Three weeks later Jude and Sue arrive at Christminster with their two children and Little Father Time, who has been officially christened “Jude” but still goes by his nickname. They arrive on Remembrance Day, a day when honorary degrees are given to benefactors of the colleges, and they go to see the procession before looking for lodgings. The procession depresses Jude, reminding him of his failed dreams.
Sue’s two children are never given names or personalities. Jude purposefully returns on Remembrance Day, hoping that the festivities will be hopeful, but they only remind him that men less worthy than he is have gotten the advantage of education simply through their wealth and class.
In the large crowd Jude sees his old companions Tinker Taylor and Uncle Joe. They ask him if he ever became a scholar, and Jude delivers a speech to a gathering crowd about how he failed. He tried to do in one generation what society only allows to be done in several – raise his social class by his own hard work and intelligence.
Jude has given up hope, but he is still drawn inevitably to Christminster, if only to make a spectacle of his failure there. His speech condenses much of Hardy’s criticisms – in a fair society, Jude should have been able to raise his social position through work and intelligence.
Jude confesses that his desires were too strong and distracted him from his dream, but he is still worthy of pity. He hopes that he can serve as an example of how not to live, as his ambitions were too high and now he is only a sick, poor, unhappy man. Jude perceives “that there is something wrong somewhere in our social formulas” for him to be rewarded like this, but he doesn’t know where. The crowd applauds Jude’s speech.
Jude recognizes his own “fatal flaws.” He is not wholly innocent, but he still doesn’t deserve the cruel fate society has condemned him to. Like Jude, Hardy clearly recognizes the many flaws in society, but he can find few clear solutions to its complex and far-reaching problems. Jude achieves a kind of fame as a melodramatic failure.
It starts to rain and Sue, who has grown emotional at Jude’s words, wants them to go look for lodgings. Jude wants to keep watching the processing Doctors and Heads of Houses. He declares that he is still an outsider, and then finally agrees to leave with Sue. Sue says that she saw Phillotson in the crowd opposite them.
The novel’s climax approaches as all the protagonists’ misfortunes start to converge. Jude and Sue are now both being physically haunted by their bad first marriages, and they are experiencing the judgment of the society at the same place where Jude was already rejected long ago.
Jude and Sue wander about looking for lodging, but they are turned away. Little Father Time declares that he doesn’t like Christminster, and he doesn’t want to ever go to a college there. Finally the family finds a woman who will rent them a room if Jude stays elsewhere.
Little Father Time immediately rejects Christminster and claims he doesn’t want to study there. In a way this means Jude has failed at his dream yet again, as he can’t even succeed through his son.
After Sue and the children enter, the landlady asks Sue about her marital situation. Sue admits that she and Jude are not officially married, but that they live together as husband and wife. The landlady immediately tells her husband this, and he says to kick them out, as he didn’t want any children staying there anyway. The landlady tells Sue that they can only stay for a week. Sue and Little Father Time wander about looking for a different room, but they are unsuccessful. Little Father Time says that he should never have been born.
Sue remains honest and idealistic – even after so much discrimination, she still naively reveals her “sinful” situation and gives the landlord an excuse to kick her out. Little Father Time starts to echo Jude and Drusilla’s sentiments at the beginning of the novel. He has been unwanted for most of his life, and now that he has experienced the cruelty of the world he wishes he had never entered it.