The next morning the couple argues again, and Arabella throws Jude’s books onto the floor. Jude gets angry and pulls her away. Jude suddenly realizes that his life has been ruined by this “fundamental error of their matrimonial union.” Arabella taunts him about the divorce that runs in his family and then storms off.
The nature of the couple’s fight drives home how marriage to Arabella is the opposite of Jude’s dreams of scholarship. Jude recognizes the tragedy of his own situation, a tragedy that Hardy has purposefully drawn out to show just how bad a bad marriage can be.
Jude goes to see his great-aunt and asks her about his parents and his aunt and uncle, and Drusilla admits that both couples divorced. Jude’s parents broke up near the Brown House and then Jude’s mother drowned herself. Drusilla declares that Fawleys aren’t meant for marriage, as there is something in their blood that revolts against being sworn to love.
Hardy’s characters often seem trapped in an inescapable, tragic fate, and for Jude this fate involves the divorce that runs in his family. This is another aspect of the “fatal flaw” that leads to his downfall – he cannot escape his own blood, which always leads to failure in marriage.
On his way back to his cottage Jude walks out onto a frozen pond and tries to break the ice (and kill himself) by jumping on it, but he fails. Then he goes off to get drunk at the inn with the picture of Samson and Delilah on the wall. Jude gets very drunk and returns home to find Arabella’s note that she is staying with friends.
Jude now succumbs to the depression that accompanies his recognition of his tragic fate. He sees the symbolism of the Samson and Delilah picture now, and surrenders to his other great weakness, drunkenness.
Arabella doesn’t return for a few days, and then Jude gets a letter from her saying that her parents are moving to Australia, and she is going with them. After she has sold their possessions at auction Jude finds a photo of himself in a broker’s shop, which was his wedding present to Arabella. Jude buys the photo and burns it, feeling the “death of every tender sentiment in his wife.” Arabella and her family leave a few days later.
Australia was an English colony at this time, so Arabella’s exit is not as random as it might seem. Jude again sees how different he and Arabella are. Jude is a romantic, while Arabella is only concerned with getting the most for herself at the expense of others.
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 hand pointing towards Christminster. Jude then decides to “battle with his evil star” and keep pursuing his dream, despite all his obstacles.
It seems like Jude has escaped his disastrous marriage and can now return to his dream, though Hardy will later show that Jude can never be truly free of Arabella. Hardy seems to propose that we should battle against our tragic fates, but at the same time he shows how futile this resistance usually is, as Jude will ultimately succumb to his “evil star.” This signpost becomes a potent image of Jude’s youthful dreams.