Jude the Obscure

Jude the Obscure

Christminster Symbol Analysis

Christminster Symbol Icon

Christminster is a fictional university town based on Oxford, England. Jude first learns of it when he is eleven years old and his teacher, Mr. Phillotson, leaves Marygreen to go there. Christminster then becomes the young Jude’s goal in life, and he idealizes the place as “The New Jerusalem” and a “city of light,” watching its faint, distant glow from the roof of the Brown House. When Jude finally makes it to Christminster, he imagines the shades of dead philosophers speaking to him in the streets. In the first part of the novel Christminster symbolizes Jude’s hope and idealism, and his desire to make a better life for himself despite his low social class.

The reality of Christminster soon strikes Jude (and the reader), however, as he learns that despite his hard work and natural intelligence, the colleges are only open to the upper classes. Phillotson, his predecessor, has also failed and settled back into his earlier role as a schoolmaster, and Jude likewise remains a stonemason. In this way Christminster comes to symbolize Jude’s failed hopes and dreams, and Hardy’s pessimistic worldview. After years of moving about nomadically, Jude returns to Christminster for one last attempt to achieve his goals. It takes him a long time to realize it, but he finally gives up Christminster as a hopeless dream. He recognizes that it would take “two or three generations” to do what he tried to do in one generation – raise his social class through his own hard work and intelligence. Because of the tragedy of Jude’s situation, Christminster ultimately becomes one of Hardy’s greatest critiques of the unfairness inherent in his society.

Christminster Quotes in Jude the Obscure

The Jude the Obscure quotes below all refer to the symbol of Christminster. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Jude the Obscure published in 1998.
Part 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

As the halo had been to his eyes when gazing at it a quarter of an hour earlier, so was the spot mentally to him as he pursued his dark way.
“It is a city of light,” he said to himself.
“The tree of knowledge grows there,” he added a few steps further on.
“It is a place that teachers of men spring from, and go to.”
“It is what you may call a castle, manned by scholarship and religion.”
After this figure he was silent for a long while, till he added,
“It would just suit me.”

Related Characters: Jude Fawley (speaker)
Related Symbols: Christminster
Page Number: 25-26
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 2 Quotes

Only a wall divided him from those happy young contemporaries of his with whom he shared a common mental life; men who had nothing to do from morning till night but to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest. Only a wall – but what a wall!

Related Characters: Jude Fawley
Related Symbols: Christminster
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 3, Chapter 4 Quotes

You prove it in your own person. You are one of the very men Christminster was intended for when the colleges were founded; a man with a passion for learning, but no money, or opportunities, or friends. But you were elbowed off the pavement by the millionaires’ sons.

Related Characters: Sue Bridehead (speaker), Jude Fawley
Related Symbols: Christminster
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Part 5, Chapter 5 Quotes

I feel that we have returned to Greek joyousness, and have blinded ourselves to sickness and sorrow, and have forgotten what twenty-five centuries have taught the race since their time, as one of your Christminster luminaries says…

Related Characters: Sue Bridehead (speaker)
Related Symbols: Christminster
Page Number: 297
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Part 6, Chapter 2 Quotes

“It would almost be better to be out o’ the world than in it, wouldn’t it?”
“It would almost, dear.”
“’Tis because of us children, too, isn’t it, that you can’t get a good lodging.”
“Well – people do object to children sometimes.”
“Then if children make so much trouble, why do people have ‘em?”
“O – because it is a law of nature.”
“But we don’t ask to be born?”
“No indeed.”
“And what makes it worse with me is that you are not my real mother, and you needn’t have had me unless you liked. I oughtn’t to have come to ‘ee – that’s the real truth! I troubled ‘em in Australia; and I trouble folk here. I wish I hadn’t been born!”

Related Characters: Sue Bridehead (speaker), Little Father Time (speaker)
Related Symbols: Christminster, Little Father Time
Page Number: 333
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Christminster Symbol Timeline in Jude the Obscure

The timeline below shows where the symbol Christminster appears in Jude the Obscure. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Fate Theme Icon
...Marygreen, everyone is upset because the schoolmaster, Richard Phillotson, is leaving. He is moving to Christminster, which is a university town about twenty miles away. Phillotson has a piano that he... (full context)
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...teacher. Phillotson reveals his secret ambitions to Jude, saying that he wants to go to Christminster so he can try to get into a university there. Phillotson rides off on his... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
Marriage Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
Fate Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...the roof, where two men are working. He tells them he is trying to find Christminster, and they say it is sometimes visible from the roof, but not today. Jude decides... (full context)
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Dusk falls and Jude prays to see Christminster, and eventually he sees distant lights and spires, “either directly seen or miraged in the... (full context)
Fate Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...returns to the Brown House at dusk and waits for night to fall, watching for Christminster from the roof. Instead of seeing individual lights he sees a vague glow this time,... (full context)
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
The men tell Jude that the people of Christminster read books in languages that he will never understand, and it is “nothing but learning”... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
Social Criticism Theme Icon
...itinerant quack-doctor who travels constantly and sells false remedies to people. Jude asks him about Christminster, and Vilbert says that even the old washerwomen there speak Latin. Jude affirms his desire... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Jude thinks more practically about moving to Christminster, and he decides to take up stoneworking as a way to earn money. He apprentices... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 6
Fate Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 9
Marriage Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
...marry Arabella. He admits that it is a “complete smashing up” of his dreams of Christminster, but he decides to do the honorable thing. (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 11
Fate Theme Icon
Now that he is alone, Jude returns to his dreams of Christminster. He passes by a milestone where his sixteen-year-old self had carved “Thither, J.F.” and a... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1
Fate Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
Three years after his marriage, Jude finally goes to Christminster. He has grown skilled at his craft of stoneworking, and marches into town with his... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
That day Jude goes out into the streets again to find Christminster looking much less romantic – “What at night had been perfect and ideal was by... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3
Women in Society Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...Venus and one of Apollo. Sue nervously wraps them up and brings them back to Christminster, “the most Christian city in the country.” She takes them up to her room and... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4
Fate Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
...He then finds a note from her at his lodging, saying she will be leaving Christminster soon. He immediately writes back to her and proposes to meet Sue outside. Sue agrees,... (full context)
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
...a pupil-teacher. The three talk for a while and then Jude and Sue return to Christminster. (full context)
Women in Society Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...is even more in love with her than before. Jude asks why Sue is leaving Christminster, and Sue says it is because she had argued with Miss Fontover, who broke her... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...to Sue. A few weeks later they go to visit a model of Jerusalem in Christminster, which their students are to visit. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
...hasn’t gotten into college yet. They remind him of his old dreams and worship of Christminster, and say that they were confirmed in their suspicions – colleges are only for the... (full context)
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
...he gets drunk and wanders the streets. He starts to realize that the “reality of Christminster” is all the working folk who don’t study or become famous. Jude writes a quote... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 7
Fate Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...this state, so he slips out of the house without waking her. Jude returns to Christminster and finds a note from his employer dismissing him for missing work. He walks to... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 4
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
Religion 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... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 8
Marriage Theme Icon
...as well, and he suggests that they meet in Alfredston, as Jude plans to visit Christminster and look for work again. (full context)
Fate Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
The next day Jude goes to Christminster and is haunted by Sue’s “phantom” presence there, which affects him much more than the... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 9
Marriage Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
...upset but agrees to keep his silence. The two part ways and Jude wanders around Christminster, waiting for the train. He feels “degraded” by having resumed his relations with Arabella. (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 3
Marriage Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...his ambition towards the clergy has been checked by Sue just like his ambition for Christminster was checked by Arabella. (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 3
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
...Jude wonders if he will be able to pass on his dream of studying at Christminster through this boy, and if the boy will have more success if Jude can provide... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 5
Marriage Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
Arabella watches Sue and Jude observing a model of Christminster that they themselves built, and Arabella mocks Jude’s love for that town. Anny and Vilbert... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 7
Marriage Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...stonework, so now he makes cakes in the shape of colleges – which they call Christminster cakes – and Sue sells them. Arabella comments that Jude can never let go of... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 8
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
...Edlin is tending to the sick Jude. Sue tells Jude that she sold all the Christminster cakes, which excites him, but then she describes her meeting with Arabella. Jude decides that... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 1
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Three weeks later Jude and Sue arrive at Christminster with their two children and Little Father Time, who has been officially christened “Jude” but... (full context)
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
...for lodging, but they are turned away. Little Father Time declares that he doesn’t like Christminster, and he doesn’t want to ever go to a college there. Finally the family finds... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 2
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
...at the strength of Jude’s dream that he should have brought them to dreary, unfriendly Christminster. Little Father Time is also upset, and he worries about where they will stay the... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 5
Marriage Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
The next day Christminster is covered in fog and Jude is too depressed to go to work. Meanwhile Sue... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 9
Marriage Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women in Society Theme Icon
...sees the spectres of the philosophers and writers he saw on his first night in Christminster, but now they seem to be mocking him. He lists their names to Arabella, but... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 10
Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
...pass and Jude’s illness decreases but then returns. He muses on his old dream of Christminster, and says that he hears the universities are growing more accepting of lower-class students now.... (full context)