Summary and Analysis
When Arabella calls on Jude and Sue, he discovers she is not married; she tells him that she has something important to discuss with him. When Sue urges him not to go out with Arabella because she isn't his wife, Jude replies that neither is Sue. When he returns soon, not having found Arabella in the street, Sue again implores him not to go to her. Though Jude admits his weaknesses, he is bitter about denying himself for nothing. Faced with a choice, Sue gives in to Jude, saying she will marry him, will allow the intimacy he has so strongly desired; and Jude does not go out looking for Arabella.
The next morning Jude talks of starting arrangements for their marriage, and Sue goes to see Arabella. She quickly sees that Sue possesses Jude in a way she didn't yesterday and says her visit probably helped it along. She receives a telegram from her Australian husband in which he agrees to marry her, a circumstance she has brought about by telling him Jude might take her back. Arabella tells Sue that she will write to Jude about the important matter she came to discuss.
Though Jude and Sue start out to the parish clerk's, they decide to delay putting up the banns for their marriage, Sue saying Arabella's remarks about matrimony have reminded her of the oppressiveness of such an obligation. Arabella's letter arrives, announcing that she is married to Cartlett and that she wants Jude to look after their son, born soon after her arrival in Australia. Jude is willing to look after the child, whether or not it actually is his, and Sue agrees, suggesting maybe they should now marry. The boy arrives by himself from London, sent on by Arabella after he leaves the ship from Australia, and comes to Jude and Sue. Sue says she sees Jude in the boy and allows him to call her mother.
With Sue's giving herself to Jude, they are now "married," though they will never be joined in any ceremony recognized by society. This "marriage" is significant in several ways for the structure of the novel. Jude has strayed far from the conventional beliefs he held at the beginning of the novel, largely through the influence of Sue. And though each has been married to another, they are legally free and are living together as husband and wife. The relationship is not exactly what either one has wanted, but they are together.
That Sue's giving herself to Jude is brought about by Arabella's presence is an irony even Arabella is conscious of. In a sense, Sue is made to compete with Arabella at her own level or, to put it fairly, at the level at which any woman must compete for a man. Though she does so unwillingly, Sue wants to keep Jude from Arabella. The further irony is, of course, that even with this concession on Sue's part Arabella will eventually win, in a sense.
That this and other events in the novel may be brought about by some threatening power that controls man's destiny is symbolized in the appearance of Jude's child, Little Father Time. He makes his appearance as "Age masquerading as Juvenility," and everything about him suggests that he is meant to be more than a child. In fact, there is never much about him that suggests he is a child. That he should appear soon after Sue gives herself to Jude, an important event in the novel, is certainly no coincidence.
Jude's allusion to Job, "Let the day perish wherein I was born," is one of several throughout the novel. Jude remarks here that someday his son may find himself saying this; but, of course, it is Jude himself who repeats this very passage from Job before he dies. The symbol of Job is an appropriate one for Jude: he suffers much, and it is never given to him to know why.