Monday, June 20, 2011

Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy – June 17, 2011

 Thomas Hardy - Maggie Richardson's Bronze Bust
Tess was long awaited by KRG readers since it promised the same fervent reading pleasure and exciting debate as Madame Bovary. We follow the adventures of a lovely heroine, endowed with spunk and intelligence, asking Hardy to be our guide and plot the way.

Priya, Zakia, Amita, and Bobby listening to Talitha
With murder at the beginning and the end, and sensuous descriptions of his beloved landscape in 'Wessex', Hardy mesmerises the patient reader. His delight in words and the overpowering scenes in the book beguile and charm us.

Thommo reads about the first penetration

There's a reckoning at the end, but how sad we feel for Tess — "the most bewitching milkmaid ever seen."  Whom should we rail against? Angel Clare for the “hard deposit” in his unforgiving soul; Alec whose rape elides the tender romance; or Hardy who knew beforehand and deliberately plotted Tess's end? One of the readers was so exercised that she wrote a verse to assign the blame.
Zakia, Talitha, Soma, Rini, Amita, KumKum, Priya, Thommo, Joe

For a full account click below.
Present: Amita, KumKum, Talitha, Priya, Joe, Thommo, Zakia, Bobby, Soma
Absent: Indira (out of town), Minu (busy)Guest: Soma's daughter Rajalakshmi (Rini)

These are the dates for the next two sessions to be posted on the blog:
July 15, 2011 : Poetry
Aug 12, 2011 : The Kite-Runner by Khaled Hosseini (choice by Minu)

Thomas Hardy’s manuscript for Tess of the d’Urbervilles

The next novel is to be selected by Soma and Zakia. We considered the possibility of having corresponding members, i.e., those who join the KRG and follow it by e-mail contribution of their passages/poems and commentary to the blog. For the present no corresponding members will be elected unless one of the present members leaves, and wishes to contribute by sending their pieces for sharing on the blog.

Nastassja Kinski as Tess in the film by Roman Polanski

Tess comes to a bad end by hanging at the end of the novel. Thomas Hardy's inspiration may have originated in this scene of which he saw the original: a woman called Martha Brown, hanged for the murder of her husband (she claimed innocence to the last) in Dorchester. Hardy was among a crowd of up to 4,000 people who watched Martha Brown’s hanging in August 1856. It was an event that had a huge impact on his life and work. Read more at

1. Bobby
Thommo mentioned that reading Tess was like preparing for an exam, meaning it was not a novel one would read voluntarily, only when there was a reckoning, namely the day of our reading. Bobby said that after The World According to Garp the electors of that novel have redeemed themselves by their choice of Tess. 

Bobby read from the chapter where Alec catches up with Tess again, but now he has been converted to the life of an evangelical preacher. ' These days I feel like a convert' Bobby said. The passage put him in mind of Jimmy Swaggert, a US preacher, who was always preaching against immorality, and then was caught in the act himself.
Talitha felt the conversion of Alec to his clerical form was not convincing. Similarly, his relapse from his virtuous Christian self, when he encounters Tess once more. They seem contrived events. Joe couldn't figure the conversion, but the lapse was understandable; he would have fallen for Tess, if he was the Pope himself. Bobby thought the novel was acutely psychological and brings out the characters in their fullness.

Priya said she cried toward the end for the cruel fate Tess met at the hands of Hardy. That put Joe in mind of a similar complaint against Flaubert for having ill-used Emma Bovary. The sense was that Flaubert did entertain a bad opinion of Emma (if such a thing is possible between an author and the creature of his imagination), but not Tess; she was the darling of Hardy's imagination, most agree.

KumKum mentioned the film by Roman Polanski where Nastassja Kinsky played Tess, and said she was getting the DVD from her son so we can see it together (as with A Streetcar Named Desire). Bobby recalled that Polanski got into trouble in America for having sex with a minor and had to flee.

2. Talitha
Talitha referred to the legend of the White Hart which pertains to the area near the vale of Blackmoor where the village of Marlot (Tess's village) lies. A king pursued the deer and killed it. This is a symbol of the impending catastrophe that will overtake our heroine, Tess, said Talitha. In the introdcution to an edition of the novel by the poet Cecil Day Lewis, he too mentions that the hounding to death of an innocent animal is the precursor to the Tess's own end in the novel.
 White hart grazing in the forest, seems gently oblivious of its radiance and beauty
Talitha said there are many disparate elements in the novel. The D'Urbervilles, were supposedly a great family in times past. The May Dancing is a relic of the pagan revels before Christianity arrived in Britain. This is the scene of 'club-walking.'
There is plenty of humour scattered in the book, e.g., Tess looking after fowls is described as “supervisor, purveyor, nurse, surgeon” to the community of fowls.
She read about John Durbeyfield already imagining himself as belonging to the gentry descended from knights and sending a lad with a shilling to fetch him a carriage. He tells him what to order up for supper. She made it sound hilariously delusional, saying Durbeyfield's beahviour was quixotic, as in Don Quixote de la Mancha.
There's irony and humour in the passage where Alec wearing a “smockfrock” appears and quotes Milton about Paradise: “A jester might say this is just like Paradise. You are Eve, and I am the old Other One come to tempt you in the disguise of an inferior animal.” However, Talitha thought it was poorly integrated with the pathos of the passage.
Zakia was very glad to have it revealed that this book contains humourous bits; she was not aware of that, but Talitha brought it out very well.

3. KumKum
KumKum read the following appreciation of Tess:
Thomas Hardy lived from June, 1840 to Jan 1928. A remarkable coincidence is that we are here today to discuss his most popular novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, on his 171st birth anniversary, which is also the 120th anniversary of the publication of Tess.

It is a testament to the appeal of the book that it continues to be read, is prescribed in English lit courses, and has become something of a classic. It is not easy for today’s readers to appreciate the nuances of emotion, and the twists and turns of events as the story progresses.

The two major characters, Tess and Angel Clare, are almost alien to our present consciousness, and so are the values they upheld. Tess was a pitiable victim of her circumstances. Though the author solidly backed her character, yet, Hardy portrays Tess as a very weak person, who remained helpless. And her love for Angel Clare was rather irrational in my opinion, with a tinge of hallucination about it. She could not judge him realistically until it was too late.

I thought Angel Clare, in the guise of a “Good man, and a clever man” did more wrong to Tess than the villainous Alec. On the other hand, all the minor characters (Sir John and Joan Durbeyfield, Angel’s parents, and the three milkmaid friends) are characters, still extant in our time, in some form or the other. Alec d’Urbervilles is a pivotal character of the story. Let me, make a separate category for him: The Villain.
Wherein lies the appeal of this book today, I pondered?

In our younger days, long back, young women read Hardy’s novels but not young men. Such novels appealed to women as love-stories, and stories of ordinary home life, and all Hardy's books came with the hallmark of “Classics.” I wonder if young women today would willingly read Hardy’s novels, unless they are included in their Lit course syllabus. I don't intend to enter into a debate whether Tess may be called a true Classic. Or merely a landmark piece of literary work in its time by an author who acquired great fame.
But, I enjoyed reading the book again. In fact, I enjoyed the book more this time round. It is not the story that appealed to me so much as Hardy’s prose. It is unique. It is very poetic and descriptive. His style is relaxed and precise at the same time. He took time to describe the many moods of nature in his beloved Wessex landscape; and skilfully made a connection between nature and the varying moods within his novel. I could easily compare his pen pictures with the paintings of some of the great Impressionists of the 19th Century.

A few selected passages below will highlight Thomas Hardy’s delight in words.

KumKum felt so carried away by the novel and its enchanting heroine who comes a-cropper at the end (and at several places in between) that she wrote a short poem to express her feelings. More than Angel Clare, she felt it was Hardy who had abandoned Tess. Here is the verse she recited:

Purity's a relative term in dairy farms,
It couldn't save Tess from sundry harms.
Nor could that epigraph defend
The wretched woman from her tragic end.
Sure, Tess was Pure in Hardy's mind,
And imaginings of Angel's kind;
Both these men are guilty, equally so,
They let down Tess, knowing she'd no place to go.

Wow! There was a round of general applause.
The question is: did Hardy condemn her? The simple answer is yes, he condemned Tess to a bad end. But on the other hand we have this from an interviewer of Black and White magazine, dated 27 August 1892, who reported that Hardy told him:
‘I still maintain that her innate purity remained intact to the very last, though I frankly own that a certain outward purity left her on her last fall.’

Talitha gave another answer, stemming from the word 'murderess' which occurs at the beginning (in connection with the horse named Prince): "she regarded herself in the light of a murderess.” And at the end she does become a murderess in truth.

4. Soma
It's a very sad story, said Soma. She read an especially dolorous passage about Tess's child dying, and then Tess has to take on the parson to give the body a decent burial. They kept refusing to bury the body because the child had been born out of wedlock (as though that was any fault of the child!) 
Tess in Roman Polanski's Golden Globe award winning movie - with dying child
Thommo said in Jacobite churches there is a separate section for those who commit suicide, or die in circumstances the church frowns upon. That section of a graveyard is called 'themmadi kuzhi' in Malayalam, Bobby chimed in. Thommo pointed out that the passage Soma read, has a part about suicides:
... that shabby corner of God's allotment where He lets the nettles grow, and where all unbaptized infants, notorious drunkards, suicides, and others of the conjecturally damned are laid.”
That 'conjecturally' is a nice qualification, spelling out the author's scepticism.

Bobby pointed out that the possibility of church censure has a constraining effect on the behavior. How could it on the dead person, asked Thommo? Well, not on the one who's gone, but on those who are left holding the bag (corpse), Bobby clarified.

5. Thommo
Thommo led off with his discovery that all of the misadventures in the novel could have been avoided if only Tess had been an insomniac. Consider that she is asleep when
a) she has the horse-shafting accident
b) she is raped
c) she is arrested

What ensues from each instance of her sopor, is one calamity that leads to another and so on. 
Thommo read the scene when Tess is in their carriage with her little brother, and the horse, Prince, gets impaled by another cart driven by a mail carrier in the opposite direction. Neither the mail carrier, nor her parents, blame her for the mishap, grievous loss though it is for her poor family. Yet, Tess feels guilty and cries out "'Tis all my doing—all mine!" 

 Tess and Angel Clare in the BBC movie 'Tess'

She undertakes to repair the damage to their fortunes by going to work at the place of her supposed rich relatives in Trantridge. “Nobody blamed Tess as she blamed herself.”

She sees herself as a murderess in this scene at the beginning, a precursor of the scene at the end of the story. Crimson drops of the horse's blood ooze out, and  the reader will recall this later when the heart-shaped congealing of blood takes place on the ceiling of the room below the deathbed of Alec.

Joe made a comment that murdering your wife, crosses every husband's mind at some point! Why he made the gratuitous remark, he can't recollect. Perhaps in response to the scene where Angel Clare sleepwalks into the pond and nearly drowns Tess.

6. Joe
Tess is an imperfect heroine and nobody need blame Hardy for that. He once said: “no satire is intended by the imperfections of my heroines.” It is how life turns out; it is how the characters he wrote about lived their imaginary lives, gleaned from his experiences of the time. 
Victorian England was a suffocating place for an author and Hardy wrote an essay titledCandour in English Fiction. In it he deplored the stifling restrictions placed on novelists who were thwarted in their attempts to portray the fullness of life, in an honest and candid way, including the 'relations of the sexes'.
Reading Tess now, we see that the book's descriptions of men and women romancing are quite tame. Even the violent sex, be it rape or seduction, is only hinted at; Alec and Tess just go off into the bush! That she had a baby out of wedlock as a consequence, was seen as reprehensible enough that Hardy even excised the scenes in one edition, before reinstating them finally.

 Nastassja Kinski in Tess Of The d'Urbevilles

Tess's problems are twofold. She is exceedingly lovely; not merely do the men she comes in contact with fall for her – but even the author is patently in love with the character he created: a person of elevation and nobility of thought, and considerable spunk and intelligence, in the garb of a a milkmaid from a humble background. Because she is lovely and men fall for her, she is constantly buzzed by them, and their attention is often unwelcome.

Problem number two is her 'innocence' or lack of worldly experience, when she is cast upon the world of working men and women at the tender age of seventeen. Alec at one point comments on mothers failing their daughters by neglecting to impart sex education. Tess is not equipped to take care of herself, in spite of her natural woman's reserve.

Tess gets into trouble rather early in the novel and the guy who did her wrong then disappears and all we learn is that a baby was brought forth from the union and it died. Just as it plays out today, the girl gets blamed by society, and nothing happens to the man. Tess has no protector. It is clear the critics of Hardy also thought likewise. 

Hardy's explicit notice in the subtitle ('A Pure Woman') should have made it clear that “the estimate left in a candid mind of the heroine's character” must be her essential purity. But the subtitle was disputed more than anything else in the book. In the 1912 edition Hardy wrote in Latin regarding this: melius fierat non scribere or 'It would have been better not to write it.' 
Hardy has laid out sympathies for all his characters. At first we see Alec to be a philanderer, taking advantage of a defenceless 17-year old peasant girl who has come seeking work on his estate. But as we read, we discover that Tess, though innocent and unready for deflowering, was actually offered marriage by Alec after the event. We learn this only at the end when Alec in the last part re-inserts himself into her life. 
Then we compare him to the somewhat goody-goody character of Angel Clare, and find little reason why Tess should worship Clare so abjectly as to lose her self-respect and independence. Clare is less dashing, and quite hidebound by his conservative principles in spite of his having rebelled against his father; he seems serviceable only for milking cows and carrying girls across flooded streams !

Hardy wrote a dozen poems that are concerned with the themes of the novels, including some that directly elaborate a scene. They are too long to read in this session but here's the first of six stanzas from the poem, Tess's Lament:
I would that folk forgot me quite,
Forgot me quite!
I would that I could shrink from sight,
And no more see the sun.
Would it were time to say farewell,
To claim my nook, to need my knell,
Time for them all to stand and tell
Of my day's work as done.

Joe read from a clutch of very short selections, including some one-liners that summarise important elements in the novel. There is humour, philosophy, dreamy scenes, mild eroticism, and even some musing on the way the steam engines used for threshing were changing the human face of agriculture.

KumKum commented on the scene where Clare sleep-walks with Tess in his arms and almost drowns her. Talitha said that scene adds to the mystery. It is as though he is subconsciously still in love with her, though the rigidity of his moral sense drives him away. Clare is very sensitive, vouched Talitha; this must have been in response to Joe declaring Clare was a goody-goody type.

Joe said in spite of Hardy being heavy going, we were all deriving some laughter and and seeing the non-tragic, the ridiculous side of the novel, dependent as it is on a series of coincidental meetings, and near misses (like Tess's confessional letter before the wedding that slides under the carpet and is not seen by Clare). Hardy arranges it all with careful plotting.

7. Priya
Priya read the scene where Tess confesses to Clare about her past with Alec and then is rebuffed by Clare. “Why didn't you tell me before?”, he asks, meaning before the wedding. He does not forgive her and says the woman revealed by her confession is not the woman he loved, but quite  another woman. Clare refuses to be reconciled, and they part. In these scenes we sympathise with Tess, for it is not she, but Clare, who makes the emphatic break and dashes all hope. The reader sees the possible happy ending slip away, because a rigid morality and concern for respectability overcomes what should have been stronger, Clare's love.

Priya confessed she was reduced to tears.

KumKum mentioned that the geographic span of the novel is rather constrained by the vale of Blackmoor and its environs. The characters all keep running into each other! One supposes that people in the days of horse carriages could not travel very far; their spatial reach would have been only as far as they could walk in a day. Thommo added that the setting of Hardy's entire novelistic work is within this narrow beloved expanse of his, which he called 'Wessex' in Dorsetshire. He was familiar with every square inch of the territory.

Talitha was inclined to be rather more understanding of Clare's position at the end. She asked: “How would you feel as a woman if soon after your wedding your husband announced some egregious sexual act from his past, say like revealing he had once had a homosexual affair?” Instead of the earth moving (cf. For Whom The Bell Tolls), you would experience a sundering earthquake in relations. So Talitha understands and excuses what the narrator refers to as the “hard logical deposit” in Clare's constitution that prevents him from embracing Tess after the confession.

Tess - the falling out after the wedding with Angel Clare in the BBC movie

Priya responded to this by saying the set of values for a man and a woman are different. She should clarify for the record what she implied by this comment. That women would be more understanding, and forgiving? More willing to let bygones be bygones? 
Priya was anguished by the line: “When Tess had passed over the crest of the hill he turned to go his own way, and hardly knew that he loved her still.”

Don't we all want love to triumph !

8. Zakia
Zakia's passage for reading is a meditation by the narrator about Angel Clare being “yet the slave to custom and conventionality.” Zakia read from some notes on the Web which are available at several sites, for instance:
Angel Clare’s history parallels that of Tess in that he has broken away from his family through exposure to modern ideas. He outrages his father, the ‘straightforward simple-minded . . . man of fixed ideas’ by wishing to use a university education for the ‘honour and glory of man’ and not of God. Just as Tess is breaking away from parochial convention and superstition, he is breaking away from adherence to received dogma. 
Later, Angel says that if Tess had told him her history earlier he might have been able to accept it. Tess must be held to blame for not telling him, though fate, in the letter she wrote him remaining unseen, and social pressure from her mother, are also partly responsible. Angel has imagined himself to be an enlightened humanist, but when he discovers his wife’s 'immoral' history he finds that his new attitudes have not penetrated his intellect. 
And Tess, as she often does, verbalises the viewpoint Hardy is expressing through her:
It is in your own mind what you are angry at Angel; it is not in me.’
So the intellectual and free-thinking Angel is the ‘slave to custom and conventionality’, and the relatively ignorant Tess is the true humanist. It takes Angel a year of travelling and suffering during which ‘he had mentally aged a dozen years’ before he can throw off his strictly moral upbringing and realise the validity of Tess’s viewpoint. 
Talitha adverted to the the strong strain in Christianity of forgiveness and compassion for the sinner willing to repent (what of the sinner still mired in her ways – any sympathy there?). She gave the example of the woman taken in adultery and brought to Jesus for stoning: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” he responds. Yet, wondered Talitha, even today would we be inclined to condone matters if we learned that the woman who proposes to marry our son had a child out of wedlock by a previous affair?

9. Amita
The passage for reading concerns Tess who has returned “from the manor of her bogus kinsfolk.” She is pondering where she went amiss, or even whether she fell foul of some laws? Is she the victim of “a cloud of moral hobgoblins by which she was terrified without reason.” Of course, the seigneurial Alec of the D'Urbervilles is not vexed by similar scruples.

The Rape vs. Consent question was hotly debated at this point. KumKum and Amita thought there was consent implicit in Tess's behaviour, though she might have been struggling with her conscience.

Thommo viewed the event as beginning with force and ending with consent. Somebody joked that Tess must have figured, “If I can't fend this off, let me cooperate and have some fun.” Priya joined the debate by verbalising what could have been Tess's thought at the moment: “Let me go ahead and finish this guy.” Laughter rang out at the idea of a woman finishing off a guy in an amorous encounter, but it has been known to happen in literature!

Joe was shouted down when he tried to put forward the British law in Victorian times. For a discussion of the legal angle you can look at the book, Thomas Hardy: Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Cedric Watts:

Many critics have expounded on this crucial scene, but Watts says that “the scene analysed as a legal event brings greater clarity; if not full resolution, to this debate.“ Did Tess yield to force or to temptation? For writing this scene Hardy had specially studied the British law in these matters. Recall, Tess's mind has already been subdued by sleep.

Victorian law defined rape as ‘the offence of having unlawful and carnal knowledge of a woman by force, and against her will'. A legal specialist further explains that ‘To constitute rape, it is not necessary that the connection with the woman should be had against her will; it is sufficient if it is without her consent. Not surprisingly, English courts upheld the idea that a sleeping woman was incapable of giving her consent to sexual intercourse, or 'connection' in legal terminology.

So the British legal conclusion in the matter is that Tess was raped. 
That Hardy intended it to be viewed as rape is also evident from the fact that in the first edition, Tess is administered a cordial before the event. Alec holds:
a druggist's bottle to her mouth unawares. Tess spluttered and coughed, and gasping 'It will go on my pretty frock' swallowed as he poured, to prevent the catastrophe she feared.

Tess finally kills Alec with a knife. In a moment that balances perfectly the earlier assault, violent penetration answers violent penetration, and crime answers crime. There are other scenes of penetration and violence in the novel (Alec's pushing strawberries into Tess's mouth and the stabbing of Prince).

Tess being offered a strawberry by Alec D'Urbervilles in the glasshouse

Soma made the important point that with every rape comes a sense of guilt in the woman. She may be the absolute victim, but even so she entertains a vague sense of guilt in the forced union.

The final comment took everyone by surprise. It came when someone suggested that her staying on at Trantridge with Alec after the rape, demonstrated a 'coalition of the willing.' 
No, said someone: women, even when they do not like their husbands, will go ahead and have two children by the union. Laughter!

Or three amended, Priya.

The Readings

1. Bobby
Ch 35. Tess re-encoutners Alec after his conversion to evangelical preacher
Till this moment she had never seen or heard from d'Urberville since her departure from Trantridge.
The re-encounter came at a heavy moment, one of all moments calculated to permit its impact with the least emotional shock. But such was unreasoning memory that, though he stood there openly and palpably a converted man, who was sorrowing for his past irregularities, a fear overcame her, paralyzing her movement so that she neither retreated nor advanced.
To think of what emanated from that countenance when she saw it last, and to behold it now! … There was the same handsome unpleasantness of mien, but now he wore neatly trimmed, old-fashioned whiskers, the sable moustache having disappeared; and his dress was half-clerical, a modification which had changed his expression sufficiently to abstract the dandyism from his features, and to hinder for a second her belief in his identity.
To Tess's sense there was, just at first, a ghastly bizarrerie, a grim incongruity, in the march of these solemn words of Scripture out of such a mouth. This too familiar intonation, less than four years earlier, had brought to her ears expressions of such divergent purpose that her heart became quite sick at the irony of the contrast.
It was less a reform than a transfiguration. The former curves of sensuousness were now modulated to lines of devotional passion. The lip-shapes that had meant seductiveness were now made to express supplication; the glow on the cheek that yesterday could be translated as riotousness was evangelized to-day into the splendour of pious rhetoric; animalism had become fanaticism; Paganism, Paulinism; the bold rolling eye that had flashed upon her form in the old time with such mastery now beamed with the rude energy of a theolatry that was almost ferocious. Those black angularities which his face had used to put on when his wishes were thwarted now did duty in picturing the incorrigible backslider who would insist upon turning again to his wallowing in the mire.

2. Talitha
Ch 1 - John Durbeyfiled sends a lad to The Pure Drop Inn, to tell 'em to send a horse and carriage
The lad stood before Durbeyfield, and contemplated his length from crown to toe.
"Sir John d'Urberville—that's who I am," continued the prostrate man. "That is if knights were baronets—which they be. 'Tis recorded in history all about me. Dost know of such a place, lad, as Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill?"
"Ees. I've been there to Greenhill Fair."
"Well, under the church of that city there lie—"
"'Tisn't a city, the place I mean; leastwise 'twaddn' when I was there—'twas a little one-eyed, blinking sort o' place."
"Never you mind the place, boy, that's not the question before us. Under the church of that there parish lie my ancestors—hundreds of 'em—in coats of mail and jewels, in gr't lead coffins weighing tons and tons. There's not a man in the county o' South-Wessex that's got grander and nobler skillentons in his family than I."
"Now take up that basket, and goo on to Marlott, and when you've come to The Pure Drop Inn, tell 'em to send a horse and carriage to me immed'ately, to carry me hwome. And in the bottom o' the carriage they be to put a noggin o' rum in a small bottle, and chalk it up to my account. And when you've done that goo on to my house with the basket, and tell my wife to put away that washing, because she needn't finish it, and wait till I come hwome, as I've news to tell her."
As the lad stood in a dubious attitude, Durbeyfield put his hand in his pocket, and produced a shilling, one of the chronically few that he possessed.
"Here's for your labour, lad."
This made a difference in the young man's estimate of the position.
"Yes, Sir John. Thank 'ee. Anything else I can do for 'ee, Sir John?"
"Tell 'em at hwome that I should like for supper,—well, lamb's fry if they can get it; and if they can't, black-pot; and if they can't get that, well chitterlings will do."
"Yes, Sir John."
The boy took up the basket, and as he set out the notes of a brass band were heard from the direction of the village.
"What's that?" said Durbeyfield. "Not on account o' I?"
"'Tis the women's club-walking, Sir John. Why, your da'ter is one o' the members."
"To be sure—I'd quite forgot it in my thoughts of greater things!

Ch 2 – trooping with country hoydens
"What are you going to do, Angel?" asked the eldest.
"I am inclined to go and have a fling with them. Why not all of us—just for a minute or two—it will not detain us long?"
"No—no; nonsense!" said the first. "Dancing in public with a troop of country hoydens—suppose we should be seen! Come along, or it will be dark before we get to Stourcastle, and there's no place we can sleep at nearer than that; besides, we must get through another chapter of A Counterblast to Agnosticism before we turn in, now I have taken the trouble to bring the book."
"All right—I'll overtake you and Cuthbert in five minutes; don't stop; I give my word that I will, Felix."

3. KumKum
Ch 19 – Tess acquires madder (herbaceous plant whose root produces a red dye) stains on her skin as she goes into the garden stealthily as a cat. (284 words)It was a typical summer evening in June, the atmosphere being in such delicate equilibrium and so transmissive that inanimate objects seemed endowed with two or three senses, if not five. There was no distinction between the near and the far, and an auditor felt close to everything within the horizon. The soundlessness impressed her as a positive entity rather than as the mere negation of noise. It was broken by the strumming of strings.
Tess had heard those notes in the attic above her head. Dim, flattened, constrained by their confinement, they had never appealed to her as now, when they wandered in the still air with a stark quality like that of nudity. To speak absolutely, both instrument and execution were poor; but the relative is all, and as she listened Tess, like a fascinated bird, could not leave the spot. Far from leaving she drew up towards the performer, keeping behind the hedge that he might not guess her presence.
The outskirt of the garden in which Tess found herself had been left uncultivated for some years, and was now damp and rank with juicy grass which sent up mists of pollen at a touch; and with tall blooming weeds emitting offensive smells—weeds whose red and yellow and purple hues formed a polychrome as dazzling as that of cultivated flowers. She went stealthily as a cat through this profusion of growth, gathering cuckoo-spittle on her skirts, cracking snails that were underfoot, staining her hands with thistle-milk and slug-slime, and rubbing off upon her naked arms sticky blights which, though snow-white on the apple-tree trunks, made madder stains on her skin; thus she drew quite near to Clare, still unobserved of him.

4. Soma
Ch 14 – Christening and Burial of Sorrow, Tess's child
So passed away Sorrow the Undesired—that intrusive creature, that bastard gift of shameless Nature, who respects not the social law; a waif to whom eternal Time had been a matter of days merely, who knew not that such things as years and centuries ever were; to whom the cottage interior was the universe, the week's weather climate, new-born babyhood human existence, and the instinct to suck human knowledge.
Tess, who mused on the christening a good deal, wondered if it were doctrinally sufficient to secure a Christian burial for the child. Nobody could tell this but the parson of the parish, and he was a new-comer, and did not know her. She went to his house after dusk, and stood by the gate, but could not summon courage to go in. The enterprise would have been abandoned if she had not by accident met him coming homeward as she turned away. In the gloom she did not mind speaking freely.
"I should like to ask you something, sir."
He expressed his willingness to listen, and she told the story of the baby's illness and the extemporized ordinance. "And now, sir," she added earnestly, "can you tell me this—will it be just the same for him as if you had baptized him?"
Having the natural feelings of a tradesman at finding that a job he should have been called in for had been unskilfully botched by his customers among themselves, he was disposed to say no. Yet the dignity of the girl, the strange tenderness in her voice, combined to affect his nobler impulses—or rather those that he had left in him after ten years of endeavour to graft technical belief on actual scepticism. The man and the ecclesiastic fought within him, and the victory fell to the man.
"My dear girl," he said, "it will be just the same."
"Then will you give him a Christian burial?" she asked quickly.
The Vicar felt himself cornered. Hearing of the baby's illness, he had conscientiously gone to the house after nightfall to perform the rite, and, unaware that the refusal to admit him had come from Tess's father and not from Tess, he could not allow the plea of necessity for its irregular administration.
"Ah—that's another matter," he said.
"Another matter—why?" asked Tess, rather warmly.
"Well—I would willingly do so if only we two were concerned. But I must not—for certain reasons."
"Just for once, sir!"
"Really I must not."
"O sir!" She seized his hand as she spoke.
He withdrew it, shaking his head.
"Then I don't like you!" she burst out, "and I'll never come to your church no more!"
"Don't talk so rashly."
"Perhaps it will be just the same to him if you don't? … Will it be just the same? Don't for God's sake speak as saint to sinner, but as you yourself to me myself—poor me!"
How the Vicar reconciled his answer with the strict notions he supposed himself to hold on these subjects it is beyond a layman's power to tell, though not to excuse. Somewhat moved, he said in this case also—
"It will be just the same."
So the baby was carried in a small deal box, under an ancient woman's shawl, to the churchyard that night, and buried by lantern-light, at the cost of a shilling and a pint of beer to the sexton, in that shabby corner of God's allotment where He lets the nettles grow, and where all unbaptized infants, notorious drunkards, suicides, and others of the conjecturally damned are laid. In spite of the untoward surroundings, however, Tess bravely made a little cross of two laths and a piece of string, and having bound it with flowers, she stuck it up at the head of the grave one evening when she could enter the churchyard without being seen, putting at the foot also a bunch of the same flowers in a little jar of water to keep them alive. What matter was it that on the outside of the jar the eye of mere observation noted the words "Keelwell's Marmalade"? The eye of maternal affection did not see them in its vision of higher things.

5. Thommo
Ch 4 end – The horse, Prince, is shafted when Tess falls asleep.
A sudden jerk shook her in her seat, and Tess awoke from the sleep into which she, too, had fallen.
They were a long way further on than when she had lost consciousness, and the waggon had stopped. A hollow groan, unlike anything she had ever heard in her life, came from the front, followed by a shout of "Hoi there!"
The lantern hanging at her waggon had gone out, but another was shining in her face—much brighter than her own had been. Something terrible had happened. The harness was entangled with an object which blocked the way.
In consternation Tess jumped down, and discovered the dreadful truth. The groan had proceeded from her father's poor horse Prince. The morning mail-cart, with its two noiseless wheels, speeding along these lanes like an arrow, as it always did, had driven into her slow and unlighted equipage. The pointed shaft of the cart had entered the breast of the unhappy Prince like a sword, and from the wound his life's blood was spouting in a stream, and falling with a hiss into the road.
In her despair Tess sprang forward and put her hand upon the hole, with the only result that she became splashed from face to skirt with the crimson drops. Then she stood helplessly looking on. Prince also stood firm and motionless as long as he could; till he suddenly sank down in a heap.
By this time the mail-cart man had joined her, and began dragging and unharnessing the hot form of Prince. But he was already dead, and, seeing that nothing more could be done immediately, the mail-cart man returned to his own animal, which was uninjured.
"You was on the wrong side," he said. "I am bound to go on with the mail-bags, so that the best thing for you to do is bide here with your load. I'll send somebody to help you as soon as I can. It is getting daylight, and you have nothing to fear."
He mounted and sped on his way; while Tess stood and waited. The atmosphere turned pale, the birds shook themselves in the hedges, arose, and twittered; the lane showed all its white features, and Tess showed hers, still whiter. The huge pool of blood in front of her was already assuming the iridescence of coagulation; and when the sun rose a hundred prismatic hues were reflected from it. Prince lay alongside, still and stark; his eyes half open, the hole in his chest looking scarcely large enough to have let out all that had animated him.
"'Tis all my doing—all mine!" the girl cried, gazing at the spectacle. "No excuse for me—none. What will mother and father live on now? Aby, Aby!" She shook the child, who had slept soundly through the whole disaster. "We can't go on with our load—Prince is killed!"
When Abraham realized all, the furrows of fifty years were extemporized on his young face.
"Why, I danced and laughed only yesterday!" she went on to herself. "To think that I was such a fool!"
"'Tis because we be on a blighted star, and not a sound one, isn't it, Tess?" murmured Abraham through his tears.
In silence they waited through an interval which seemed endless. At length a sound, and an approaching object, proved to them that the driver of the mail-car had been as good as his word. A farmer's man from near Stourcastle came up, leading a strong cob. He was harnessed to the waggon of beehives in the place of Prince, and the load taken on towards Casterbridge.
The evening of the same day saw the empty waggon reach again the spot of the accident. Prince had lain there in the ditch since the morning; but the place of the blood-pool was still visible in the middle of the road, though scratched and scraped over by passing vehicles. All that was left of Prince was now hoisted into the waggon he had formerly hauled, and with his hoofs in the air, and his shoes shining in the setting sunlight, he retraced the eight or nine miles to Marlott.
Tess had gone back earlier. How to break the news was more than she could think. It was a relief to her tongue to find from the faces of her parents that they already knew of their loss, though this did not lessen the self-reproach which she continued to heap upon herself for her negligence.
But the very shiftlessness of the household rendered the misfortune a less terrifying one to them than it would have been to a thriving family, though in the present case it meant ruin, and in the other it would only have meant inconvenience. In the Durbeyfield countenances there was nothing of the red wrath that would have burnt upon the girl from parents more ambitious for her welfare. Nobody blamed Tess as she blamed herself.
When it was discovered that the knacker and tanner would give only a very few shillings for Prince's carcase because of his decrepitude, Durbeyfield rose to the occasion.
"No," said he stoically, "I won't sell his old body. When we d'Urbervilles was knights in the land, we didn't sell our chargers for cat's meat. Let 'em keep their shillings! He've served me well in his lifetime, and I won't part from him now."
He worked harder the next day in digging a grave for Prince in the garden than he had worked for months to grow a crop for his family. When the hole was ready, Durbeyfield and his wife tied a rope round the horse and dragged him up the path towards it, the children following in funeral train. Abraham and 'Liza-Lu sobbed, Hope and Modesty discharged their griefs in loud blares which echoed from the walls; and when Prince was tumbled in they gathered round the grave. The bread-winner had been taken away from them; what would they do?
"Is he gone to heaven?" asked Abraham, between the sobs.
Then Durbeyfield began to shovel in the earth, and the children cried anew. All except Tess. Her face was dry and pale, as though she regarded herself in the light of a murderess.

6. Joe 
Assorted Short Readings (970 words)
One line summary of Tess
"The most bewitching milkmaid ever seen."

The parson is the source of the troubles of Tess
“Don't you really know, Durbeyfield, that you are the lineal representative of the ancient and knightly family of the d'Urbervilles, who derive their descent from Sir Pagan d'Urberville, that renowned knight who came from Normandy with William the Conqueror, as appears by Battle Abbey Roll?"

"Never heard it before, sir!"
May Dancing – first description of Tess with colour red. A young member of the band turned her head at the exclamation. She was a fine and handsome girl—not handsomer than some others, possibly—but her mobile peony mouth and large innocent eyes added eloquence to colour and shape. She wore a red ribbon in her hair, and was the only one of the white company who could boast of such a pronounced adornment.
Tess has a strawberry.
Tess wished to abridge her visit as much as possible; but the young man was pressing, and she consented to accompany him. He conducted her about the lawns, and flower-beds, and conservatories; and thence to the fruit-garden and greenhouses, where he asked her if she liked strawberries.

"Yes," said Tess, "when they come."
"They are already here." D'Urberville began gathering specimens of the fruit for her, handing them back to her as he stooped; and, presently, selecting a specially fine product of the "British Queen" variety, he stood up and held it by the stem to her mouth.
"No—no!" she said quickly, putting her fingers between his hand and her lips. "I would rather take it in my own hand."
"Nonsense!" he insisted; and in a slight distress she parted her lips and took it in.
Alex lays Tess in the bushes."Tess!" said d'Urberville.
There was no answer. The obscurity was now so great that he could see absolutely nothing but a pale nebulousness at his feet, which represented the white muslin figure he had left upon the dead leaves. Everything else was blackness alike. D'Urberville stooped; and heard a gentle regular breathing. He knelt and bent lower, till her breath warmed his face, and in a moment his cheek was in contact with hers. She was sleeping soundly, and upon her eyelashes there lingered tears.
Why it was that upon this beautiful feminine tissue, sensitive as gossamer, and practically blank as snow as yet, there should have been traced such a coarse pattern as it was doomed to receive; why so often the coarse appropriates the finer thus, the wrong man the woman, the wrong woman the man, many thousand years of analytical philosophy have failed to explain to our sense of order. One may, indeed, admit the possibility of a retribution lurking in the present catastrophe.
Clare's first thought of Tess"What a fresh and virginal daughter of Nature that milkmaid is!" he said to himself.
Clare chats up Tess. a good line to win a girlWhy," he said with some enthusiasm, "I should be only too glad, my dear Tess, to help you to anything in the way of history, or any line of reading you would like to take up—"
Flirting with a bevy of women"I'll carry you through the pool—every Jill of you." (Clare agreeing to lift Izz, Retty, Tess, and Marian across the flooding river)
Quoting Scripture to flirt"There's a time for everything," continued Izz, unheeding. "A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; the first is now going to be mine."
Another good scriptural line to have a fling with one girl out of many"Three Leahs to get one Rachel," he whispered.
Here's one more:
You are like an undulating billow warmed by the sun. And all this fluff of muslin about you is the froth."
Tess in the famously erotic passage when she has just awoken on a summer afternoon:
She had not heard him enter, and hardly realized his presence there. She was yawning, and he saw the red interior of her mouth: as if it had been a snake's. She had stretched one arm so high above her coiled-up cable of hair that he could see its satin delicacy above the sunburn; her face was flushed with sleep, and her eyelids hung heavy over their pupils. The brimfullness of her nature breathed from her. It was a moment when a woman's soul is more incarnate than at any other time; when the most spiritual beauty bespeaks itself flesh; and sex takes the outside place in the presentation. (Ch. 27, p. 231, italics mine)

Joan Durbeyfield's admonition to her daughter, Tess“ … on no account do you say a word of your Bygone Trouble to him.
Another fateful line that summarises the plotStanding there, he for the first time doubted whether his course in this conjecture had been a wise, much less a generous, one. But had he not been cruelly blinded? In the incoherent multitude of his emotions he knelt down at the bedside wet-eyed. "O Tess! If you had only told me sooner, I would have forgiven you!" he mourned.
Alec closes in on Tess“Yet you most unjustly forget one thing, that I would have married you if you had not put it out of my power to do so. Did I not ask you flatly to be my wife—hey? Answer me."
"You did."
"And you cannot be. But remember one thing!" His voice hardened as his temper got the better of him with the recollection of his sincerity in asking her and her present ingratitude, and he stepped across to her side and held her by the shoulders, so that she shook under his grasp. "Remember, my lady, I was your master once! I will be your master again. If you are any man's wife you are mine!"

7. Priya
Ch 34 end to Ch 35 – Tess hears Clare's painful assertion: “the woman I have been loving is not you.”
She bent forward, at which each diamond on her neck gave a sinister wink like a toad's; and pressing her forehead against his temple she entered on her story of her acquaintance with Alec d'Urberville and its results, murmuring the words without flinching, and with her eyelids drooping down.

Her narrative ended; even its re-assertions and secondary explanations were done. Tess's voice throughout had hardly risen higher than its opening tone; there had been no exculpatory phrase of any kind, and she had not wept.
But the complexion even of external things seemed to suffer transmutation as her announcement progressed. The fire in the grate looked impish—demoniacally funny, as if it did not care in the least about her strait. The fender grinned idly, as if it too did not care. The light from the water-bottle was merely engaged in a chromatic problem. All material objects around announced their irresponsibility with terrible iteration. And yet nothing had changed since the moments when he had been kissing her; or rather, nothing in the substance of things. But the essence of things had changed.
When she ceased, the auricular impressions from their previous endearments seemed to hustle away into the corner of their brains, repeating themselves as echoes from a time of supremely purblind foolishness.
Clare performed the irrelevant act of stirring the fire; the intelligence had not even yet got to the bottom of him. After stirring the embers he rose to his feet; all the force of her disclosure had imparted itself now. His face had withered. In the strenuousness of his concentration he treadled fitfully on the floor. He could not, by any contrivance, think closely enough; that was the meaning of his vague movement. When he spoke it was in the most inadequate, commonplace voice of the many varied tones she had heard from him.
"Yes, dearest."
"Am I to believe this? From your manner I am to take it as true. O you cannot be out of your mind! You ought to be! Yet you are not… My wife, my Tess—nothing in you warrants such a supposition as that?"
"I am not out of my mind," she said.
"And yet—" He looked vacantly at her, to resume with dazed senses: "Why didn't you tell me before? Ah, yes, you would have told me, in a way—but I hindered you, I remember!"
These and other of his words were nothing but the perfunctory babble of the surface while the depths remained paralyzed. He turned away, and bent over a chair. Tess followed him to the middle of the room, where he was, and stood there staring at him with eyes that did not weep. Presently she slid down upon her knees beside his foot, and from this position she crouched in a heap.
"In the name of our love, forgive me!" she whispered with a dry mouth. "I have forgiven you for the same!"
And, as he did not answer, she said again—
"Forgive me as you are forgiven! I forgive you, Angel."
"You—yes, you do."
"But you do not forgive me?"
"O Tess, forgiveness does not apply to the case! You were one person; now you are another. My God—how can forgiveness meet such a grotesque—prestidigitation as that!"
He paused, contemplating this definition; then suddenly broke into horrible laughter—as unnatural and ghastly as a laugh in hell.
"Don't—don't! It kills me quite, that!" she shrieked. "O have mercy upon me—have mercy!"
He did not answer; and, sickly white, she jumped up.
"Angel, Angel! what do you mean by that laugh?" she cried out. "Do you know what this is to me?"
He shook his head.
"I have been hoping, longing, praying, to make you happy! I have thought what joy it will be to do it, what an unworthy wife I shall be if I do not! That's what I have felt, Angel!"
"I know that."
"I thought, Angel, that you loved me—me, my very self! If it is I you do love, O how can it be that you look and speak so? It frightens me! Having begun to love you, I love you for ever—in all changes, in all disgraces, because you are yourself. I ask no more. Then how can you, O my own husband, stop loving me?"
"I repeat, the woman I have been loving is not you."
"But who?"
"Another woman in your shape."
Ch 37 – Angel Clare departs from Tess saying: 'Don't call me, I'll call you.'
"Now, let us understand each other," he said gently. "There is no anger between us, though there is that which I cannot endure at present. I will try to bring myself to endure it. I will let you know where I go to as soon as I know myself. And if I can bring myself to bear it—if it is desirable, possible—I will come to you. But until I come to you it will be better that you should not try to come to me."
The severity of the decree seemed deadly to Tess; she saw his view of her clearly enough; he could regard her in no other light than that of one who had practised gross deceit upon him. Yet could a woman who had done even what she had done deserve all this? But she could contest the point with him no further. She simply repeated after him his own words.
"Until you come to me I must not try to come to you?"
"Just so."
"May I write to you?"
"O yes—if you are ill, or want anything at all. I hope that will not be the case; so that it may happen that I write first to you."
"I agree to the conditions, Angel; because you know best what my punishment ought to be; only—only—don't make it more than I can bear!"

8. Zakia
Ch 39 end – Angel Clare forgets “the defective can be more than the entire.”
This night the woman of his belittling deprecations was thinking how great and good her husband was. But over them both there hung a deeper shade than the shade which Angel Clare perceived, namely, the shade of his own limitations. With all his attempted independence of judgement this advanced and well-meaning young man, a sample product of the last five-and-twenty years, was yet the slave to custom and conventionality when surprised back into his early teachings. No prophet had told him, and he was not prophet enough to tell himself, that essentially this young wife of his was as deserving of the praise of King Lemuel as any other woman endowed with the same dislike of evil, her moral value having to be reckoned not by achievement but by tendency. Moreover, the figure near at hand suffers on such occasion, because it shows up its sorriness without shade; while vague figures afar off are honoured, in that their distance makes artistic virtues of their stains. In considering what Tess was not, he overlooked what she was, and forgot that the defective can be more than the entire.

9. Amita
Ch 13 end – Tess looks on herself as a figure of Guilt intruding into the haunts of Innocence.
She had no fear of the shadows; her sole idea seemed to be to shun mankind—or rather that cold accretion called the world, which, so terrible in the mass, is so unformidable, even pitiable, in its units.
On these lonely hills and dales her quiescent glide was of a piece with the element she moved in. Her flexuous and stealthy figure became an integral part of the scene. At times her whimsical fancy would intensify natural processes around her till they seemed a part of her own story. Rather they became a part of it; for the world is only a psychological phenomenon, and what they seemed they were. The midnight airs and gusts, moaning amongst the tightly-wrapped buds and bark of the winter twigs, were formulae of bitter reproach. A wet day was the expression of irremediable grief at her weakness in the mind of some vague ethical being whom she could not class definitely as the God of her childhood, and could not comprehend as any other.
But this encompassment of her own characterization, based on shreds of convention, peopled by phantoms and voices antipathetic to her, was a sorry and mistaken creation of Tess's fancy—a cloud of moral hobgoblins by which she was terrified without reason. It was they that were out of harmony with the actual world, not she. Walking among the sleeping birds in the hedges, watching the skipping rabbits on a moonlit warren, or standing under a pheasant-laden bough, she looked upon herself as a figure of Guilt intruding into the haunts of Innocence. But all the while she was making a distinction where there was no difference. Feeling herself in antagonism, she was quite in accord. She had been made to break an accepted social law, but no law known to the environment in which she fancied herself such an anomaly.


Priya said...

Purity's a relative term in dairy farms,
It couldn't save Tess from sundry harms.
Nor could that epigraph defend
The wretched woman from her tragic end.
Sure, Tess was Pure in Hardy's mind,
And imaginings of Angel's kind;
Both these men are guilty, equally so,
They let down Tess, knowing she'd no place to go.

Kum kum, just loved your special tribute to Tess, a pure woman

Priya said...

Joe, Now that you have asked me to explain my stand, here it goes.

What is apple for a man is orange for the woman. Why?

Even 120 years after Tess (A pure Woman Faithfully Presented), 1891, private law dealing with tenets of morality, marriage, divorce, adoption etc remain unequal for men and women, if not on paper but definitely in the public mind. While acts of men are generally overlooked and grace immunity from social censure, disgrace, punishment and ostracism the fairer sex face ostracism, ridicule, stone throwing and the whiplashes.
Just as Tess the unwed mother had to hide (self-imposed maybe) in the four walls of her mother’s home, lonely, crestfallen, and weak, Alec D’Urberville went about his bullying and philandering ways happily. His quick evangelical conversion and reversion confirm his cavalier attitude towards life, religion and people.
Angel (with a name like that) proved to be just the opposite. As much as I agree to Talitha’s point about granting Angel, a young man, to react severely at the revelation of his bride’s amorous past, however circumstantial, but then Angel proves to ne no white linen himself. He is guilty of the same crime or more. His crime was perhaps greater, in my eye, for he was not raped but had a consensual relationship or if he did what Alec did in his relationship then he is guilty of a greater trespass. Anyway, cut to the chase, the point is that society remains bigoted even today (The examples abound across the world- in orthodox societies, in West Asian countries, in backward states in India etc, where the law itself is tendentious.)
Why did Tess not respond to Angel Clare’s confession in the same way that he did? I believe it is not because she was more forgiving by nature and let bygones be bygones, but because she was a child of a society which has a crystallized mindset generated over years of subjugation and tutoring that a man’s sin is lesser than that of a woman, both being charged with the same crime- pre-marital sex, in this case. That’s why Tess let go of Angels’ confession and he continued to remain the same man whom she loves dearly till the end. But for Clare, Tess, post confession, changes. She is not the same woman for whom he fell head over heels in love with. She is no longer pure. Where does her virtuosity disappear in a matter of minutes, one may ask? He deserts her to face the hardships alone and her pride, rightly so, keeps her from beseeching him to take her back. When he finally does so it’s too late. He has lost and so has she and what remains…. That justice was not done.

Management - Learning from Experiences by Reflection said...


Ah, I see the point you are making in the final paragraph, that Tess's condoning of Clare's pre-marital fling has to do with the boys-will-be-boys excuse that society at large provides, whereas girls may not be girls, but are compelled by societal pressure to remain virgins before marriage.

I agree, and said as much in my recounting: “Just as it plays out today, the girl gets blamed by society, and nothing happens to the man.”

But the moral point you make is that Clare's actions are a reflection of these societal values, and not his personal value judgment. That's giving him a pass. Greater opprobrium would attach to his turning away from Tess, if he were not a conduit of society's opinion, but acting on his own. The evidence of the novel is this man thinks for himself. To rebel against a father's wish, after the father had invested in his Cambridge eduction, shows Clare is ready to go against the flow, if he is convinced. So I venture that Clare made up his mind himself; that Tess's pre-marital rape was beyond what a man like him could accept in a wife. She no longer belonged to him, the legally wedded husband, but to the rapist who in fact had no standing in law to claim Tess.

Further, Clare is thinking of his own values, his own respectability, etc. – he shows no tender concern for the maid he loved who had been thus violated. Tot that up as another point against him.

Hardy as novelist would have envisaged many endings. For instance, Clare seeks out and finds Alec and they have it out, and in the fracas, Clare gets killed. Nothing happens to Alec since it was self-defence. But Tess is disoriented, and goes off her mind (which is what happens in the novel anyway – she becomes hysterically uncontrollable.

Or Hardy could have arranged a duel in which Alec gets killed and Clare having made a point of honour, goes off to Brazil and Tess, loyal to the family, stays on in Trantridge, and accepts the responsibility for her family, but remains a widow.

Hardy chose the ending he wanted. I do not mind tragedy, because tragedy is truer to life, and brings forth better writing. The bit I don't care about is this innocent chit, Liza-Lu, taking over Tess's mantle and becoming the indentured wife of this goody-goody man.
-- joe

talitha said...

I would like to raise an even more basic point than what society has to say about our morality. We are discussing whether Tess was pure or not, without addressing the question of whether we believe that `”purity” exists and whether we think it is important. If we say, for instance, that purity is an outmoded concept and that it does not matter whether people have premarital sex, commit adultery or whatever, then why do we care whether Tess was pure or not? But whatever Angel Clare may have said or done, we seemed to concur that Tess was pure.
And coming to the point of forgiveness, if purity does not matter to us, if all premarital experiences can be swept under the carpet, then what is there for Tess or for Angel Clare to forgive?
I think we are being unfair to Angel Clare – setting the matter of societal double standards aside – because we are now not disturbed by what evidently disturbed him. We seem to think him unreasonable to have expected Tess to come to him untouched. We don’t seem to understand how one’s image of a person can change in a flash, because of a change in one’s information about a person. Angel tried hard not to be harsh to Tess, but he found it impossible to live with her and pretend that all was as it was before. What was so unnatural about that? `I am sure you can all imagine “first night” revelations which would make your flesh creep and induce` actual physical revulsion .
And we are also forgetting that however harsh his initial judgement of his wife, he returns to England, searches for her and then stands by her even when she has been living with Alec as his mistress and even when she admits to having committed murder. Even if this comes too late, at least Tess has someone standing by her and supporting her to the last. What if he had rejected her again – or expressed his horror of her as a murderess.
- Talitha

Joe said...

Hello Talitha,

Thank you for the comments.

Since Hardy wrote that epigraph, you may be sure purity mattered to Hardy, and from his comments one must conclude he held the event of the rape as a violation of the woman's purity, but did not hold the woman accountable for that. Judging by law, she was violated, but remained intact – did not sin herself. That's Hardy's view.

You have taken up Clare's cause resolutely and argued why he should be commended for insisting on his wife coming to him unsoiled by any previous 'connection' with a man. Yes, I suppose this would have been the hope of a right-thinking young man of the time. Perhaps it's the hope even today. It was certainly not an 'unreasonable' hope in those times.

As I said in a previous comment: "Clare made up his mind himself; that Tess's pre-marital rape was beyond what a man like him could accept in a wife." In a second point I faulted him for thinking only of himself, and not the spouse, in deciding what to do after the post-wedding revelation: "Clare is thinking of his own values, his own respectability, etc. – he shows no tender concern for the maid he loved who had been thus violated."

So I come down on one side about Clare at the end; some flaw, I detect. But it's quite fine to see another side of him that's ready to make amends, after he sees the light and warms to Tess again. By then the one year desertion has had its ill-effect.