Jude decides to follow the clergyman’s advice and pursue the church separate from a scholarly life. He decides to become a low-ranking clergyman and try to do some good in the world and to his soul. Jude is slightly cheered by this decision. He gets a letter from Sue, who tells him that she is going to enter a Training College in the town of Melchester. Jude knows there is also a Theological College there, so he decides to move to Melchester too.
This seems like a good plan for Jude and a chance to improve his station in an achievable way, but his fate will lead him down a more tragic path. Hardy arranges the parts of the novel around the different towns Jude and Sue live, as they seek to find their place in a world that does not accept them.
Jude postpones his move for a few weeks, waiting for the days to grow longer after the first of the year, as he will have to find stonemasonry work in Melchester. One day Sue writes him a letter saying that she is “lonely and miserable,” and she asks Jude to come immediately. Jude gladly does so. He arrives in Melchester and sees that the cathedral there is undergoing restoration, a good sign for his job prospects.
Sue has tried to suppress her intellect and independent nature and submit to the strict, religious Training School, but this has clearly made her unhappy. Though Jude already loves Sue, Sue begins by seeing Jude as a kind of protector and confidant, as she recognizes the affinity between their natures.
Jude finds Sue and they greet each other. She looks more prim and disciplined than before, but still beautiful. Jude takes her to dinner and she tells him about the strictness of the Training College, which she finds abrasive. She mentions that Phillotson might find her a teaching job after she graduates. Jude asks about Phillotson’s romantic interest in her. Sue at first dismisses this, saying Phillotson is too old, but then she confesses that she had promised to marry Phillotson in two years and then teach jointly with him at a school in a larger town.
As Sue’s character is developed, it becomes clear just how revolutionary she is for her time. She agrees to marry Phillotson mostly to further her own career – instead of acting as a traditional housewife, she wants to keep teaching alongside her husband. Like Jude before Arabella, Sue is ignorant regarding sexuality and the tragic possibilities of a bad marriage.
Jude is upset but he tries to congratulate Sue. She recognizes his distress and tries to downplay the marriage. Jude suggests they go sit in the Cathedral, but Sue says she would rather sit in a train station, as “the Cathedral has had its day.” Jude calls her “modern,” but Sue says she is “more ancient than mediaevalism.” They part ways.
Jude begins finding piecemeal work and then is employed to work at repairing the Cathedral, whose stonework is being completely overhauled. He reads books of theology in his spare time, preparing himself for his new career. When he needs relief he reads modern, nonreligious authors though.
As a former architect, Hardy throws in some obscure critiques of modernity in stonework, as he usually disparages restoration for restoration’s sake. Jude began with “pagan” writers, and so he still finds comfort and solace in a lack of Christianity.