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It's really, extremely difficult to describe the plot of this book without giving any spoilers, as a lot of dramatic events happen very early on in the novel. So I will just say that it follows the story of Tess, a young working class girl, who is sent to visit distant, rich relatives in the hope that she will be able to get a better job or even make a good match whilst there. This visit changes her life immeasurably, and the story follows Tess as she tries to put her past behind her. She is, for me, the ultimate tragic heroine, and although she always tries to do the right thing, other forces in her life (men and society, mainly) often stand in her way.
The book was originally published in 1891, to mixed reviews. People were wary because the novel is sexually quite progressive for the late 1800s, and really challenged some of the traditions, customs and mores that were in place at the time. Tess is subject to the double standards thrust on men and women in Victorian society, and this shapes her future. Hardy attacks these double standards vigorously, and I would almost call this a feminist novel, for its time.
The main thing that I admire about the book is how full and complex and flawed Tess as the main character is. I often find male writers nowadays stick to male main characters, and this can sometimes lead to most of the female characters being thin caricatures or stereotypes. (Of course there are many exceptions to this.) You find yourself swept up in Tess' dilemmas and difficulties, and you really do feel for her. You can completely understand why she makes all of the decisions that she does.
Alec D'Urberville is the villain of the piece, and although you don't always fully understand him he is very easy to hate. It's also easy to dismiss him as a cad - or a player, as we might say nowadays - but his motivations are often quite complex.
Angel Clare seems at first to be the perfect man. He's respectful, physically strong, intelligent, funny and devoted. When I imagine him, believe me ladies, he is HOT. However, he makes one fatal decision that changes both his and Tess' fate forever, and this will completely change your opinion of him. He and Tess both change and develop a great deal throughout the novel. Unfortunately Angel's journey brings him to the right place, but at the wrong time. He is too late.
Hardy's writing throughout the book is just beautiful. He describes the scenery of South-West England (where most of the book seems to be set) beautifully. He also describes people in a wonderful way. Although he can be a bit wordy, some of his sentences are just divine. I'm currently reading this book for the second time, and I imagine I'll read it many more times despite knowing the story well, just for the incredible writing.
Religion was a much bigger part of people's lives in those days, and particularly in Angel Clare's life as he comes from a family of parsons. Because of this, there is a bit of religious theology in there that could get quite dry, but it is kept to a minimum and it doesn't bother me too much. Hardy has a lot to say about religion, and his points are interesting ones.
At the moment I've challenged myself to read the top 100 books as voted for by the British public in a poll by world Book Night. (Tess is at number 45.) So far I've read 19 of them, and two of them have mentioned this book. One is A Prayer for Owen Meany, and the narrator is an English teacher, teaching this book. He talks about the foreshadowing in the book, and this time around I noticed that a lot. The other one is the uber popular One Day. David Nicholls credits Hardy with the premise of his novel, which tells the story of two people on St Swithin's Day every year for 20 years. This is inspired by a scene where Tess is contemplating significant days in her life that come around each year, when suddenly she realises that every years comes the pre-anniversary to her death date, but it goes by without her noticing. (Incidentally, David Nicholls also wrote an adaptation of this book for TV a few years ago.) I thought it was wonderful how this book was loved enough to get to the top 100, and how it had also partly inspired two other books that were on this list.
In short, I'm recommending this book wholeheartedly! It's a beautiful, classic novel that is written incredibly well. You really get involved in the characters, and despite it not being the easiest read at first, you still get into things really quickly. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the classics, and I would also say if you read and liked One Day, you would probably really like this as well. I'll definitely be looking out for more Thomas Hardy novels.
Various editions of this book have various extras in - to be honest the main difference is different forewords by Hardy, which didn't especially grab me. This edition is available from the Amazon Marketplace for about a fiver including shipping, but I'd say keep an eye out for the Popular Penguin Classics edition (the bright green ones) which has a cover price of £2.
Tess of the D'Urbervilles is regarded as a classic in English Literature. It is a captivating story for anyone who has an interest in the field, or if you are studying it at school or university. There are many factors that make this book enjoyable, and Hardy's ability as an author to provoke thought is as strong as any in his time.
Through studying this book at A-Level, I gained an appreciation of Hardy's literary devices as well as the actual story. Often, you will find pages of description relating to the natural world - this is quite common in Hardy's novels - although here in particular, there is particular depth and far-stretched meaning to his elegant prose - almost like a natured version of pathetic fallacy. The world to Hardy is beautiful, and he also views the character of Tess Durbeyfield in the same light. It is interesting to see his character develop throughout time, and without giving away any plot details, one of the main questions that is raised is whether Tess deserves the bright light that the author shines upon her.
Many people argue that fate and the past are the strongest themes throughout the novel, both of which haunt Tess. The basic premise of the story is of her discovery that her family has rich heritage, and is sent to work with them to earn money for her family. The consequences of this act set the scene for the rest of the novel, and the intensely harrowing exploration of a character which the novelist allows the reader to build an intimate understanding of.
Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who likes richly developed classics or are familiar with Hardy though not with this book. If you appreciate coming-of-age stories, this may also be to your taste. If you are interested to see how Hardy presents love, justive and interprets the natural world, then this book will be of great interest. Before studying this book, I was pessimistic, although I needn't have worried because the novel caught me in a similar way to how the novel Twilight has caught the imagination of many in the recent generation. Suffice to say, if a novel can hold the interest of a person who does not spend much time in the face of fiction, then it certainly has to be quality.
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
"Tess of the D'Urbervilles" is a classic Victorian tragedy about the life of an impoverished and virtuous Wessex country girl who becomes a victim of her society and the forces of fate. Her destiny will be both in the hands of the changeable morality of her fellow humans and the consistent forces of nature.
When the rural peasant John Durbeyfield is given delusions of grandeur by a well-meaning amateur genealogist a series of events are set in motion that will spell disaster for John's eldest Daughter. Through a misplaced a sense of guilt Tess seeks kinship with a noble family who use the D'Urberville name. They are, in fact, no relation and a member of their family bought the name. One family member, Alec, takes a fancy to Tess and will spell her downfall in many ways. Meanwhile another man, Angel Clare, seems to be her salvation. In a world where self righteousness and hypocrisy co-exist as almost the same entity, Tess will soon have to decide whether she should reveal her unfortunate past with Alec or remain silent.
I am surprised how few people draw parallels between Thomas Hardy's penultimate tragic novel and the Marquis de Sade's "Justine". Both novels focus on the plight of a completely virtuous female protagonist who is a victim of both the conventions and hypocrisies of their times as well as cruel coincidences. The major difference between them, of course, is in their execution. Despite being considered a controversial novel at the time of its release, Hardy's novel does not use regular overt pornography nor does promote the nihilistic atheist philosophy that Sade uses throughout his works. However, there is a lot to suggest that Hardy's book is more pagan than Christian in its view of the world and by that token more than a little critical of the theistic conventions for the time. From the May dance at the beginning to the Stonehenge venue at the end, Tess is a pawn of the "President of the Immortals" used to pay for the sins of her noble ancestors and a victim that will receive no comfort from institution of the Church.
Unlike "Justine" there is nothing you could describe as horrific in the text. However, the great horror writer Stephen King has cited Hardy as one of his favourite classic writers. His reasons for discussing Hardy when he is being interviewed about horror are interesting. King says that when you start a Hardy novel you just know everything is going to go horribly wrong. It is this pessimistic presence that comes in the form of providence in "The Mayor of Casterbridge" and fate in "Tess" that arguably makes his works possibly even darker than Sade and the Gothic novels that became popular in the 19th century. Hardy doesn't need the overt or even implied presence of the supernatural to encourage his reader's mind to explore uncomfortable places and ask difficult questions. Unlike the Gothic novel there are no brooding castles or manor houses and, if anything, Hardy is known for his beautiful descriptions of his beloved Wessex. This certainly comes out in "Tess" and is used to contrast the legacy of the industrial revolution, as the impoverished peasants' miserable working days are described with Hardy's vivid descriptions of the farmhouse machinery. This machinery is one of the novel's most memorable pieces of symbolic imagery.
Such backdrops and themes, however, are nothing compared to the amount of investment Hardy puts into the story's heroine. Tess Durbeyfield is not the one dimensional figure of virtue that Sade presented for his brutal philosophising. She is naïve, dutiful and loving, but she is not a weak victim. Tess endures tremendous hardship, faces her hypocrites and does eventually fight back. She is not merely a victim of her own naivety, but of both the unfair manmade systems of her time and the forces of fate. When she confronts the men in her life she speaks with the words of the sympathetic reader and we experience with her a sense of learning as she ultimately faces her tragic destiny.
I would recommend "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" to any reader who is looking for something that on a superficial level will offer insights into the plight of the impoverished countryside residents and women in general of the 19th century and on a deeper level will ask some very human questions about morality.
A great tale of love, loss and the unjust nature of life. A questioning of religion and its falsifiability. A critique of the British class system, its restrictions and a beautiful study of the human mind. It is depressing yes and it is thought that Hardy was himself passing through a faze of depression at the time. It is tragic indeed, leading the reader to ask on Tess' behalf 'Why is the world so unfair?' The fact that Tess only ever tries to do what is right by the others around her makes it all the more heart breaking. Hardy's descriptions of the English countryside are intricate mood evoking moments of descriptive bliss and I often re-read them to try to soak up even more of the atmosphere. There are moments of happiness and hope and times when you think the happy ending may actually occur, but tragedy resumes and ultimately wins.
Nevertheless, within this tragic tale are important messages, not only at the time when Hardy wrote it but also today. The validity and reliability of religion is something he continuously addresses, through his characters but also through Tess' treatment by the world. He is essentially saying, if there is a God, why does he let this happen? A great tale, not one of his best and not one to read when you're feeling down, but a great tale nonetheless.
For those of you familiar with Hardy's writing, you'll know the score- bleak landscapes, melancholy descriptions and brooding characters who usually run into more than their fair share of tragedy. Marvellous stuff for those who, like me, enjoy a good old dose of poignant misery to even up all those happy endings.
'Tess' is no exception to this trend; the story centres on a young country girl, Tess Durbeyfield, struggling to shoulder the burdens of her irresponsible family. Following the grisly death of the family horse, and the poverty that results, she is sent to work for a wealthy 'relative', Alec D'Urberville, a roguish ladies' man with a penchant for cigars and impressionable young girls. Suffice to say, things do not end happily. Tess's troubles multiply through the rest of the novel, with only a brief spell of respite in the form of Angel Clare, a high-minded young man who is as drawn to Tess as she is to him. Their resulting love affair and the reappearance of Alec on the scene has disastrous consequences for all.
In other words, don't read this if you're looking for laughs! Expect crumbling ancestral mansions, foreboding weather and bitter struggles for survival. And a fabulously gripping read that will transport you into the characters' world and have you shouting out against the injustice of it all.
Tess of the D'urbervilles is an extremely great novel, especially for the time it was written during the Victorian Period, but is still relevant to us today, with some of the key themes which are dealt with.
First of all, the novel centres on a young girl called Tess Durbeyfield, who finds out she is of a greater lineage, the descendant in the line of the D'urbervilles. As she goes on a voyage to discover her lineage, she meets Alec D'urbervilles, who bought his title. An event between them in the chase kickstart the rollercoaster ride of tragedy and misfortune for Tess.
Even as she attempts to escape him, she is constantly being reminded of him, and throughout the novel, his reappearance indicates a doom she cannot escape, and eventually causes her unfortunate demise, after a life of ruin and hurt.
Tess isn't without her flaws. Her simple nature and her beauty, along with her arguable vanity and pride, contributed to her downfall. Yet this story isn't just about the demise of any woman. Tess symbolises a woman of strength and integrity.
Hardy creates such a likeable character that you cannot fault Tess. She represents the modern day woman with her unique powerful views. She stands for what woman today believe in, and goes against the Victorian view of women- men's objects, housewives, children bearers...
Not only does Hardy challenge the role of women, but the evidence of religion is a key theme. In some places, he challenges religion, and its views, such as child baptism, the place of a raped woman and sin.
Through tragedy, Hardy not only tells a tale worthy of sympathy, but aims to challenge the stubborn views of the past, and to great effect.
I have enjoyed reading this novel, and it is really strong and powerful. Whilst upon first glance, is just a boring classic novel, it has deep meanings and messages that slowly seap through. I believe that it can be purchased for under £5 online, and is really worth the read.
What's more, it has been made into film, and more recently a BBC drama starring Gemma Arterton, which is a great watch, even though it is quite short.
I expect I'll surprise you all here by admitting to reading this! Sometimes though, the Mrs and I share or swap books for something different to read and that's why I came to read this book. I had a quick look on Amazon and they sell this for £1.99 if you buy the Wordsworth Classics version. Nice and cheap read then at least.
Reading this book was quite hard work for me as I'm a bloke of few words in general and I'm not all that familiar with 1800s English. In fairness though, I've read Charles Dickens on a few occasions and not found his books nearly as difficult so I do think maybe Thomas Hardy has made use of quite a lot of pretentious words and phrases even for the time period he wrote it in.
The story is obviously about a young woman called Tess who basically is coming into her own and making mistake after mistake along the way. She doesn't want to play the game that her parents want her to play and it quickly leads her into difficulties. You'd think trying to be good and honest would get you somewhere in life, but all it gets Tess is up the duff out of wedlock which of course wasn't really socially acceptable in those days.
After the baby dies, Tess goes off to work as a dairy maid and falls in love. She can't keep her mouth shut about the illegitimate child though to her new husband, despite her Mother's warnings, and quickly finds herself in hot water again.
I have to say that I was a bit surprised with just how doom and gloom this all was. I'm no die-hard romantic but a tiny bit of happiness or reward for all of Tess's troubles would have been appreciated. The way the story ends is just unbelievable really and although it's good that I couldn't predict the ending, I still would have rather read one I found slightly fitting with the way the rest of the story had gone.
I know I'm just a simple bloke who's opinion isn't going to be worth a whole lot on "classic literature" but at least I can warn all the other simple folks out there not to waste their time on this. It's hard work for an outcome that will leave you feeling deflated. Unless of course you're an English student or someone who wants to read it for its "historical value" or some other educated or artistic purpose.
This book is a beautifully written masterpiece that draws you in from the start and makes you feel like you're saying goodbye to an old friend when you have to put it down at the end.
The book follows the fortunes, or rather misfortunes, of young Tess after she is taken advantage of and gives birth to an illegitimate child. Hardy was renowned for speaking out about the plights of the poor and those scorned by society. In the 19th century an illegitimate child would have been the end for most girls, but Hardy focuses on Tess' life after her social 'death'. Will she be able to move on with her life or will her secret always have repercussions? Hardy uses the story of Tess to make people examine their morals more closely, and he creates empathy or dislike for characters that society would have viewed in completely the opposite manner.
The language Hardy uses seems to echo the rolling countryside in which it's set and you become so involved with the life of Tess that you will want to rewrite certain parts so that events take a happier turn! This book almost made be cry, and that's saying something!
I bought this book in an Oxfam second-hand bookshop for £1.99 so I have a lovely old copy, but all good bookshops should have a copy in the classic section.
I read Tess of the d'Urbervilles over Christmas in an attempt to make myself more intellectual. I am not sure if it worked or not but I enjoyed reading it. I have to say though, it is a pretty miserable read and do not expect a disney style ending!
Thomas Hardy is renowned for his detailed decriptive style. He does paint a very close and realistic picture of the landscape of Southern England. It is interesting to try and guess the areas that he is describing, as he often changes the name though using actual places.
The main character, Tess, is one of life's losers. Nothing really seems to go her way and it is such a sad sad tale. You will things to get better for her.
The novel is set in rural England and you can learn a lot about life on a working farm years ago before modern machinery. It is interesting to learn about the itinerant lifestyle of many labourers.
I found it to be an interesting read and I kept wanting to go back to find out what happened next. However, it was not cheerful in any way at all and I like to feel a little more uplifted by a book (my own life being so miserable I guess!! Seriously though, if you read as a form of escapism, this book is perhaps not for you.)
I well-written interesting story about an ordinary girl in an ordinary world. A good book.
Upon taking this book from the bookshelf the other day, I wasn't quite sure why I was drawn into reading a book read many times in the past, and one which I kept for a rainy day. The rainy day had arrived, and little by little, I delved into the life of Tess, our heroine, and began to recall why this book stands out as such a worthy contender for books that portray life in old England.
Thomas Hardy's use of description is amazing. Not only is the reader almost on intimate terms with characters, but the scenery that he describes passes the test of time, in language that really does it justice and does not seem to have dated, considering that it was written as long ago as 1891. What stood out on the page and that surprized me even after reading it several times in the past is the clarity of description that shows up the author's skill. There is only one other writer that I know that uses this amount of depth to portray their characters and their surroundings, and that is Laurie Lee.
The story tells the life of a simple peasant girl called Tess, born to a lowly family and plunged into a new world by the discovery her father makes that perhaps their descendents were of wealthy stock, who send Tess to make acquaintance with people of a similar name in order to gain recognition and to lay claim to what Tess's father believes will be the making of the family.
As far as the story goes, it really would spoil it to tell Tess's tale, since the writing of the book sets out and succeeds to explore the life of Tess, putting those characters that affect her life into clever vignettes almost as if their passing through her life strengthens the character that readers become familiar with throughout the tale, rather than making them the stronger elements of the story. It's a very clever method and the author goes through such vivid description that the reader feels the emotions, pictures the scenery, and even feels familiar with the landscape to such an extent that even now, over a hundred years after publication, the author's work stands out as vivid and extremely enlightening.
The clever turn of phrase reminded me of the use of language as it should be, as opposed to more modern books where the structure is less rigid, though his crafting of words is superb and at times leaves the reader marvelling at the skill of language itself.
Whereas there has always been criticism of the genre of books that is labelled as "bodice ripping" tales, I really do believe that this book stands out because of its sensitivity, and even when dealing with coarse truth and morbidity, somehow the language used really does conjure up the sense of loss, hope, despair and makes each of the sentiments throughout the tale very real and readable.
There are those that criticise the strength of the characterizations within the works of Hardy, although to me, it is almost as if the very weakness of the characters makes them into credible people that were part of a woman's emotions and feelings, and the manner in which the author dealt with delicate storyline with much misery was more sensitive than any I have ever read before.
Tess is the heroine of the tale that takes twists and turns through such sadness and longing, and by playing down the other characters, what Hardy seems to have achieved is a perfect picture of the girl that takes the route to womanhood, using the complementing characters as parts of her thinking processes in an extremely clever manner.
The scenery which creates the backdrop to the story is cleverly detailed so that the reader can actually picture the corn in the fields, and the work ethic of the time rather than being given a blank landscape that the imagination has to work on. No stone is left unturned as the story weaves through the life of Tess, and the contrasts of her life between the time she spent in Flintcomb Ash and Talbothay's Dairy farm. All of the twists and turns within her life are explored in such a detailed way as to feel that the author was indeed intimate with the character that his book develops.
It's a beautifully told story, and the sadness still very real and undated, the kind that touches every human being, making it a book that never really dates. My enthusiasm drove me into going back to seek more, to care about Tess, and to recognize what work the author did in presenting his public with a whole and very complex character.
For those who enjoy romance, the book has a lot to offer, though I don't think that the offering stops there. For those who would not choose romance as their main source of reading, what the book holds is use of language in a very rich manner that takes the reader back to a time before the media of television or film, to a time when the written word had to capture every essence of a situation rather than depending upon the media to back it up.
It's a wonderful book, and one that I know I shall read again at some stage in the future, when I need reminding of the craft of writing, and the richness of words.
Paperback: 592 pages
Publisher: Penguin Classics (May 27, 2003)
Certainly worthy of buying at the new price (today's price) of £5.00 with second hand editions at a much more humble price.
I was skeptical about starting this book as the blurb on the back didn't really enthuse me. To be honest I bought the book as it was cheap and I didn't have much of my birthday cash remaining. Having read it I would now say it is one of the best reads of my life. I was hooked from start to finish. The images that were created in my head were of a bygone era of harsh and yet unrivaled beauty in the countryside. I was also struck by the amount of devotion Tess had to the people she loved. A must read, especially for 20 something females! I will never judge a book by the blurb on the back again!!!!
I've taken all your advice and removed my end-spoiling revelations.
I had to read this as preparation for my A Level English course, and it completely put a downer on my summer holiday, which was, in hindsight, not the best situation in which to read a book this depressing. Since this was a "classic novel", I was already expecting not to enjoy it, and I was proved right (don't think that I was hoping to not like it; I wanted to be pleasently surprised). For this is a novel which gives the reader absolutely no pleasure at all in reading; just 450 pages of endless depression, angst and misery. It tells the painful story of Tess Durbeyfield, who struggles to overcome the problems of ignorance and poverty, and gets herself into all manner of heartbreaking situations. She is raped and contemplates suicide several times. However, don't be fooled, none of this is as exciting as it sounds.
Some of the other unimportant issues contemplated by Hardy are the way in which traditional agricultural life is being destroyed by machinery; how unforgiving religion can be, and the rigid class system of Victorian Britain. Some of these could still be relevant today, but it is definitely a novel which is incredibly dated, written as it was in 1891.
I would not have so much dislike for this book if it was at least well written, or even interesting. I understand it was published in the 19th century, so the language was always going to be old-fashioned, but Hardy's style is so detailed in its descriptions and elaborate in its style that it is often difficult to read. He spends a whole chapter describing Tess milking a cow on a dairy farm. Sentences such as "One may, indeed, admit the possibility of a retribution lurking in the present catastrophe", appear on every page, as if just to emphasise that Thomas Hardy knows lots of long words and is not afraid to use them. Sometimes simpler is better. The scene in which Tess is raped is written in such flowery language that I didn't even realise anything had happened until she had had the baby.
The structure of the book is fairly unusual, since it is separated into 7 distinct parts, or "phases", with chapters within these. These phases split the tale into manageable chunks, with different storylines and background characters in each one. These help to show different periods in her life, and I do think that this worked quite well.
While I'm on the positive points, I'll admit that Tess herself is a very empathetic character, and you can feel for her all the way. But the two main male characters, her attacker Alec d'Urberville and her lover Angel Clare, seemed to me to be very irrational, and their changes in character were too simple and unrealistic. One minute d'Urberville is an evil man, then he suddenly becomes a religious preacher, then he changes right back again. At the end of the day, a good book needs a good story, and this one just isn't. It gets extremely repetitive, since it is basically the same problem and the same emotions over and over again. You could easily sum up the sixth phase of the book, in which she is pestered by d'Urberville, in about a chapter. I found Tess' constant moaning very annoying, as was the endless "he will never love me, oh how my heart breaks" kind of self-pitying.
I can understand why people will say that this is a moving novel and one which grips the imagination; and it was probably really shocking and brutal for its time. But for today's audience it will seem really quite tame, and its language would put most modern readers off from the very first chapter. I can handle long books - I dragged my way through Lord Of The Rings - it's just that this one isn't very good. Read it if you really want to, but just don't expect any ray of light at the end of this extremely long, slow and tedious tunnel.
If for some reason you did want to put yourself through reading this, you can buy it for £3.37 plus £1 postage from www.thebookplace.co.uk
Set in 19th century england, amidst rolling Cotswold hills, peasant cottages, fairs full of young maidens, cart horses, dairy farms.
To summerise the story, Alec, a suave, womanising man spies Tess for the innocent young country girl that she is. He manages to persuade her in to bed with him, taking advantage of her and eventually getting poor Tess pregnant, with a baby which later dies, apparantly starved of love, as Tess is unable to bond with this bastard child, as it does nothing more than remind her of her weakness and the brute of a man who tricked her.
Then comes Angel Claire, a good man, noble in mind, perfering the natural pursuit of farming to a stuffing, intellectial career in the clergy as his brother do. He meets Tess in a farm where he is learning how to farm as he wants to emigrate and establish a farm of his own in the new world. They fall in love, and get married, with a dark secret hanging over tess as to her former love affair.
Tess finally tell Angel of her secret, the suspence leading up to this moment in very well done. His reaction for me was un expected. I could not relate to how he felt, and the extreme repulsion her felt towards her. I thought, yes, certainly one would be upset, but to run away without her, what does that say about his feelings. As Angel himself says, "tess is no longer the same women". the illusion has disapeared, she is no longer, pure, all good, she is diry, contaminated. Or is is different? does he sincerely believe that in Gods eyes she is the true and natural husband of alec?? and that his love of God's law out weighs his love for tess? however, he doesnt even seem to be that god fearing a man, rejecting the clergy after all, so the first explanation seems more likely.
standards were certainly very different in those days. Many women, taken before marriage often fell in to horrible lives, often prostitution because of the rejection from main stream society of any unpure women. It is clear that angel was simply powerless over his conditioning, the women or perhaps more accuratly the 'illusion of women' who he loved vanished with the disclosure of Tess's secret.
Yes, he evetually comes back. but the damage is done, eveything is screwed up and the horrible end is set in destiny.
I really liked this book, the plot is excellent, and it really does make one thing about the the whole question of love and what a man is really in love with, whether it is the women or his 'ideal of womanhood'. I thought however, that the characters were slightly one dimensional, angel's character was pathetic, and so was Tess to a certain extent. But i suppose that is fairyl accurate of such a young girl, one cant expect too much from her. Having read Jude the Obscure, i do not think the two books are even in the same league. the characters in Jude are marvellous, that what makes the book. In TEss though, without the intricate plot, the characters alone would not make it publishable.
So, i did like it, gripped by the plot, dissapointed by the characters, which is why i perhaps not as depressed at the end as i could have been. the ending is also one of the best ive come across. Set on a desolate dark night atop Salsibury plain on the cold slabs of Stone Henge, excellent imagery!
I found it published by 'world classics OUP'
This novel caused a heck of a fuss when Thomas Hardy first published it. Originally titled "A Pure Woman" it was considered outrageous for a woman such as Tess to be seen as pure in Hardy's eyes. I'm giving a fairly lengthy plot description here, so apologies if you get bored, and the ending is given away, so watch out! Tess Durbeyfield is the peasant daughter of haggler John. She is partaking in a local dance with other girls when three young brothers wander along- Angel, Felix and Cuthbert (poor bugger) Clare. Angel wants to join in the dance, but his older brothers are basically a bit snobby about dancing with country girls, so Angel dances with all of the girls save for the pretty Tess, which he regrets, while she feels snubbed by him. When a local parson tells the rather vain John that he is actually the descendant of the D'Urbervilles, an old rich family. John goes to get drunk in celebration and ends up so hammered that he's too ill to take some stuff which he has to sell in the horse and cart. He gets Tess and her little brother to do it instead. Tess falls asleep and the horse ends up in an accident and is killed. As a result, the overly sensitive Tess feels guilty not realising it is really John's fault. Meanwhile her mother Joan has learned that a Lady D'Urberville lives in a neighbouring village. She wants to send Tess to claim kin and learning that there is a master D'urberville, has notions that Tess, being a beautiful girl, will marry him. Tess really doesn’t want to go but does out of guilt of the death of the horse. Alec, the young D'Urberville, is, to put it politely, a nasty sleazy git who needs to be castrated and lusts after Tess. Eventually he rapes/seduces Tess (because of the time of writing, Hardy had to shroud the sex in imagery) and she ends up pregnant. She goes home after Alec tries to buy her off. Tess's baby becomes ill, she christens the baby Sor
row in a touching ceremony with her siblings, but the child dies. Not long after, Tess gets work at Talbothays, a large dairy farm a good way away from her home town, and she heads off there. This marks a happy spell in Tess's life. She meets Angel Clare who had been at the spring dance. His father is a parson but Angel doesn't want to be involved in the church and is learning the ways of farming instead. He falls for Tess, who is distraught after deciding not to get married. Angel persists the pair fall in love and agree to marry. The two wed, and just after Angel confesses to "eight-and-forty hours' dissipation with a stranger". Tess, feeling unburdened, confesses. Angel freaks out and leaves Tess, although by law they are still married, and travels to Brazil. Tess in the meantime ends up working with some of her old dairymaid friends for a horrible farmer. She runs into Alec who accuses her of tempting him and guilt trips Tess into living with him, because her family are on the verge of homelessness and need the money. Having given up on Angel and realising his hypocrisy, she agrees. Angel comes home from Brazil having realised the error of his ways and tracks Tess. On finding her, he learns that she thinks it’s too late for them. He takes off and Tess gets into a fight with Alec, which ends in her stabbing him. She runs after Angel, and they spend time together in an old mansion. After wandering the countryside for a while, Tess finds they are at Stonehenge, and feels at home, having been described as a heathen in her home village. She tells Angel that should she be caught she wants him to marry her sister Liza-Lu. The police catch up to her, and shortly after Tess is hanged. Tess of the D’Urbervilles is a beautifully constructed story, which makes use of the hand of fate. It is the sweet and natural character of Tess that gives the book its exceptionality. The beautifully innocent child never seems to grow in
to a woman; she retains a dear innocence and vulnerability, which she had from the outset. Her purity of morals and spirit make her the perfect victim for such a small-minded society, and I empathised with her in a way I have done with few characters in novels. It is difficult not to fall in love with her sweet naïveté and quiet courage, although it is easy to feel exasperated with her intense passivity. Her true, deep love for Angel is another thing, which makes her endearing. As Izz notes when Angel asks if he loves her more than Tess did, no-one could because she would lay down her life for Angel. The three-dimensional Angel is another attractive character. Initially you want to like him and by the later chapters you begin to empathise with him despite his rather rash and inconsiderate treatment of his wife. It is clear that he loves her, but it’s also fair to say that he doesn’t feel the intense love that Tess does, given that he was so willing to treat her cruelly and with such narrow-minded hypocrisy. Hardy’s descriptive language is beautiful, especially in relating the growing love between Angel and Tess at Talbothay’s. The passion shown is so beautifully described, especially considering that there is nothing even beyond the realm of suggestive. The same descriptive style, which I felt, made the Mayor of Casterbridge and bit cumbersome, plodding and difficult to get into has a wonderful vibrance and colour to it, so that you can perfectly picture Tess and the little upward curve of her lip that drives Angel mad. The natural description is also thoroughly detailed in typical Hardy style, but once again has a beauty that the Mayor of Casterbridge didn’t have (for me anyway). Hardy weaves a complex tale which clearly has dire thoughts of his eras views of morals and religions and the hypocritical stance which said that men were unable to control their sex and drives and therefore upper class men could
have sex with as many peasant girls as they wished and have no reason to feel guilty. Alec is painted as the devil, reappearing in different forms and appearing with pitchforks in all his moustached, Victorian melodrama villain glory. Hardy paints a sad picture of religion too, where minor doctrines are given more importance than forgiveness and kindness. All in all, Tess is a beautiful book full of gorgeous language and suggestive passion, which in my view is unequalled. The lovely Tess is such a sweetie that you just want to wrap her up in bubble wrap and keep her protected and safe from the big bad world. By the end of this I was literally crying buckets of tears; but there is an irony in that Tess dies happy- she feels ready to go, she doesn’t want to live for Angel to lose his love for her, and knows that he will look after her sister. So, in an odd way, the ending could be seen as happy.
This is a full and in-depth review. It is nescessary to discuss the events within to comment on the text. Please read on and enjoy......... To truly be able to appreciate a Victorian novel Thomas Hardy's 'Tess of the D'urbervilles' has to be looked at carefully. Published initially in 1891 in chapters in the Graphic newspaper, the Fortnightly Review and The National Observer much of its content was omitted. Yet it still caused a great deal of controversy over its example of a working class heroine who allows herself to be seduced by an upper class bounder. Thomas Hardy was born near Dorchester in 1840 and was brought up amidst Victorian middle class values and attitudes. He was well educated and worked as an architect both in Dorset and in London. 'Tess of the D'urbervilles' is an example of Hardy's poetic writing, it demonstrates a tenderness for Tess, and Hardy said himself ' I have never been able to put on paper all that she is, or was, to me '. When the chapters were placed together in one volume they were labelled as phases. Avarez has said that this use of phases was 'as though she (Tess)were a natural phenomenon, like the moon'. Phase the first is titled 'The Maiden'. It begins with a local festival where young girls are dancing with billowing white gowns. Two passers-by, one of whom is a middle class gentleman named Angel Clare, watch on the scene. He is taken by one of the girls, a simple but beautiful girl, Tess. They speak, but part innocently. Following this encounter Tess's heart yearns for Angel. She is poor, her Mother is laden with children and her Father is a drunkard who learns by chance that they may be related to a wealthy family, the D'urbervilles as their name is Durbeyville. Tess is sent to seek the kin as it is hoped that she may marry one. On arriving at the house Tess meets Alec D'uberville. He is a cad. Picture a man wearing a smoki
ng jacket, a cigarette holder and a twitching moustache and you are there - Terry Thomas essentially! Tess is naturally afraid of him as he makes many sexual references to her regarding her bouncing in the carriage and touching her. Yet it is in the garden where Tess meets her seduction. In a very sexual metaphoric portrayal of tasting strawberries, Alec lures her to taste and her reluctance is clear in this wonderful scene. Tess is afraid of her actions and in the next chapter 'Maiden no more' we see her run away. Later she begins work on a farm as a milkmaid where she encounters Angel again. They have many conversations and fall in love. It is clear that Tess is not Angels idealised picture of womanhood and on their wedding night Tess cannot keep her secret any more and confesses to Angel about Alec and his saucy 'strawberries'. Angel is horrified and rejects her. This rejection is further added to Tess's loss of a child soon into its life. Combined, these two events send Tess's life spiralling out of control. She becomes reunited with Alec, who now appears more solid. He does care for Tess, although he is far from kind, and although he is a lech, he's an honest lech. Angel is weak and shallow. He cares more for his social appearance than of his feelings. But the comfort of a relationship does not prevent Tess from murdering Alec in a rage when Angel changes his mind and tries to win her back. Tragedy is faced with consequence and Tess is hanged for the murder. The subtitle of the text is 'A Pure Woman' which seems to be a reaction from Thomas Hardy against the Victorian cult of chastity. Hardy has created a working class heroine who, though seduced, still remains virtuous right up until her death. She is a vulnerable victim who knows suffereing through her two lovers. It is an amazing and beautiful book, almost like a personal intrusion in to Tess's life. The titles of the phases demo
nstrate the social current running through the spine of the book. The Maiden, Maiden no More, The Woman Pays, The Consequence and Fulfillment, to name some, show the Victorian attitude bound to Tess through Hardy's writing. Tess is rejected by Angel for being flawed, is taunted by Alec for her simplicity and suffers the death of a child. Yet to the reader and to Hardy, Tess remains pure, rich in character and honour.
Set in the bleak, magical Wessex landscape so familiar from Hardy's early work, Tess's cruel story reveals circumstances slowly closing in on her as she attempts to grasp a few moments of happiness with her lover.