The next day Christminster is covered in fog and Jude is too depressed to go to work. Meanwhile Sue takes the train to Marygreen and arrives like a supplicant at Phillotson’s house. Phillotson welcomes her, but when he tries to kiss her Sue shrinks back. She pretends this is because of the cold, and asks about the marriage. Phillotson says that the vicar said this second marriage would undo all their previous sins, and they can be married tomorrow morning.
Sue is still physically repulsed by Phillotson, but now she embraces her unhappiness as a punishment for her past “sins.” The vicar knows nothing of Sue’s real feelings, so he delivers the verdict of the religious status quo – marriage is always the best path. As the whole novel is a rebuttal to this mindset, the vicar’s statement is unwittingly ironic.
Sue catches sight of the marriage contract on a desk, and she inadvertently cries out in panic. She tries to laugh this away too. Sue goes off to stay at the Widow Edlin’s house, and as she unpacks her things Sue finds a nightgown she had bought to impress Jude. She burns it, despite Mrs. Edlin’s protests. Mrs. Edlin begs Sue not to marry Phillotson, as she is still clearly in love with Jude.
Sue panicked at the sight of the marriage license even with Jude, her true love, so she is all the more horrified by the sight of the document linking her name back with Phillotson’s. The Widow Edlin takes on a larger role now as the voice of reason.
Meanwhile Gillingham congratulates Phillotson on winning Sue back. Phillotson has second thoughts, recognizing Sue’s reluctance, but then he decides that he too ought to submit to society’s will and go through with the marriage, and then be more strict with Sue afterwards. Mrs. Edlin comes to visit Phillotson that night and begs him not to marry Sue. She laments the state of marriage these days, saying it was more “careless” in her time.
Gillingham is again the voice of society and Hardy’s critics, rejoicing in the failure of Jude and Sue’s “experiment.” Hardy has clearly condemned many of the aspects of traditional marriage, but he also showed how Jude and Sue’s relationship was not an ideal solution. He now seems to lean more towards Mrs. Edlin’s laxity regarding the institution, and regarding laws and rules in general.
The next morning Sue looks small and tired, but she goes with Phillotson to the church. They go through with the marriage, but Phillotson feels like he is doing something immoral. After the contract is signed the vicar says “all’s well that ends well,” and tells the couple that they have undone their past sins and saved themselves from Hell. Phillotson and Sue return home, and Phillotson tells her that he doesn’t intend to intrude on her – this marriage was mostly for society’s sake – which lessens Sue’s worries.
Phillotson felt sure in his decision to let Sue leave him, even though it went against society and religion. Now he is following the status quo but his personal morality is troubled. Hardy ramps up the irony, as Sue has “saved” herself from a theoretical Hell punishing her for following her heart, but she is about to return to the living Hell of a destructive marriage.