Tess of D'urbervilles: an Example of an Unconventional Heroine: [Essay Example], 819 words GradesFixer
This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by professional essay writers.

Tess of D'urbervilles: an Example of an Unconventional Heroine

downloadDownload printPrint

Pssst… we can write an original essay just for you.

Any subject. Any type of essay.

We’ll even meet a 3-hour deadline.

Get your price

121 writers online

Tess of D'urbervilles: an Example of an Unconventional Heroine essay
Download PDF

In Thomas Hardy’s tendentious Victorian novel, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Hardy uses a format akin to that of a tragic hero to critique the double standards of Victorian society. His heroine, Tess, challenges Victorian standards by maintaining her innate purity and refusing to be defined by society even after committing acts that ought to both taint and define her. Unlike a tragic hero, Tess’ downfall is not due to a flaw in her character but rather in society’s ability to perceive her character.
Tess embodies nigh on every characteristic that the ideal Victorian woman ought to be; that is: modest, selfless, loyal, dutiful, pure and beautiful. These traits are exemplified throughout the novel. Tess’ beauty is unquestioned; being referenced as her “trump card”. Her selflessness and duty are exemplified in her compliance with her parent’s wishes to “claim kin”, despite not knowing “what good will come of it”. Tess is also cautious to pursue her “love” of Angel out of modesty but, once married to him, is loyal even after acknowledging that he has “punished” her unfairly. On a characteristic level, Tess is “pure”, “kind” and exemplifies the model Victorian maiden. Despite this, Tess is “doomed” and on her “beautiful feminine tissue” is “traced a coarse pattern”. This challenges the idea of conventional heroinism as, despite fulfilling the abstract ideal, Tess is condemned and ultimately “the woman pays”.

Throughout the novel, various members of society attempt to classify and reduce Tess’ complexity. Alec refers to Tess as “temptress” and a “mere chit”, whereas Angel deems her a “goddess”. She is also referred to as “simple”, a “peasant” and her capacity for complexity and independent thought is dismissed by Alec as her “mind [being] enslaved to [Angel’s]”. These assertions aim to define Tess based either on her actions, her situation or whom the men in her life wish her to be, as was customary for women of the time to comply with. Tess subverts this idea by demanding to be acknowledged as an individual. She beseeches Angel to “call [her] Tess” and challenges her classification as a “peasant” by being a “peasant by position but not by nature”. Tess uses her quiet strength to consistently assert her independence which acts as a quiet yet powerful protest to the conventions of the time.

Pssst... we can write an original essay just for you

Any subject. Any type of essay.

We’ll even meet a 3-hour deadline.

121 writers online

However, it is not only other characters but also society’s perception of Tess’ own actions that attempt to challenge her purity and identity. After being raped by Alec D’Urberville, and thus falling pregnant, she challenges both her and her illegitimate child’s right to dignity by questioning the “liturgical reasons” that prohibit her child from being baptised. This action is a direct challenge to the Victorian society to acknowledge her as a human being over and above her circumstances. Tess again challenges the impact of her actions on her status by accusing Angel of being “unjust” in his treatment of her despite her premarital affairs – to be conventionally warranting disgrace – and finally in murdering Alec “for [Angel]” as Tess feels justified in the action. Tess’ rape, infidelity (for the sake of her family) and, ultimately, her murder of Alec, ought to condemn Tess and yet she refuses to ignore the injustices dealt her despite accepting her execution. Tess does not allow her actions to define her character even after Angel insists “you were one woman, now you are another”.

Although Tess chooses not to be defined by her actions she is ultimately punished for them. It is here that Hardy challenges the idea of a tragic hero as it is not Tess’ character that leads to her downfall but rather society’s perception of it. Tess’ illegitimate child taints her ability to be a “truly Christian wife” and is the result of an action for which Angel claims “forgiveness does not apply”. These standards are born out of Angel being a “slave to custom and conventionality” and not by Tess’ own fault. Despite this, both Angel and society’s condemnation of Tess forces her into a place of fear and shame. As a result, Tess is forced to work long hours in cold weather at Flintcombe Ash to support her family and is frequently harassed by Alec who, too, is obsessed with making Tess a “moral woman”. The fact that “outside of humanity [Tess] had no present fear” only emphasises that it was society that caused her downfall. In the words of King Lear, Tess is more “sinned against than sinning” and is ultimately executed for her murder of Alec.

Tess’ personality ought to qualify her to be the perfect Victorian woman and yet she is condemned in the eyes of society and “doomed” to a life of hardship. This dichotomy is an unconventional take on a traditional Victorian heroine and is, consequently, a powerful tool in critiquing the standards of feminine perfection at the time.

infoRemember: This is just a sample from a fellow student.

Your time is important. Let us write you an essay from scratch

100% plagiarism-free

Sources and citations are provided

Find Free Essays

We provide you with original essay samples, perfect formatting and styling

Cite this Essay

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Tess of D’urbervilles: an Example of an Unconventional Heroine. (2018, December 04). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 8, 2021, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-unconventional-heroine-as-a-tool-for-social-change/
“Tess of D’urbervilles: an Example of an Unconventional Heroine.” GradesFixer, 04 Dec. 2018, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-unconventional-heroine-as-a-tool-for-social-change/
Tess of D’urbervilles: an Example of an Unconventional Heroine. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-unconventional-heroine-as-a-tool-for-social-change/> [Accessed 8 May 2021].
Tess of D’urbervilles: an Example of an Unconventional Heroine [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Dec 04 [cited 2021 May 8]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-unconventional-heroine-as-a-tool-for-social-change/
copy to clipboard

Sorry, copying is not allowed on our website. If you’d like this or any other sample, we’ll happily email it to you.

    By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.


    Attention! this essay is not unique. You can get 100% plagiarism FREE essay in 30sec

    Recieve 100% plagiarism-Free paper just for 4.99$ on email
    get unique paper
    *Public papers are open and may contain not unique content
    download public sample

    Sorry, we cannot unicalize this essay. You can order Unique paper and our professionals Rewrite it for you



    Your essay sample has been sent.

    Want us to write one just for you? We can custom edit this essay into an original, 100% plagiarism free essay.

    thanks-icon Order now

    Hi there!

    Are you interested in getting a customized paper?

    Check it out!
    Having trouble finding the perfect essay? We’ve got you covered. Hire a writer

    GradesFixer.com uses cookies. By continuing we’ll assume you board with our cookie policy.


    Haven't found the right essay?

    Get an expert to write you the one you need!


    Professional writers and researchers


    Sources and citation are provided


    3 hour delivery