Summary and Analysis
With Sue gone, Jude finds Melchester oppressive. News that his aunt is ill and an offer from his former employer at Christminster give him excuse to leave. Finding his aunt very ill indeed, he writes to Sue, suggesting she come and offering to meet her on his way back from Christminster. He finds it a city of ghosts and decides not to return there, but before leaving to meet Sue he goes into a tavern, the one where he recited the Creed, for a drink to relieve his depressed feelings. There he encounters Arabella, back from Australia, working as a barmaid. He agrees to meet her later, though it means missing the train and his meeting with Sue. When Jude has no ideas as to arrangements for their separation, at Arabella's suggestion they go to Aldbrickham and spend the night, giving themselves time, according to her, to decide what to do.
Back in Christminster the next day, Arabella tells Jude she married again in Australia and when he is angry about this says she will go back to the other man if Jude won't have her. No sooner has he left Arabella than he encounters Sue, who has come to look for him, thinking he may have started drinking as the result of being in the city where so many of his hopes have been disappointed. They return to Marygreen together, and Jude tries unsuccessfully to find out about her marriage, convinced she is unhappy. But she will say nothing but good of Phillotson, and she is offended, later, when Aunt Drusilla makes derogatory remarks about marriage and about Phillotson as a husband. Out of her hearing, Sue admits to Jude she may have made a mistake but will not discuss the subject further. In the days after her departure Jude tries to discipline himself not to think of his love for her. While still at Marygreen, Jude gets a letter from Arabella announcing that she is joining her second husband in London and will help him run a tavern.
In his return to Christminster and in going back to Marygreen with Sue, Jude encounters the past wherever he walks. In Christminster he comes upon the place where Sue once worked, his old lodgings, the stone yard, and finally the tavern where he recited the Creed in Latin. He and Sue pass the Brown House, the house where he and Arabella lived, and the field where he worked as a boy. Each is a reminder to him of some part of his life, and most have more than a single association attached to them.
It is in the tavern in Christminster that Jude encounters Arabella unexpectedly. Hardy has often been criticized for excessive use of coincidence in his handling of plot, and not one but two instances occur here. He meets Arabella, back from Australia, and soon after leaving her the next day comes upon Sue, whom he expects to be in Marygreen. It is true that both encounters occur at dramatically right times: Arabella after Sue's wedding; Sue after he has spent the night with Arabella. However, the appearances in both cases come about as the result of Hardy's desire to demonstrate something in the relationships among the characters rather than the necessities of the plot.