Jude’s great-aunt grows ill and Jude returns to Marygreen to visit her. Drusilla is angry that Jude has been visiting Sue, and tells Jude some stories about how immodest and precocious Sue was as a child. After his visit Jude meets some villagers, who are surprised that he 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 rich.
Jude has become distracted by a woman again, though Sue is much more worthy of his devotion than Arabella was. Drusilla acts as the foreboding prophet, reminding Jude to struggle against his “evil star.” The people of Marygreen are basically right, but Jude can never give up his dream.
Jude is struck by their words and he resolves to renew his attempts to enter a college. He writes letters to five influential professors, explaining his circumstances and requesting advice. Jude waits a long time with no response, and he starts to despair of ever achieving his goal. One day he “awakens” from his dream and recognizes that the privileges of university are not for people like him, but only for the luck upper classes. Jude wishes he could at least have Sue to console him in his depression.
Christminster is Hardy’s great symbol of the unfairness in his society, especially regarding education. The university should be a place encouraging new ideas and fresh intelligences, but instead it has limited itself to the upper classes and whoever can buy their way in. Jude recognizes his fate, but he will continue to long for Christminster.
Jude finally receives a response from a professor at Biblioll College. The professor recommends that Jude remain in his “own sphere” instead of trying to study at a college. Jude’s depression deepens at this and 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 from the book of Job on a wall with a piece of chalk, declaring that he is “not inferior.”
The “defective real” of Christminster is made explicit in the professor’s letter. Jude is punished for trying to push against his social role and change his status for the better – a pattern that will repeat itself later with his domestic situation. Hardy critiques religion, but he also identifies most of his characters with Biblical figures. Jude is often compared to Christ or Job, both of whom suffered for seemingly no reason.