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Industrialization in Tess of the D'urbervilles

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“Although They Were Proud of Their Material Success, the Victorians were often Profoundly Uneasy about the loss of the Rural Community that Industrial Society Experienced.” From Your Reading of Tess of the D’Urbervilles and other Victorian Novels show how you have found this to Be True.

Victorian Novels regularly portray Industrialisation as corrupt, dirty and unrestrained capitalism. In Tess of the D’Ubervilles Hardy does this primarily through the description and actions of the characters in a similar way to Dickens. Alec D’Uberville is part of a group of newly Rich industrialists from the north and the fact “ville” is included in his surname suggests that Alec is symbolic of all Town industrialists. Therefore Alec’s actions, such as the rape scene, where he took advantage of Tess’ “beautiful feminine tissue” suggests subtlety that industrialisation and industrialists are ravaging the country. Alec’s prominent, red bricked and obviously “new” house in the country as well as the fact he has bought rather than inherited the previously pastoral family name D’Uberville more graphically Hardy’s opinion that Alec and the industrialisation he represents has scarred and destroyed the natural agricultural land that the Victorian’s valued so dearly. Similarly, Bounderby in Hard Times, is an industrialist who’s caricatured arrogance “I, Josiah Bounderby of Coketown” and his rash “red and hot” reaction to the robbery of the bank turn us against him. He uses Louisa in a similar way to Alec, manipulating her into marriage and he is ultimately, like Alec proved to be not what he appears. Dickens’s equally cynical view of Bounderby suggests that like Hardy also viewed the Industrialisation that Bounderby and Alec represent with a sense of unease.

Conversely, Hardy’s description of the life of Tess D’Uberville, the figure that ultimately we sympathise with, is described by J.R. Ebbatson as a mixture of ideas “creatively poised between images of Romantic pastoral and scientific background.” Hardy uses Tess to emphasise his revulsion of the industrial world that he has suggested through Alec’s behaviour in the novel. Tess is presented as a figure of purity in the book. She is dressed in white when we first see her, hinting at an almost angelic character and in the description of Sorrow’s baptisement Tess is “almost apotheosized” by the “ecstasy of faith” she raises her voice to “clerks pitch and the description of Tess with phrases such as “large, towering and awful ­ a divine personage” add to the creation of a character that appears to be pure and divine. The sub title, “a pure woman” as well as words describing her in the first phase such as “angel” and “innocent” further emphasise Tess’ purity. Tess is also described in a very natural way. She is constantly surrounded by “rabbits” and “snakes” and is distraught at the death of the horse. She appears to have a natural affinity to nature and. she buries herself in the ground twice and she very sensitively breaks the necks of the injured pheasants. The fact that Tess is described in a very natural and also a very pure way encourages the reader to link the two ideas therefore giving the suggestion that nature is pure. Furthermore, the mistreatment of Tess by Alec throughout the novel and her rape by Alec (who is symbolic of the industrialists in the Victorian period) at the end of “The Maiden” gives the suggestion that Hardy thought that industrialisation of England was ruining the countryside and turning “the maiden” into the “maiden no more”. Louisa fills a similar role in Hard Times as she is portrayed as innocent and lovely through her protection of Tom. And her attitude when caught by Tomas Gradgirid at the Circus, “I wanted to see what it was like”, makes us realise that this natural and fee-spirited child is trapped by all the people around her such as Gradgrind and Bounderby who represent the Industry of Coketown. Furthermore Louisa’s insistence that Bounderby can only “take” a kiss is reminiscent of the way Alec took Tess’ virginity. Both Dickens and Hardy portray their opinion that England is being ravaged by the effects of rapid industrialisation in an allegorical way through the actions and descriptions of their ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’.

In parallel to the use of characterisation in the Victorian Novels many authors reflected their views that Industrialisation was ruining the countryside through subtle imagery. Dickens’s suggests the countryside to be diseased in Bleak house through the underlying metaphor of disease. The Jarndyce case, with a name similar to Jaundice and Tom Jarndyce who is dead before the story begins. Both suggest the Victorian world is diseased by the industrialisation (as well as the legal system). Hardy describes Alec rather like a disease, “pale”, “coarse” and “lurking” and he inflicts “sorrow”, who dies on Tess. Equally Pip’s intentions to make a gentleman of himself and take a part in the industrialised world of London leaves him “pale” and “gaunt” at the end of the novel. Many of the Victorian writers viewed Industrialisation as a disease on their way of life. Something that was going to kill any traces of rural life.

Alongside the infection of the countryside many authors considered industrialisation to be creating huge unhappiness in the community. The increased wealth of already wealthy landowners such as Sir James Chettam and Mr Brooke in Middlemarch and the poverty of more likeable characters such as Dagley highlights the fact that the Victorians considered the industrialisation in rural communities to be an extremely corrupting and malign problem. Bounderby’s pay offs to his mother in Hard Times supports the idea that industrialisation breeds corruption and Pip’s disappointment at his Great Expectations eloquently show the unease at the industrialisation. The fact Alec’s house sits so uncomfortably in its natural surrounding further highlights the unease the Victorians had at the industrialisation in Rural communities.

Ultimately, the fact that Alec is not a completely bad character in Tess of the D’Ubervilles and appears to show genuine remorse at one point at his seduction of Tess and Tomas Gradgirnd’s change of heart at the End of Hard Times suggests that the Victorians looked at the industrialisation with a sense of optimism. However many of the novels written in the 19th century focus on the unease at the introduction of Industry into rural life rather than the optimism of industrialisation because the fears of people outweighed the bright optimism for a better more industrialised future.

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Industrialization in Tess of the D’Urbervilles. (2018, May 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from
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