Jude the Obscure

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Jude the Obscure Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Jude returns home. He lives with his great-aunt, Drusilla Fawley, who is a baker, as both his parents are dead. Drusilla is talking to some neighbors when Jude walks in, and she mentions aloud that it would have been better if Jude had died with his parents, as 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 elsewhere. Drusilla says that Jude’s parents had divorced, and she advises the young Jude to never marry, as marriage always goes badly for Fawleys.
Hardy lays out all his themes from the start, as this novel will be very open in its social critiques and pessimistic worldview. Jude is first presented as unwanted and unloved, and also cursed regarding marriage. Divorce was rare and frowned upon in Victorian times. Drusilla first presents Christminster as an ideal for Jude, and associates the town with both his love of learning and his cousin Sue – Hardy foreshadows heavily.
Themes
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Jude feels uncomfortable at all the attention and goes off to the bakehouse to eat breakfast. Then he goes to his job, which is scaring crows away from a cornfield with a clacker. As he clacks, Jude muses on the crows and decides that they deserve some food too, as the farmer has plenty to spare. He lets the crows eat, feeling that they alone understand his plight of living in a world where he is unwanted.
Hardy immediately begins portraying Jude as a sympathetic, kindly character, one who is very sensitive to the suffering of others but who is doomed to experience great suffering of his own. Jude’s first job is basically a living scarecrow, showing just how poor and alone he is.
Themes
Fate Theme Icon
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Farmer Troutham, the owner of the cornfield, catches Jude “idling” and beats him with his own clacker. He fires Jude and sends him home, telling him never to return. Jude goes back to his aunt’s house, ashamed, and carefully avoids stepping on any earthworms on the way. He has always been unable to hurt any living things, which the narrator calls a potential “weakness of character” that will cause him to suffer greatly in his life.
Hardy often portrays the natural world as more sympathetic than human society, and Jude finds kinship with the crows and earthworms in his innocence. We are already aware that tragedy lies in wait for Jude, we just don’t know what form it will take. He is too sensitive for the harsh, unjust world that Hardy wants to critique.
Themes
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Jude goes back to his aunt, who is disappointed that he has been fired. She tells him again that 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 other. Jude goes out, feeling depressed that “mercy towards one set of creatures was cruelty towards another.”
Drusilla encourages Jude to go to Christminster, but then immediately informs him that it is hopeless. Many characters will lament the “mutual butchery” inherent in existence, which is part of Hardy’s pessimistic view of fate. No matter how good one’s intentions are, every action causes suffering to someone or something.
Themes
Fate Theme Icon
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Later that day Jude goes into town and asks a man where Christminster is. The man points north-eastward, and Jude sets out in that direction even though he has to pass through Farmer Troutham’s field. The forbidden aspect of this path seems to make Christminster more appealing.
Marygreen is set in opposition to Christminster – the unlearned, poor, working class against the wealthy, well-born upper class with the leisure to study. Jude is trying to move from one class to another, which is nearly an impossible feat in his world.
Themes
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon