Thomas Hardy Tess of the dUrbervilles

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Thomas Hardy Tess of the dUrbervilles

Critics say that Tess of the d’Urberville is the best and the most famous novel of Thomas Hardy. Maybe it is true and I cannot stand against or for these opinions because I have not read any of his other books. The thing I know for sure is that I was a bit confused with some things when I had finished reading of this book and in the following lines I will try to explain why it was so. In this novel, Thomas Hardy focused on everyday life of ordinary people – farmers and their families. These 19th century people believed that the fate plays an important role in their lives and I felt that this believe in fate was one of the most important believes according to which they were arranging their lives and were refusing a possibility that their acts can affect their future lives. Tess, the main character, was the same and because of her strong believe in faith she found herself in many difficult situations which in result caused her death. At the beginning the author gives us an information which absolutely changes Tess’s life, as the reader will see later. Her father is told that he is the lineal representative of the ancient and knightly family of the d'Urbervilles. He starts to feel that this news could change his poor life and life of his family and that it could be a way how to use it to earn some money. He is a very lazy man and tired of his life who rather spend his time with drinking alcohol than to take care of his family. His wife does not differ from him in many ways. She likes alcohol too because it is for many people also in these days a way how to get free of the terrible reality. In spite of this she is more responsible than her husband is and she is an informal head of the family. But she is a bit naive and she does not understand her daughter Tess, the main protagonist. Speaking about Tess there are also some signs of naivety, which come from her strong belief to other people and from her belief in human good in her early years. One of the things I was confused about was the fact that Tess in her 16 years is presented as a girl who is in my opinion too intellectual and philosophical. She has her opinion to all things that she has created by hearing to other people’s opinions and according to her own thinking. When we realise that Tess lived in poor family, she never left her home, and she visited only 6 classes in school, it seems to me very unreal that she could have this kind of thoughts in these circumstances.

For all I can mention the one in which she says that worlds are like stars: ”I don't know; but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like apples on our stubbard tree. Most of them splendid and sound a few blighted.. we live on a blighted one.“ By the way I have that kind of feeling that Tess is described too idealistic and because of this in some places the novel looses its realistic character. In spite of these small failures I think that Tess as a character is described very credibly. Speaking about the first parts of the novel I think that they are written in the best and most interesting way. Many humorous descriptions appear here which we do not find in another parts of the book. “She rushed excitedly into the field they were about to cross, and flinging herself flat on her back upon the grass, began to wipe her gown as well as she could by spinning horizontally on the herbage and dragging herself over it upon her elbows.“ and “The poor creature looked wonderingly round at the night, at the lantern, at their two figures, as if he could not believe that at that hour, when every living thing was intended to be in shelter and at rest, he was called upon to go out and labour.“ After these humorous descriptions the author always changes the mood of the situation and an unpleasant one follows. I do not know if this was the author’s aim but these contrasts of beautiful and unpleasant throw the reader back to reality in which Tess finds herself. In another parts of the book we learn about the fatal meeting of Tess and Alec d’Urberville, her quasi cousin, who do not comes from this ancient family. She leaves her house to work for him because her family believes that this could help them to get rid of the financial crisis. Alec like her very much but Tess does not. Alec is described as a classical antagonist of rude and vulgar behaviour who cares about nothing and no one. Thanks to Alec’s egoism and Tess’s naivety, inexperience and disability to face the dangers of outer world, Alec seduces her to be physically satisfied. Tess returns home helpless and abused. This experience marks her later life and results in a tragic end. Tess goes to work to a milk farm in Talbothays where she is trying to hide before courageous eyes of the people in her village. This period of her life is in contrast with her former one and the period, which is about to come in Flintcomb – Ash. It is a calm period with sunny scenarios and full of colours. Tess is finally happy and she gradually copes with her bad experience. Later another man enters her life who is in contrast with Alec.

He is an intelligent, intellectual and philosopher and he has a great positive impact on Tess. Everything here is absolutely perfect so the relationship between them must be perfect too. And in fact it is. They are spending a lot of time together, they are getting closer to each other and the reader feels that a deep and real relationship will be created between them. But than the author brings a new dimension to the plot when Tess becomes scared of her past and she feels that she is not the right woman for so pure man as Angel is. This part, first welcomed becomes a bit boring for me. The author here seems to me more as a poet than as a novelist. There are large descriptions of the nature and of the mood of the protagonists. I have that kind of feeling that he got lost a he did not know how to develop the story. But maybe I am too critical and someone would like these idyllic passages. To me, they seem too long and besides Tess always repeats the same words that she is not the one for him and Angel that she certainly is. In this part Tess is hopeless and she does not know if she would tell him the truth and lost him or if she would not tell him it and live all her life in a lie. Finally she decides to tell him that she has a secret but not in concrete words and then they decide that they will tell each other their secrets after their marriage. When this happened in Wellbridge Angel is not able to accept Tess’s secret although he has the same one. This is the situation, which can be also found nowadays and that is that ”a man can” but “a woman cannot” – she always has to be “untouched”. Finally they split up and Angel becomes a man comparable with all other people who are full of prejudices and he is no more an ideal of a man. Angel leaves the country to South America where he is trying to find a land for his farm. Tess after a short staying at home leaves it to work in Flintcomb – Ash where she lives a troubled life with thoughts of Angel in her head. But Alec is back and enters to Tess’s life again. He is changed and he becomes a man who strongly believes in words of Bible. First reader’s feelings are that he really becomes a better man but through Tess’s words and behaviour he can clearly see that nothing has changed. Alec regrets what he has done but not honestly and he is trying to attract Tess again. As a weapon to achieve this he uses his strong words and by using them he is persuading her that her husband will never get back.
After long thinking, Tess leaves this place together with Alec. But soon Angel gets back and he meets his wife.

He knows that he made a mistake and so does Tess. She finds herself absolutely hopeless in this situation and kills Alec because she believes that he is guilty for all the bad things that have happened to her. By killing him she kills her past and nightmare. She leaves with Alec but she fully does not realise what she has done or she does not want to realise it because the only thing she desires for is to be with her beloved husband and to feel his renewed love to her. They are spending several days together hiding before the police and I think that Tess has never ever been so happy. Finally she has what she has always desired for. But as I have mentioned before Thomas Hardy always changes the situation when it seems that the main protagonist could be happy forever. Tess is arrested and sentenced to death but her love remains in Alec’s memories.
The fate plays an important role in our lives but the question is: “Is it true that our lives are already planned and that we have no power to change them? What if Tess’s father has not been told that he comes from the family of the d’Urbervilles? Would she have been suffering more or not? Would she have met his beloved Angel? These and many other questions will never be answered. But does it really matter?.

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