Jude the Obscure

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Jude the Obscure Part 5, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning they ask the child his name, and he says he has no name, though his nickname is “Little Father Time” because he seems so aged and world-weary. Jude is disturbed by this, but he decides to christen the boy “Jude” when he and Sue are married. Jude and Sue go to the office that day and fill out the marriage form. They are both upset by the “sordid business” of describing their relationship in such a way, and Sue can’t even look at the contract.
Little Father Time will act as a symbol of fate and time itself, as his depressive character is the inevitable result of the divorce, injustice, and bad luck of his upbringing. Jude and Sue are again disturbed by the unromantic, legally binding aspect of the marriage contract, this supposed declaration of love.
Themes
Marriage Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Jude asks the Widow Edlin to attend the “ceremony” the next day, and she comes and spends the night at their house. She tells the couple more about the bad luck in their family, and about one of their relatives who was hanged near the Brown House. This man divorced his wife, and she left with their child. The child died, and then the husband came to steal the child’s coffin and was arrested for burglary. After this story Little Father Time advises Sue not to marry.
The Widow Edlin becomes a sort of sympathetic replacement to Drusilla. We learn more about the “fatal flaw” in the Fawley blood, which now concerns children as well as marriage. In another unhappy coincidence, these tragic occurrences took place at the Brown House, where Jude first conceived his futile dream of Christminster.
Themes
Marriage Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
The next day Sue feels even more of a sense of “tragic doom,” as if the Fawleys were like the cursed house of Atreus in Greek mythology. She and Jude are both unhappy about the marriage, but they go on to the office. It is a dreary day, and the couples in front of them include a reluctant soldier with his pregnant bride. Sue is so upset by the atmosphere of the place that Jude agrees to postpone the wedding again, and perhaps try it in a church instead.
The succeeding generations of the house of Atreus all experienced horrific tragedies, often through no fault of their own. Both Jude and Sue are very sensitive, so the foreboding weather and their prosaic companions in line are enough to scare the couple away from the marriage.
Themes
Marriage Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Sue apologizes for her inconsistency, and they go to the parish church where a wedding is already taking place. Jude and Sue are just as upset by this wedding, as watching the ignorant, innocent bride repeat her vows reminds them of their earlier bad marriages. Jude and Sue decide that they are too “sensitive” in their natures for marriage, as the institution always snuffs out the delicate spontaneity of their love. Sue compares the flowers in the bride’s hand to a garland decorating a sacrificial cow.
It is not just the lack of romance and grandiosity that upsets Jude and Sue, but the binding nature of the institution itself. They decide (probably rightly) that marriage is not for personality types like theirs, but Victorian society allows for no exception to its rules – any relationship outside of marriage is seen as sinful and is punished. Sue sees the ceremony as a funeral or sacrifice more than an affirmation of love.
Themes
Marriage Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
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Sue and Jude return home, having failed to actually get married. The Widow Edlin comments on what a big deal marriage is nowadays – in her time no one thought much of it. They decide not to tell Little Father Time that they didn’t go through with it, and declare that they will put their own happiness over society’s opinion.
The Widow Edlin gives voice to another possible solution to Hardy’s marriage problem – in earlier generations English society was not so oppressive and judgmental of others, and so marriages could be less binding and “eternal.” Jude and Sue’s optimism is tragically naïve.
Themes
Marriage Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon