The next morning Sue sends Jude a letter retracting her invitation for the following week, saying they were “too free” before. Jude writes back and agrees. The next day, which is Easter, Jude learns that his aunt is dying. He goes to Marygreen and meets the Widow Edlin, who had tended to Drusilla in her illness. Mrs. Edlin says Drusilla is already dead, and Jude writes to Sue to deliver the news.
Hardy positions both Drusilla’s death and the blossoming of Jude and Sue’s romance around Easter, the time of Christ’s resurrection. This is a cynical irony in that the situation involves death and nonreligious, illicit love, the opposite of Christianity’s most important day.
Sue arrives in Marygreen for the funeral a few days later. After the ceremony Jude and Sue discuss their tragic family and their unhappy marriages. Sue muses on how divorce should be easier if a marriage is unhappy, especially if marriage is only a social agreement and not a religious one. Sue hints that she finds Phillotson’s presence repulsive, and she can’t bring herself to sleep with him. She says she must return to Shaston that evening, but Jude convinces her to say at the Widow Edlin’s house instead.
Sue speaks with Hardy’s voice again, musing on possible solutions to the marriage problem. Hardy is clearly dissatisfied with the institution as it is, but he never comes to a definite conclusion about the best way to fix it. Making divorce easier and less socially suicidal is one of his most reasonable, achievable solutions. Sue shows herself again as a kind of “bodiless,” spiritual intelligence who resists sexual lust.
Jude apologizes to Sue for not warning her about marrying Phillotson. Jude and Sue vaguely discuss their relationship, and then Jude reveals that he saw Arabella again. Jude pretends that they are living together now, and Sue starts to cry. She goes into more details about her relationship with Phillotson – she likes him as a friend, but not as a husband, and she hates the “dreadful contract” (marriage) that binds her feelings.
Sue’s initial feelings for Jude are as much about jealousy against Arabella as they are about real attraction. Sue has succumbed to her inevitable fate, and now she and Jude are both trapped. Hardy never relents in his criticism of the institution of marriage, and now Sue can more eloquently elaborate on his ideas.
Jude pushes his face against Sue’s cheek and asks if she would have married him if not for his first marriage to Arabella. Sue walks out without answering. Jude tries to sleep but he is awakened by the cries of a rabbit in pain. He goes outside and finds the creature, which is stuck in a trap and dying. Jude mercifully kills it, and then notices that Sue is looking out her window at him.
Just as Sue resists the “dreadful contract” of marriage, so she also resists Jude’s persistent need for her to clarify her feelings. We are reminded that Jude is still a compassionate, sympathetic man living in a harsh world. The rabbit is like Jude himself, but with no one to put him out of his misery.
Jude talks to her, and Sue admits that she was already sleepless worrying about her marital troubles. Jude says that he may be starting to lose his religious faith, and so he won’t judge her for making him her confidant. Suddenly he kisses her hand and promises to give up all religion for her love. Sue stops him, but then she wishes aloud that she could undo an impulsive mistake like her marriage. She thinks that people of the future will look at marriage as a “barbarous custom.” Sue kisses Jude on top of the head and shuts her window.
In his love for Sue, Jude lets himself be more easily swayed by her beliefs, and he is now rapidly approaching Sue’s own religious agnosticism. Jude has also realized that the Christianity he professes exists in opposition to the way he wants to live his life. Hardy speaks through Sue as usual, looking forward to a more progressive time when his ideas will be accepted.