Jude the Obscure - Study Guide Part Third, At Melchester: Chapters 1-5 Summary & Analysis

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Part Third, At Melchester: Chapters 1-5 Summary

Chapter 1. The idea of becoming a licentiate cheers Jude and he begins to make plans to this end. Jude learns that Sue has decided to enter a training school at Melchester and she writes to ask him to come to the city to be near her. Jude goes immediately, even though it is a bad time for him to find work. When Jude meets Sue in Melchester, he finds her much more subdued than before from the restrictions of the school. As they talk, Sue tells him about the school and strings Mr. Phillotson pulled to get her in. Jude asks Sue if there is some romance between her and Mr. Phillotson and she reluctantly tells him that she is to marry Mr. Phillotson as soon as she earns her certificate. Sue then suggests they not see one another anymore, but Jude insists that her engagement does not change anything between them.

Chapter 2. Jude takes Sue to a museum in a nearby town. When they are ready to leave there is a long time until the train will come, so they decide to walk up the rail and catch it closer to Christminster. However, when they stop at a shepherd's hut, they learn that they have missed the final train because they did not follow the tracks properly. They decide to spend the night and return to Melchester the next day.

Chapter 3. The pupils and teachers at Sue's school miss her immediately and begin to gossip about her absence. One of the teachers looks at the pictures on Sue's dressing table and asks if it is one of these men who came for her. However, the pictures are of Mr. Phillotson and an unknown young man, not Jude. Jude returns Sue to the school early the next morning and Sue is immediately sent into isolation for her actions. Despite the fact that the other students protest this punishment, the teachers do not waver. Sue, however, escapes out a window and swims across a deep stream behind the school. Sue goes quickly to Jude's lodging and he quickly encourages her to put on his good suit while her clothing dries.

Chapter 4. Jude's landlady comes to the door to ask about his supper and sees Sue, but she believes her to be a male acquaintance of Jude's. Jude and Sue talk and Sue tells Jude about a student she once knew who was in love with her and wanted her to become his mistress. Sue refused, but she lived with the man platonically until his death of an illness some time later. This act has caused Sue's father to disown her and explains why she went to Christminster to live on her own. Jude tells Sue that he wants to be a priest and they argue the value of religion. Jude is surprised by some of Sue's views against religion, and becomes deeply troubled. Sue is saddened that Jude is not open to some of her ideas.

Chapter 5. Sue leaves early the next morning to go to the home of a school friend's sister in Shaston. Jude walks her to the train station and attempts to confess his love, as well as his marriage, but Sue will not allow him. A few days later, Sue sends Jude a letter confessing that she knows he loves her and that he may if he wants. Jude goes to visit Sue and learns that the school refuses to take her back. Not only this, but her all night outing with Jude has become such a scandal that they recommend they marry immediately. Jude feels guilty and suggests it might blow over, but Sue is rude to him in her concern for her own reputation. A short time after this visit, Jude receives an apology and notice that Sue is coming to Melchester to retrieve her belongings.

Part Third, At Melchester: Chapters 1-5 Analysis

Cheered by the idea of becoming a licentiate, Jude quickly goes to Melchester when Sue asks for him. Jude believes that Sue's request for him to come to her is based out of affection for him, but he quickly learns that her affection is platonic because she is engaged to Mr. Phillotson. Deciding he would rather be her friend than to have no contact with her at all, Jude brushes the idea of her engagement aside. This leads to a disastrous outing that causes Sue a great deal of distress at her school.

The reader must recall how much Sue dislikes the school and must wonder if her decision to run away has more to do with her own selfishness than with the punishment she receives for her actions. At the same time, the reader learns about Sue's long term platonic relationship with a scholar that caused her relationship with her father to be irreparably altered. This relationship is important for two reasons. First, it is important because it shows Sue's selfishness in living with a man, but not giving him the intimate contact that he so desperately desires from her. Second, this is important because it sets up a precedent in which Sue lives with a man who loves her but she does not return his love in the form of sexual intimacy.

This section of chapters ends with Sue upset about her ruined reputation. Sue had wanted to be a teacher and no school will take a teacher with questionable morals. Despite the fact that Sue has already displayed a lack of religious convictions, she is deeply concerned about her reputation as a moral woman. Sue has been told she should marry Jude to fix things, but she rejects that idea out of hand when Jude does not make the gesture himself. Perhaps Sue does love Jude, but the reader finds that hard to discern at this point in the novel because of Sue's inconsistency with Jude.

This section contains 990 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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