Jude the Obscure

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Jude the Obscure Part 3, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Jude’s landlady comes upstairs to ask about dinner, and Jude hides Sue from her. He offers that Sue stay the night. They eat supper and Sue reminds Jude of his earlier comment about her as a “product of civilization,” and she describes herself as instead a “negation of it.” The two discuss their educations, and Sue says that she knows Latin and Greek grammar. She lists some of the authors she has read and Jude realizes that she is much more well-read than he is.
Sexuality is so taboo in Victorian society that Jude could be evicted just for having his cousin in his room alone. In this conversation Sue finally presents herself as the unique, unorthodox woman she is, and we see that she is the most intelligent character of the book. Most of Hardy’s ideas come through in her voice.
Themes
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
Sue tells Jude that she used to live platonically with an undergraduate, who lent her books. She says that he wanted to be her lover, but she did not love him. They still lived together as friends, but the undergraduate died a few years later. Sue thinks he may have died because she broke his heart.
Sue is especially progressive (for her time) in that she lived with a man without marrying or sleeping with him. Yet from her comment it is clear that the undergraduate would have wanted their relationship to be something more than platonic. In other words, society doesn’t support her views, and those views cause harm—the undergraduate dies. The undergraduate seems to foreshadow Jude’s fate.
Themes
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Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
Afterwards Sue had lost her money and then moved to Christminster to the design shop. Jude calls her innocent and unconventional, and Sue declares that she is still a virgin. Jude grows depressed by this conversation, and they start to discuss religion. Jude says he assumed Sue was a Christian because she was working in Christminster. Sue says she was cured of religion by the undergraduate, who was both irreligious and very moral. Sue mocks Christminster with Biblical quotes, saying it is decaying.
Though Sue is revolutionary in her religious and social ideas, sexually she is still the “pure woman on the pedestal” that is the stereotype of Victorian times. Sue speaks with Hardy’s voice, claiming that morality can be disassociated from religion and mocking the pompous, self-congratulatory university system. Sue, like Jude, can speak with Biblical language, but she turns it on its head to critique Christianity itself.
Themes
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Women in Society Theme Icon
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Jude is stung by Sue’s criticism of his ideal, but Sue says that he is the kind of person who most deserves to be accepted by the colleges, and it is unfair that he was “elbowed off the pavement by the millionares’ sons.” Sue offers to make Jude a “new” New Testament by cutting up the books and arranging them in the order they were probably written, with the gospels last. She then comments on the Song of Solomon, mocking how the clergy try to make a love poem into a metaphor for the church.
Sue also clarifies Hardy’s argument against the university – Jude was the ideal candidate for Christminster, but it rejected him in favor of wealth and intellectual stagnation. Sue offers a very unorthodox idea about the New Testament, treating the Bible as a historical document instead of the infallible word of God.
Themes
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
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Jude calls Sue “Voltairean” (thinking like the philosopher Voltaire), and is struck by her unorthodox ideas. They argue further but then make up, and Sue says that she wants Jude to be her intellectual comrade. Jude feels closer to her than to anyone before, and he feels that they will never be divided. Sue falls asleep and Jude goes out to the yard to wash.
Voltaire was a famous philosopher who mocked and satirized the Catholic church and religious and political intolerance. Jude uses a Biblical quote about him and Sue never being divided – it originally referred to a Christian never being separated from Christ’s love.
Themes
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon