Get professional help in 5 minutes
Novel, Romance Novel, Tragedy, Adventure Fiction, Didactic Fiction
Angel Clare, Alec d'Urberville, John Durbeyfield, Tess Durbeyfield, Parson Tringham
1891, by Thomas Hardy
After her impoverished family learns of its noble lineage, naive Tess Durbeyfield is sent by her parents to make an appeal to a nearby wealthy family who bear the ancestral name d’Urberville. Tess is seduced by dissolute Alec d’Urberville and secretly bears a child, Sorrow, who dies in infancy. Later working as a dairymaid, she meets and marries Angel Clare, an idealistic gentleman who rejects Tess after learning of her past on their wedding night. Emotionally bereft and financially impoverished, Tess is trapped by necessity into giving in once again to d’Urberville, but she murders him when Angel returns.
The theme of purity and its inversion, fallen women, is central to the novel. Other important themes include fate and free will, memory and the past, women and femininity, man and the natural world, justice and judgment, contrasting regions, and marriage.
Tess Durbeyfield, John and Joan Durbeyfield, Eliza Louisa ('Liza-Lu) Durbeyfield, Angel Clare, Alec d’Urberville, Mrs d’Urberville, Marian, Izz Huett and Retty Priddle, Reverend and Mrs Clare, Reverends Felix and Cuthbert Clare, Mercy Chant
In Tess, Hardy presents a world in which the human spirit is battered down by the forces, not of fate, but of social hierarchy. Tess’s eventual death, one of the most famous in literature, is a direct result of human cruelty and as such represents one of the most moving indictments of the lives of nineteenth-century English women in all of literature.
Though now considered a major 19th-century English novel, even Hardy's fictional masterpiece, Tess of the d'Urbervilles received mixed reviews when it first appeared, in part because it challenged the sexual morals of late Victorian England. Tess was portrayed as a fighter not only for her rights, but also for the rights of others.
“A strong woman who recklessly throws away her strength, she is worse than a weak woman who has never had any strength to throw away.”
“Beauty lay not in the thing, but in what the thing symbolized.”
“Ladies know what to guard against, because they read novels that tell them of these tricks…”
“...our impulses are too strong for our judgement sometimes”