Jude the Obscure
PART IV: Chapter 3
SUE'S distressful confession recurred to Jude's mind all the night as being a
The morning after, when it was time for her to go, the neighbours saw her
companion and herself disappearing on foot down the hill path which led into the
lonely road to Alfredston. An hour passed before he returned along the same
route, and in his face there was a look of exaltation not unmixed with
recklessness. An incident had occurred.
They had stood parting in the silent highway, and their tense and passionate
moods had led to bewildered inquiries of each other on how far their intimacy
ought to go; till they had almost quarrelled, and she said tearfully that it was
hardly proper of him as a parson in embryo to think of such a thing as kissing her
even in farewell as he now wished to do. Then she had conceded that the fact of
the kiss would be nothing: all would depend upon the spirit of it. If given in the
spirit of a cousin and a friend she saw no objection: if in the spirit of a lover she
could not permit it. "Will you swear that it will not be in that spirit?" she had said.
No: he would not. And then they had turned from each other in estrangement,
and gone their several ways, till at a distance of twenty or thirty yards both had
looked round simultaneously. That look behind was fatal to the reserve hitherto
more or less maintained. They had quickly run back, and met, and embracing
most unpremeditatedly, kissed close and long. When they parted for good it was
with flushed cheeks on her side, and a beating heart on his.
The kiss was a turning-point in Jude's career. Back again in the cottage, and left
to reflection, he saw one thing: that though his kiss of that aerial being had
seemed the purest moment of his faultful life, as long as he nourished this
unlicensed tenderness it was glaringly inconsistent for him to pursue the idea of
becoming the soldier and servant of a religion in which sexual love was regarded
as at its best a frailty, and at its worst damnation. What Sue had said in warmth
was really the cold truth. When to defend his affection tooth and nail, to persist
with headlong force in impassioned attentions to her, was all he thought of, he
was condemned IPSO FACTO as a professor of the accepted school of morals.
He was as unfit, obviously, by nature, as he had been by social position, to fill the
part of a propounder of accredited dogma.
Strange that his first aspiration--towards academical proficiency-- had been
checked by a woman, and that his second aspiration-- towards apostleship--had
also been checked by a woman. "Is it," he said, "that the women are to blame; or
is it the artificial system of things, under which the normal sex-impulses are
turned into devilish domestic gins and springs to noose and hold back those who
want to progress?"
It had been his standing desire to become a prophet, however humble, to his
struggling fellow-creatures, without any thought of personal gain. Yet with a wife
living away from him with another husband, and himself in love erratically, the
loved one's revolt against her state being possibly on his account, he had sunk to
be barely respectable according to regulation views.