The following Sunday Jude goes to Marygreen to visit his aunt, who is ill. When he reveals he has been seeing Sue the old woman warns him off, and both she and her companion, who looks after her, recall incidents revealing the fact that people in the town thought of Sue as a unique, sometimes unconventional, child. The fact that some of the villagers he meets remind him by their questions of his as yet unaccomplished purpose in going to Christminster causes Jude to take stock of himself.
Practically, he has gotten nowhere; he decides to write to several masters in the colleges for advice. While waiting for replies, he learns that Phillotson is moving to a new school and wonders what this means. Realizing that he will be able to get into the university neither by qualifying for a scholarship nor by buying his way in, Jude considers how he has been seduced by the glamour of Christminster. From a high building he surveys the ancient university which it is not his destiny to be a part of, and he thinks how easily he could have given up his ambitions with Sue as a companion. After drinking at an inn, he goes home, to discover a letter of rejection from one of the masters he has written to. Again, he goes to a bar, later thinking as he walks alone that the real history of the city is in the streets among the common folk, not in the ancient buildings of the colleges. On a wall of the college whose master replied to his letter he scornfully scrawls a verse from Job.
The next day, despairing of both his ambitions and his relationship with Sue, Jude spends the day drinking in a tavern, meeting some of the habitués and loudly leading the criticism of all aspects of university life. Challenged to repeat the Creed in Latin, Jude does so, with the help of drinks the others buy. Disgusted with himself and longing for Sue, he makes his way to Lumsdon and raps on her window. She takes him in and listens to him berate himself as wicked; she insists he get some sleep and promises him breakfast in the morning.
Once awake in the morning, however, Jude is ashamed to face Sue and sneaks away, deciding he will leave Christminster. Discovering he has been dismissed by his employer, he packs his belongings and walks to Marygreen. Once there, he realizes that the ignominy into which he fell with Arabella is not nearly so deep as the abyss in which he now finds himself. Talking of this to the new clergyman who has called on his aunt, he says he is less sad over his inability to get into the university than he is over his losing the chance to get into the church.
Hardy represents Jude's sense of failure at Christminster in two ways: from the heights and from the depths, as it were. Jude goes to a place from which he can view the whole city and contemplates the buildings of the colleges from which he is to be excluded. This is the real Christminster he is looking at, but it is the ideal one which has brought him here and from which he feels shut out.
He then descends to the streets and the taverns. Here he drinks, and here it is that he has an opportunity to display his learning, reciting the Creed in Latin for his drinking companions. This recitation is echoed in the last part of the novel when he addresses a street crowd in Christminster, some of whom are now in this scene at the tavern.
As a kind of anticlimax, Jude rushes to Sue in despair, though she can do nothing for him and he leaves again, ashamed. He has been undone again, even as he was by his marriage to Arabella. Later, Jude is to think that women have time and again frustrated his hopes. Hardy suggests throughout that this is but the outward appearance of a cause that is more universal and deeply disturbing.