Two days later Sue sends Jude a letter saying that she is marrying Phillotson in a few weeks. She signs the letter formally, with her full name. Jude is crushed by this news, and he wonders if he drove Sue to this rash action by revealing his own marriage. Sue then sends another letter asking if Jude will “give her away” at the wedding, as she is his only male, married relation. In the letter she also comments on how this tradition makes the bride into a mere piece of property to be passed from one man to another.
Sue repeats Jude’s mistake, though she has different reasons for rushing into marriage with someone she does not love. She is more intelligent and well-read than Jude, but just as innocent regarding marriage as he was when he first met Arabella. Even in her heartbreaking letter Sue (and Hardy) can’t help throwing in a critique of the sexism in the marriage ceremony.
Jude agrees to give Sue away, and offers that she and Phillotson stay at his lodgings in Melchester. Sue arrives ten days before the wedding and has breakfast with Jude, both of them sensitive and nervous. Jude feels that he is committing a sin by not warning Sue about the oppressive institution of marriage she is about to subject herself to, but he says nothing.
Hardy creates situations where what is usually the legal and religious “right” action actually becomes the ethically wrong option. Jude has experienced the lasting effects of a bad marriage, but he does not properly warn Sue, as she is already distancing herself from him via the marriage itself.
Jude takes Sue to visit the church where she is to marry Phillotson, and she walks down the aisle holding Jude’s arm, play-acting at a marriage in her curiosity for “a new sensation.” Jude almost breaks down at this, and Sue apologizes. Jude then leaves her with Phillotson. Jude recognizes that Phillotson will be a kind husband, but Sue clearly doesn’t love him.
Sue can’t help continuing to be unorthodox even as she tries to conform to society. In a similar way she keeps causing pain to the men who love her when she indulges her spontaneous whims. In another situation Sue’s marriage to a basically good man like Phillotson might have been tolerable, but for such a sensitive nature as hers it will be disastrous.
Jude is struck again by the cruelty of having him give Sue away to Phillotson, and he wonders why Sue keeps inflicting pain on herself and others on a whim. Sue and Phillotson marry in a simple ceremony, and as they walk away Sue looks back, suddenly looking frightened. Jude wonders if she now realizes what she has done for the sake of a small revenge and assertion of independence.
In his pain Jude finally sees some of Sue’s flaws, but he still can’t help loving her and continuing in his tragic fate of pursuing their doomed romance. Society and religion see marriage as rectifying earlier mistakes, but Hardy creates a situation where the marriage itself is clearly wrong, and we see Sue making the same mistake Jude did.