At Marygreen Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1488

New Characters:
Jude Fawley: the title character, eleven year old orphan who lives with his great-aunt

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Richard Phillotson: village schoolmaster who is leaving for the university, Jude’s early mentor

Blacksmith and Farm Bailiff: villagers who help Phillotson move

Drusilla Fawley: Jude’s great aunt; she takes in the orphaned Jude and raises him

Farmer Troutham: the farmer who catches Jude encouraging birds to eat the grain Jude was supposed to be watching

Villagers: people to whom Aunt Drusilla relates Jude’s history

Carter: a workman who meets Jude on the road

Two Workmen: help Jude climb on the roof of a barn to see Christminster

Physician Vilbert: the quack doctor who promises and fails to deliver Greek and Latin texts to Jude

Arabella Donn: the pig-keeper’s daughter; she is Jude’s wife

Mr. and Mrs. Donn: Arabella’s parents

Anny and Sarah: Arabella’s friends and confidantes

Mr. Challow: the pig-killer who arrives late, forcing Jude and Arabella to kill the pig

The novel opens with Phillotson’s departure from the Marygreen school, where he had been the schoolmaster. Jude is, at the time, eleven years old, and comes to say good-bye. Even at this stage, Jude is considered less worthy of education and has been attending night school. Phillotson tells Jude that he plans on moving to Christminster in order to gain admission and eventually get a degree. This is the first Jude had heard of a university degree.

In Chapter II, the reader learns that Jude’s parents are dead and that Jude lives with his great aunt, Drusilla, a very cynical old woman. She is not happy to have him live with her, but is resigned to doing her duty. He is working for Farmer Troutham, scaring crows from the corn. However, Troutham discovers that Jude is talking to the crows and allowing them to eat corn. Jude is flogged, then fired. Jude’s aunt, who already resents his presence, is angry with him. Jude runs off toward Christminster.

Chapter III describes Jude’s trip along the road to Christminster, a journey which widens his horizons. With the help of workmen, he climbs up on the roof of a barn in order to catch a glimpse of the city. As he is wont to do, he daydreams as he walks, and imagines seeing Phillotson through a window. As he begins to return to Marygreen, he meets some older men who encourage him by speaking of the glories of the university, most of which they have gleaned from the stories of others. These stories spark Jude’s interest in pursuing a scholarly life.

In Chapter IV, he first asks Physician Vilbert to bring him copies of Latin and Greek grammars, but when the doctor forgets, he writes to Phillotson, who has just sent for his piano, and asks for the texts. When they arrive, he attempts to read them; however, he becomes very frustrated as he has difficulty understanding them.

Chapter V takes place three years later, when he has mastered Latin and Greek. He has been helping his aunt with her bakery and also has become apprenticed to a stonemason and church rebuilder, like his uncle whom he never met.

In Chapter VI, as he is walking along ruminating about his plans, Jude is hit by pig flesh thrown from behind a bush. The thrower is Arabella Donn. He makes a date to meet her the next day, though he senses that his attraction to her is rather superficial. Although he is loath to leave his studies, he meets her for tea and a walk in the countryside in Chapter VII, and in Chapter VIII she resolves, on the advice of her friends, to become pregnant, thereby trapping him into marriage.

In Chapter IX, she tells him she is pregnant. The villagers say that Jude has compromised himself, and that she is beneath him. However, Jude is resolved to do the right thing. After they quickly marry, she tells him she was mistaken and is not pregnant. He is repulsed when he sees that she wears false hair. It represents, to him, her generally mendacious nature.

In Chapter X, the contrast between Jude and Arabella’s attitudes emerges when they must slaughter their pig. When Challow, the pig-killer, is late, the couple set out to do the task themselves so that Jude will not miss work. Jude, who is sensitive to animals, wants to kill the pig humanely while Arabella, the daughter of a pig farmer, wants it to die slowly to improve the quality of the meat. In Chapter XI, Jude and Arabella realize that they are incompatible. She throws his books on the floor and he hits her. While he is out drinking, she departs, leaving a note for Jude that says “Have gone with my friends. Will not be back.” Shortly thereafter, she goes with her family to Australia.

Marygreen is a provincial town where people are suspicious of the outside world, particularly of Christminster, location of the university. Hardy sees this provincialism as both positive and negative. Many of the problems in the novel are the result of urban influence as much as rural attitudes.

All major characters except Sue Bridehead are introduced in this section, and she is briefly mentioned. In a sense, the groundwork is lain here for Jude’s attraction to his cousin. He gains a taste for learning, and becomes dissatisfied with a relationship based solely on physical attraction, which is the basis of his union with Arabella.

Attitudes toward education comprise an important theme of this section. Essentially, a university education was for upper-class males. Most middle-class men did not attend the university, and certainly, the working class did not. The schoolmaster, Phillotson, who will later become a rival, is here a role model for Jude. However, Jude’s background does not afford him the same opportunities as Phillotson’s does him. From an early age, Jude is expected to perform physical labor. Also, Jude’s interest in Christminster is at odds with the attitudes of his aunt and many of the other villagers, who see Christminster as evil.

“At Marygreen” is filled with biblical allusions, the most obvious of which are the choice of the names “Christminster” and “Marygreen” to replace “Oxford” and “Fawley.” Christminster comes to represent salvation, first for Phillotson, then for Jude.

Jude longs for a university degree, not for social or financial advancement, but for its own sake, as a sort of holy grail. He sees it as providing spiritual fulfillment; at times his intellectual and religious pursuits seem at odds.

In Chapter III, as Jude walks away from Christminster, he thinks that it takes on a glow, like a halo. He thinks of it as “a city of light” and that “the tree of knowledge” grows there. These references allude to the conflict that Jude soon faces between scholarship and religion. The tree of knowledge led to the fall of man, thereby suggesting Hardy’s ambiguous feelings toward university study.

Another theme that Hardy develops in this section is the interaction between man and nature. Jude’s love for animals gets him into trouble in a world where animals are seen as existing solely for human use. He allows the crows to eat Farmer Troutham’s corn, thereby losing his job, and he is unwilling to cause the pig any pain. As with his intellectual ambitions, Jude’s sensitivity evinces his lack of pragmatism.

The characterization of Arabella is another important aspect of this section, not only for her role in the story but for Jude’s perception of her. Even by Marygreen’s standards she is low class and considered not good enough for Jude. After they marry, he is disgusted, not only by the trick that she has played on him, but by the fact that she formerly worked as a barmaid and by the false hair that she wears. Both she and Jude long for better things in life, however, Jude is intellectually and spiritually ambitious while Arabella is money hungry and socially ambitious.

The discussion of marriage in this section begins to show Hardy’s sense of mistrust of the institution. Jude’s Aunt Drusilla has never married and she warns Jude in Chapter II that the Fawleys should not marry. This warning almost seems justified in Chapter XI when, as Jude and Arabella argue, Arabella throws Jude’s books on the floor and Jude grabs her with some force. She accuses him of abusing her as his mother abused his father. He then goes out and gets drunk. There is a strong sense of fate and cynicism in this situation. Initially, Arabella’s friends convinced her to trap Jude by getting pregnant. Her attraction to Jude is genuine, but she easily falls into the role of a shrewish wife, while Jude falls into the role of a drunk and abusive husband.

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