; and we can’t get out of it if we would!”

Related Characters: Arabella Donn (speaker), Richard Phillotson (speaker), Jude Fawley
Page Number: 318
Explanation and Analysis:

Arabella has run into Phillotson on the road and introduced herself to him. Phillotson reveals that he was disgraced as a result of divorcing Sue, and Arabella tells him that Sue is now unhappy and that Phillotson should have stayed with her. Arabella's words present a bleak, depressing view of gender, marriage, and indeed human existence in general. She compares women to horses that need to be tamed, and says that Sue has got what she deserved. Phillotson is not as harsh, but seems lost and defeated by the tragic circumstances of his life, exclaiming that "cruelty is the law pervading all of nature and society."

In many ways, this statement can be interpreted as the main message of the novel. Regardless of the choices one makes––whether one chooses to pursue individual happiness and freedom or succumbs to societal expectations––life is ruthless and most people are miserable. Arabella's claim that "it's all the same in the end" resonates with this bleak view of humanity. No matter how hard people try to find happiness, they are inevitably broken down by the cruelty of life. 

Part 6, Chapter 5 Quotes

It was like a re-enactment by the ghosts of their former selves of the similar scene which had taken place at Melchester years before. When the books were signed the vicar congratulated the husband and wife on having performed a noble, and righteous, and mutually forgiving act. “All’s well that ends well,” he said smiling. “May you long be happy together, after thus having been ‘saved as by fire.’”

Related Characters: Sue Bridehead, Richard Phillotson
Page Number: 369
Explanation and Analysis:

Sue has decided to remarry Phillotson, although she is still physically repulsed by him, panicked about the prospect of being married, and in love with Jude. Even Phillotson begins to doubt whether the marriage is a good idea, but eventually decides that they must go ahead with it in order to conform to societal expectations. This passage describes the ceremony, during which the priest's positivity contrasts distinctly with the doubt, misery, and fear felt by the bride and groom. The priest's declaration that "all's well that ends well" is devastatingly ironic considering all that has happened and how unhappy an "ending" this is. This confirms the notion that societal conventions such as marriage are not designed with people's best interests at heart, but rather function as a way to force people to conform to legalistic understandings of religion and morality. 

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Richard Phillotson Character Timeline in Jude the Obscure

The timeline below shows where the character Richard Phillotson appears in Jude the Obscure. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
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In the small town of Marygreen, everyone is upset because the schoolmaster, Richard Phillotson, is leaving. He is moving to Christminster, which is a university town about twenty miles... (full context)
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Jude is sad that Phillotson is leaving, as he has been Jude’s best and closest teacher. Phillotson reveals his secret... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
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...he is a “poor useless boy.” She tells Jude that he should have gone with Phillotson to Christminster, as Jude is “crazy for books” just like his cousin Sue, who lives... (full context)
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...he should go to Christminster. Jude asks her about it and whether he could visit Phillotson there, but Drusilla says that the people in Marygreen and Christminster never associate with each... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
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...Instead of seeing individual lights he sees a vague glow this time, but he imagines Phillotson in the light like a holy figure. Jude then imagines a sound of bells, or... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
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...well.) Jude is disappointed, and realizes what “shoddy humanity” Vilbert is made of. Soon afterwards Phillotson sends for his piano, and Jude hides a note inside the instrument requesting any old... (full context)
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After a few weeks Phillotson sends Jude two grammar books. Jude begins to read them excitedly, but then he is... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1
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...of different writers. The next morning he remembers that he is here to find Mr. Phillotson and his cousin Sue. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2
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...try to find Sue. Jude decides to wait until he is more settled before finding Phillotson, whom he assumes is now a parson. Jude wanders about the colleges for days before... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4
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Jude asks Sue if she knows Mr. Phillotson (whom he assumes is a parson), but she says she only knows a schoolmaster of... (full context)
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They find Phillotson, and his “homely complexion” destroys the idealized vision Jude had had of him. Phillotson doesn’t... (full context)
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...Fontover, who broke her statues when she saw them. Jude proposes that Sue work for Phillotson as a teacher, and she agrees to consider it. The next day Jude visits Phillotson... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5
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Sue starts working for Phillotson right away. It is part of his responsibility to give her private lessons, but according... (full context)
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On Friday Jude goes out to meet Sue and Phillotson, but as he (unseen) watches them approaching he sees Phillotson put his arm around Sue’s... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1
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...him about the strictness of the Training College, which she finds abrasive. She mentions that Phillotson might find her a teaching job after she graduates. Jude asks about Phillotson’s romantic interest... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5
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...his room to find Sue dressed and ready to leave. She is suddenly worried what Phillotson will think of her for running away from the Training College. Sue decides to take... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 6
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Meanwhile Phillotson is thinking about how he has abandoned his earlier plans for Sue’s sake. One day... (full context)
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Phillotson asks Jude about Sue, and Jude assures him that nothing has happened between them, though... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 7
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Two days later Sue sends Jude a letter saying that she is marrying Phillotson in a few weeks. She signs the letter formally, with her full name. Jude is... (full context)
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Jude agrees to give Sue away, and offers that she and Phillotson stay at his lodgings in Melchester. Sue arrives ten days before the wedding and has... (full context)
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Jude takes Sue to visit the church where she is to marry Phillotson, and she walks down the aisle holding Jude’s arm, play-acting at a marriage in her... (full context)
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Jude is struck again by the cruelty of having him give Sue away to Phillotson, and he wonders why Sue keeps inflicting pain on herself and others on a whim.... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 9
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...Jude ride the train to Alfredston together, and Jude asks her about her marriage to Phillotson. Sue deflects the question for a while, claiming to be a “happy wife,” but finally... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 1
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...arrives there and comes to the schoolroom where Sue teaches, but he finds it empty. Phillotson’s old piano is there, and Jude sits down and plays “The Foot of the Cross.”... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 2
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...is only a social agreement and not a religious one. Sue hints that she finds Phillotson’s presence repulsive, and she can’t bring herself to sleep with him. She says she must... (full context)
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Jude apologizes to Sue for not warning her about marrying Phillotson. Jude and Sue vaguely discuss their relationship, and then Jude reveals that he saw Arabella... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 3
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Phillotson meets Sue at the station, and Sue admits to him that she held Jude’s hand,... (full context)
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Phillotson is surprised and questions Sue’s reasons, and she explains how she felt forced into the... (full context)
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Phillotson asks if Sue plans to live alone, and she admits that she wants to live... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 4
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One night Phillotson stays up late and accidentally returns to the room he shared with Sue out of... (full context)
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One day Phillotson goes to see his friend Gillingham, who is a teacher in a nearby town. Phillotson... (full context)
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Gillingham is shocked that he would even consider this option, but Phillotson feels that it might be the most moral thing to do, though it goes against... (full context)
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Gillingham argues that such action threatens the social unit of the family, but Phillotson says he is just trying to do what he personally feels is right. As Phillotson... (full context)
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The next morning Phillotson tells Sue that she is free to leave and do as she pleases. She is... (full context)
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Phillotson sends Sue off to the train station and pretends to kiss her as they part.... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 5
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...and now lives only for Sue. They take the train and Sue describes how kind Phillotson was to her. Jude tells her that Arabella wrote requesting a formal divorce. (full context)
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...whether she loves Jude or not. For now she says that out of respect for Phillotson she would prefer that she and Jude remain platonic. Sue also comments that in a... (full context)
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Jude shows Sue a note he received from Phillotson, asking that Jude be kind to Sue and affirming that the two are “made for... (full context)
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Sue breaks down crying, saying that she jumped out the window rather than sleep with Phillotson. Sue is clearly jealous, so Jude tells her that Arabella has taken a second husband.... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 6
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Back in Shaston, Phillotson is the subject of much gossip from the townspeople. Soon the chairman of his school... (full context)
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Despite Gillingham’s advice Phillotson continues stubbornly forward, and he calls a public meeting to defend himself. All the “respectable... (full context)
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Gillingham convinces Phillotson to write to Sue about his illness, and a few days later she visits him.... (full context)
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Afterwards Gillingham visits Phillotson, and Phillotson tells him that he has decided to formally divorce Sue. He recognizes that... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 8
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Later in the journey Arabella comes across Mr. Phillotson in the road. She recognizes him and introduces herself. Phillotson reveals that he has been... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 1
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...an outsider, and then finally agrees to leave with Sue. Sue says that she saw Phillotson in the crowd opposite them. (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 3
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...idea that they are being punished, and she decides that she still rightfully belongs to Phillotson, as she and Jude never really married. She feels that she has sinned against God... (full context)
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...going to church in secret, and she thinks she must leave Jude and return to Phillotson. Jude realizes that he and Sue are switching places in terms of religious belief. (full context)
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...begs Jude to leave her, as she is now convinced that she must return to Phillotson. Jude pleads with Sue but finally relents, saying that their “highest and purest love” is... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 4
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Meanwhile Phillotson is at Marygreen ruminating on his encounter with Arabella. He reads about the deaths of... (full context)
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Phillotson writes to Sue and asks her to come to Marygreen. He also writes that he... (full context)
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...out and meet her. They go to the cemetery together and Sue tells Jude that Phillotson has agreed to take her back and marry her again. Jude begs her to reconsider,... (full context)
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...to show her the error of her ways. She tells Jude that she will marry Phillotson at Marygreen, and asks him to send her her belongings. Then she bids Jude farewell,... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 5
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...to work. Meanwhile Sue takes the train to Marygreen and arrives like a supplicant at Phillotson’s house. Phillotson welcomes her, but when he tries to kiss her Sue shrinks back. She... (full context)
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...Jude. She burns it, despite Mrs. Edlin’s protests. Mrs. Edlin begs Sue not to marry Phillotson, as she is still clearly in love with Jude. (full context)
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Meanwhile Gillingham congratulates Phillotson on winning Sue back. Phillotson has second thoughts, recognizing Sue’s reluctance, but then he decides... (full context)
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The next morning Sue looks small and tired, but she goes with Phillotson to the church. They go through with the marriage, but Phillotson feels like he is... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 6
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...stay in the attic. Arabella tells Jude that Sue went through with her marriage to Phillotson. A few days later Jude is still depressed, and Arabella offers to go visit Anny... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 9
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...Sue has decided to do a “penance” for this act by making herself sleep with Phillotson, though he hasn’t asked her. Mrs. Edlin tries to dissuade her, but Sue declares that... (full context)
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...to go to bed Sue seems terrified, but then she steels herself and goes to Phillotson’s room. Sue tells Phillotson about her meeting with Jude and their kiss. Phillotson is slightly... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 10
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One day the Widow Edlin visits Jude, and she tells him that Sue and Phillotson have consummated their marriage, though Sue only made herself do it as a punishment. Jude... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 11
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...and that Sue looks “tired and miserable” all the time now and still can’t stand Phillotson’s company. Mrs. Edlin says she hopes Sue has found some forgiveness and peace, but Arabella... (full context)