One weekend the nineteen-year-old Jude is walking to Marygreen from Alfredston. He feels optimistic about reaching Christminster soon, and he recites aloud his accomplishments in learning Greek and Latin. He declares that once he saves enough money, a college is sure to accept him. He even dreams of becoming an archdeacon or bishop one day.
This is Jude’s high point just before his loss of innocence, when it seems that he might actually be able to achieve his dream of Christminster. He dreams of joining the church, but mostly as an afterthought to his intellectual and scholastic desires.
Jude is suddenly struck on the ear by a piece of pig’s flesh (genitalia, though the narrator never explicitly names it), interrupting his speech. He hears laughter and sees three young woman washing “chitterlings” in a nearby stream. The girls tease Jude about the pig’s flesh, and one girl in particular gets his attention.
Because of the repressive viewpoint Victorian society took toward sex, Hardy can never mention anything sexual outright, and even pregnancy is only talked around. The pig’s flesh introduces Arabella as a sensual, worldly woman distracting Jude from his lofty dreams.
The girl introduces herself as Arabella Donn, the daughter of the pig farmer, and she boldly separates herself from the group to talk to Jude. She produces dimples in her cheeks at will, and Jude is struck by her prettiness, having never really noticed a woman before. He asks if he can see her the next day (Sunday), and Arabella agrees.
Jude is a “tragic hero” because it is not only his external situation that leads to his downfall, but also a “fatal flaw” within himself – mostly his weakness regarding women. Arabella’s practiced dimples immediately show her artificiality. For her, Jude is a prize to be won by any means necessary.
Jude leaves in a daze, suddenly feeling like his studies and work are not so important. Jude’s intellectual side recognizes his foolishness, but then it is overwhelmed by thoughts of Arabella’s charms. Meanwhile Arabella talks to her friends about “catching” Jude.
Hardy begins his critique of marriage by showing how the institution can be abused. Arabella doesn’t really love Jude, she just wants a husband, and through the conventions of marriage it is easy to entrap him and distract him from his dream.