Sue returns to Jude and tells him that her conversation with Arabella has further convinced her what a “vulgar institution” marriage is. Jude remarks that Sue seems like a woman of “some grand old civilization.” Sue says that marriage adds a sense of compulsion to a relationship that should be inherently voluntary. Jude agrees to postpone any thoughts of marriage for a while, and the couple lives on in a “dreamy paradise.”
Sue is again associated with a pre-Christian, pagan world, and now Jude has given up religion and succumbs to this “dream.” Hardy seems to propose this nonreligious, nonlegal monogamy as an alternative to the institution of marriage, but he will soon show that such a solution cannot exist in the society of the time.
One day Jude gets a letter from Arabella, whose last name is now Cartlett. In the letter Arabella says that she had given birth to a child by Jude after she moved to Australia. She left the boy with her parents in Australia after she moved back to England, but her parents can’t take care of him any more and the boy is “of an intelligent age” now. Arabella asks if Jude and Sue will take the child in, as Arabella and her new husband (Cartlett) don’t want him.
Arabella overturns the “dreamy paradise” of Jude and Sue’s relationship with her revelation. This is another example of how Jude is never really free of his first marriage, though he is now legally divorced. Arabella has never cared for her son and now wants to shunt him off on Jude.
Sue is upset by the plight of the unwanted child, and she asks Jude if they can take him in. Jude agrees, saying it doesn’t matter whether the child is truly his or not – he is entitled to adopt the unwanted boy. Jude and Sue decide to get married before the child arrives, so as to provide a more stable home for him. Jude writes Arabella to send him the child.
Jude and Sue were both children of divorce and then orphans, so they sympathize with the child’s plight. The only way they can provide a “respectable” home for the boy is to get married, despite their reasonable misgivings. Hardy adds his idea that all children are the general responsibility of all adults, no matter one’s blood relation.
The “small, pale child” arrives earlier than expected, so no one is there to meet him at the train station. Arabella had sent him on to Jude immediately without a kind word at all. The boy looks constantly depressed and weighed down by the sorrows of the world, like “Age masquerading as Juvenility.” The child walks mechanically all the way from the station to Jude’s house, ignoring all his surroundings.
Arabella treats the child with total callousness, using him to add discord to Jude and Sue’s relationship. The boy will function less as a character and more as a symbol of his hardships and the faults of society. Hardy lends an urgency to his social criticism by showing the effects of injustice on the next generation.
The child reaches the house just as Jude and Sue are going to bed, and they are surprised to see him. They apologize for not meeting him at the station, and they immediately take him in. Sue is shocked to see Jude’s likeness in the boy, but is jealous to see Arabella’s as well. Jude wonders if he will be able to pass on his dream of studying at Christminster through this boy, and if the boy will have more success if Jude can provide him with a better life than he himself had.
The boy seems used to being totally unwanted. Sue feels an immediate bond with the child, but her strong jealousy again troubles her as the boy reminds her of Jude’s relations with Arabella. Jude gets a glimpse of hope and possibility in his son, and he immediately returns to his dream of Christminster.
The child immediately asks Sue if he can call her “mother,” and the two strike up a quick affection for each other. After the boy goes to bed Sue declares that she and Jude must be strong for his sake, and go get legally married.
Though the child is aged and world-weary in many ways, he still shows his youth (and the tragic lack of love in his upbringing) by immediately calling Sue “mother.” The cerebral Sue experiences the sudden appearance of mothering instincts.