Tess of the d'Urbervilles

( 76 )

Overview

A ne'er-do-well exploits his gentle daughter's beauty for social advancement in this masterpiece of tragic fiction. Hardy's 1891 novel defied convention to focus on the rural lower class for a frank treatment of sexuality and religion. Then and now, his sympathetic portrait of a victim of Victorian hypocrisy offers compelling reading.
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Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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Overview

A ne'er-do-well exploits his gentle daughter's beauty for social advancement in this masterpiece of tragic fiction. Hardy's 1891 novel defied convention to focus on the rural lower class for a frank treatment of sexuality and religion. Then and now, his sympathetic portrait of a victim of Victorian hypocrisy offers compelling reading.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Hardy's classic 1891 novel, about a young woman's attempt at redemption following a scandal, demonstrates his fatalistic view regarding free will. Audie® Award winner Simon Vance's reading is straightforward, well paced, and clear, even when the characters speak in West Country dialect. This is an excellent choice for public libraries wanting to boost their classics collections, and the accompanying fulltext PDF ebook (which can be played in tandem with the MP3 recording) makes it useful also for high school and academic libraries. [Audio clip available through www.tantor.com; alternate recordings recently available from Blackstone Audio (12 CDs. unabridged. 2008. ISBN 9781433214998. $110; 1 MP3CD. ISBN 9781433215001. $44.95) and Naxos AudioBooks (14 CDs. unabridged. 2008. ISBN 9789626348673. $89.98).-Ed.]
—Nann Blaine Hilyard

From the Publisher
“[Tess of the D’Urbervilles is] Hardy’s finest, most complex and most notorious novel . . . The novel is not a mere plea for compassion for the eternal victim, though that is the banner it flies. It also involves a profound questioning of contemporary morality.” –from the Introduction by Patricia Ingham
From Barnes & Noble
The tragic story of a woman wronged by two men and by the harsh, repressive society in which she lives. Hardy's most striking and tragic heroine, Tess is a woman of intense vitality and innate goodness, and the author's favorite character.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781493724604
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • Publication date: 11/17/2013
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 1,313,432
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, whose writing immortalized the Wessex countryside and dramatized his sense of the inevitable tragedy of life, was born at Upper Bockhampton, near Stinsford in Dorset in 1840, the eldest child of a prosperous stonemason. As a youth he trained as an architect and in 1862 obtained a post in London. During his time he began seriously to write poetry, which remained his first literary love and his last. In 1867-68, his first novel was refused publication, but Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), his first Wessex novel, did well enough to convince him to continue writing. In 1874, Far from the Maddening Crowd, published serially and anonymously in the Cornhill Magazine, became a great success. Hardy married Emma Gifford in 1878, and in 1885 they settled at Max Gate in Dorchester, where he lived the rest of his life. There he had wrote The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895).

With Tess, Hardy clashed with the expectations of his audience; a storm of abuse broke over the “infidelity” and “obscenity” of this great novel he had subtitled “A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented.” Jude the Obscure aroused even greater indignation and was denounced as pornography. Hardy’s disgust at the reaction to Jude led him to announce in 1869 that he would never write fiction ever again. He published Wessex Poems in 1898, Poems of the Past and Present in 1901, and from 1903 to 1908, The Dynast, a huge drama in which Hardy’s conception of the Immanent Will, implicit in the tragic novels, is most clearly stated.

In 1912 Hardy’s wife, Emma died. The marriage was childless and had been a troubled one, but in the years after her death, Hardy memorialized her in several poems. At seventy-four he married his longtime secretary, Florence Dugdale, herself a writer of children’s books and articles, with whom he live happily until his death in 1928. His heart was buried in the Wessex Countryside; his ashes were placed next to Charles Dickens’s in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.

Biography

Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840, in the village of Higher Bockhampton, near Dorchester, a market town in the county of Dorset. Hardy would spend much of his life in his native region, transforming its rural landscapes into his fictional Wesses. Hardy's mother, Jemima, inspired him with a taste for literature, while his stonemason father, Thomas, shared with him a love of architecture and music (the two would later play the fiddle at local dances). As a boy Hardy read widely in the popular fiction of the day, including the novels of Scott, Dumas, Dickens, W. Harrison Ainsworth, and G.P.R. James, and in the poetry of Scott, Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Keats, and others. Strongly influenced in his youth by the Bible and the liturgy of the Anglican Church, Hardy later contemplated a career in the ministry; but his assimilation of the new theories of Darwinian evolutionism eventually made him an agnostic and a severe critic of the limitations of traditional religion.

Although Hardy was a gifted student at the local schools he attended as a boy for eight years, his lower-class social origins limited his further educational opportunities. At sixteen, he was apprenticed to architect James Hicks in Dorchester and began an architectural career primarily focused on the restoration of churches. In Dorchester Hardy was also befriended by Horace Moule, eight years Hardy's senior, who acted as an intellectual mentor and literary adviser throughout his youth and early adulthood. From 1862 to 1867 hardy worked in London for the distinguished architect Arthur Blomfeld, but he continued to study -- literature, art, philosophy, science, history, the classics -- and to write, first poetry and then fiction.

In the early 1870s Hardy's first two published novels, Desperate Remedies and Under the Greenwood Tree, appeared to little acclaim or sales. With his third novel, A Pair of Blue Eyes, he began the practice of serializing his fiction in magazines prior to book publication, a method that he would utilize throughout his career as a novelist. In 1874, the year of his marriage to Emma Gifford of St. Juliot, Cornwall, Hardy enjoyed his first significant commercial and critical success with the book publication of Far from the Madding Crowd after its serialization in the Cornhill Magazine. Hardy and his wife lived in several locations in London, Dorset, and Somerset before settling in South London for three years in 1878. During the late 1870s and early 1880s, Hardy published The Return of the Native, The Trumpet-Major, A Laodicean, and Two on a Tower while consolidating his pace as a leading contemporary English novelist. He would also eventually produce four volumes of short stories: Wessex Tales, A Group of Noble Dames, Life's Little Ironies, and A Changed Man.

In 1883, Hardy and his wife moved back to Dorchester, where Hardy wrote The Mayor of Casterbridge, set in a fictionalized version of Dorchester, and went on to design and construct a permanent home for himself, named Max Gate, completed in 1885. In the later 1880s and early 1890s Hardy wrote three of his greatest novels, The Woodlanders, Tess of the d'Urbevilles, and Jude the Obscure, all of them notable for their remarkable tragic power. The latter two were initially published as magazine serials in which Hardy removed potentially objectionable moral and religious content, only to restore it when the novels were published in book form; both novels nevertheless aroused public controversy for their criticisms of Victorian sexual and religious mores. In particular, the appearance of Jude the Obscure in 1895 precipitated harsh attacks on Hardy's alleged pessimism and immorality; the attacks contributed to his decision to abandon the writing of fiction after the appearance of his last-published novel, The Well-Beloved.

In the later 1890s Hardy returned to the writing of poetry that he had abandoned for fiction thirty years earlier. Wessex Poems appeared in 1898, followed by several volumes of poetry at regular intervals over the next three decades. Between 1904 and 1908 Hardy published a three-part epic verse drama, The Dynasts, based on the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century. Following the death of his first wife in 1912, Hardy married his literary secretary Florence Dugdale in 1914. Hardy received a variety of public honors in the last two decades of his life and continued to publish poems until his death at Max Gate on January 11, 1928. His ashes were interred in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey in London and his heart in Stinsford outside Dorchester. Regarded as one of England's greatest authors of both fiction and poetry, Hardy has inspired such notable twentieth-century writers as Marcel Proust, John Cowper Powys, D. H. Lawrence, Theodore Dreiser, and John Fowles.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of Far from the Madding Crowd.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      June 2, 1840
    2. Place of Birth:
      Higher Brockhampon, Dorset, England
    1. Date of Death:
      January 11, 1928
    2. Place of Death:
      Max Gate, Dorchester, England
    1. Education:
      Served as apprentice to architect James Hicks

Read an Excerpt

ON an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking homeward from Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore or Blackmoor. The pair of legs that carried him were rickety, and there was a bias in his gait which inclined him somewhat to the left of a straight line. He occasionally gave a smart nod, as if in confirmation of some opinion, though he was not thinking of anything in particular. An empty egg-basket was slung upon his arm, the nap of his hat was ruffled, a patch being quite worn away at its brim where his thumb came in taking it off. Presently he was met by an elderly parson astride on a gray mare, who, as he rode, hummed a wandering tune.

'Good night t'ee,' said the man with the basket.

'Good night, Sir John,' said the parson.

The pedestrian, after another pace or two, halted, and turned round.

'Now, sir, begging your pardon; we met last market-day on this road about this time, and I zaid 'oGood night', and you made reply 'Good night, Sir John', as now.'

'I did,' said the parson.

'And once before that--near a month ago.'

'I may have.'

'Then what might your meaning be in calling me 'Sir John' these different times, when I be plain Jack Durbeyfield, the haggler?'

The parson rode a step or two nearer.

'It was only my whim,' he said; and, after a moment's hesitation: 'It was on account of a discovery I made some little time ago, whilst I was hunting up pedigrees for the new county history. I am Parson Tringham, the antiquary, of Stagfoot Lane. Don't you really know, Durbeyfield, that you are the lineal representative of the ancient and knightly family ofthe 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?'

'Well it's true. Throw up your chin a moment, so that I may catch the profile of your face better. Yes, that's the d'Urberville nose and chin--a little debased. Your ancestor was one of the twelve knights who assisted the Lord of Estremavilla in Normandy in his conquest of Glamorganshire. Branches of your family held manors over all this part of England; their names appear in the Pipe Rolls in the time of King Stephen. In the reign of King John one of them was rich enough to give a manor to the Knights Hospitallers; and in Edward the Second's time your forefather Brian was summoned to Westminster to attend the great Council there. You declined a little in Oliver Cromwell's time, but to no serious extent, and in Charles the Second's reign you were made Knights of the Royal Oak for your loyalty. Aye, there have been generations of Sir Johns among you, and if knighthood were hereditary, like a baronetcy, as it practically was in old times, when men were knighted from father to son, you would be Sir John now.'

'Ye don't say so!'

'In short,' concluded the parson, decisively smacking his leg with his switch, 'there's hardly such another family in England.'

'Daze my eyes, and isn't there?' said Durbeyfield. 'And here have I been knocking about, year after year, from pillar to post, as if I was no more than the commonest feller in the parish . . . And how long hev this news about me been knowed, Pa'son Tringham?'

The clergyman explained that, as far as he was aware, it had quite died out of knowledge, and could hardly be said to be known at all. His own investigations had begun on a day in the preceding spring when, having been engaged in tracing the vicissitudes of the d'Urberville family, he had observed Durbeyfield's name on his waggon, and had thereupon been led to make inquiries about his father and grandfather till he had no doubt on the subject.

'At first I resolved not to disturb you with such a useless piece of information,' said he. 'However, our impulses are too strong for our judgment sometimes. I thought you might perhaps know something of it all the while.'

'Well, I have heard once or twice, 'tis true, that my family had seen better days afore they came to Blackmoor. But I took no notice o't, thinking it to mean that we had once kept two horses where we now keep only one. I've got a wold silver spoon, and a wold graven seal at home, too; but, Lord, what's a spoon and seal? . . . And to think that I and these noble d'Urbervilles were one flesh all the time. 'Twas said that my gr't-grandfer had secrets, and didn't care to talk of where he came from . . . And where do we raise our smoke, now, parson, if I may make so bold; I mean, where do we d'Urbervilles live?'

'You don't live anywhere. You are extinct--as a county family.'

'That's bad.'

'Yes--what the mendacious family chronicles call extinct in the male line--that is, gone down--gone under.'

'Then where do we lie?'
'At Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill: rows and rows of you in your vaults, with your effigies under Purbeck-marble canopies.'

'And where be our family mansions and estates?'

'You haven't any.'

'Oh? No lands neither?'

'None; though you once had 'em in abundance, as I said, for your family consisted of numerous branches. In this county there was a seat of yours at Kingsbere, and another at Sherton, and another at Millpond, and another at Lullstead, and another at Wellbridge.'

'And shall we ever come into our own again?'

'Ah--that I can't tell!'

'And what had I better do about it, sir?' asked Durbeyfield, after a pause.

'Oh--nothing, nothing; except chasten yourself with the thought of 'how are the mighty fallen'. It is a fact of some interest to the local historian and genealogist, nothing more. There are several families among the cottagers of this county of almost equal lustre. Good night.'

'But you'll turn back and have a quart of beer wi' me on the strength o't, Pa&rs'n Tringham? There's a very pretty brew in tap at The Pure Drop--though, to be sure, not so good as at Rolliver'.'

'No, thank you--not this evening, Durbeyfield. You've had enough already.' Concluding thus the parson rode on his way, with doubts as to his discretion in retailing this curious bit of lore.

When he was gone Durbeyfield walked a few steps in a profound reverie, and then sat down upon the grassy bank by the roadside, depositing his basket before him. In a few minutes a youth appeared in the distance, walking in the same direction as that which had been pursued by Durbeyfield. The latter, on seeing him, held up his hand, and the lad quickened his pace and came near.

'Boy, take up that basket! I want 'oee to go on an errand for me.'

The lath-like stripling frowned. 'Who be you, then, John Durbeyfield, to order me about and call me 'boy'? You know my name as well as I know yours!'

'Do you, do you? That's the secret--that's the secret! Now obey my orders, and take the message I'm going to charge 'ee wi' . . . Well, Fred, I don't mind telling you that the secret is that I'm one of a noble race--it has been just found out by me this present afternoon, P.M.' And as he made the announcement, Durbeyfield, declining from his sitting position, luxuriously stretched himself out upon the bank among the daisies.

The lad stood before Durbeyfield, and contemplated his length from crown to toe.
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Table of Contents

About the Series
About This Volume
Pt. 1 Tess of the d'Urbervilles: The Complete Text
The Complete Text 19
Pt. 2 Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Case Study in Contemporary Criticism
A Critical History of Tess of the d'Urbervilles 387
The New Historicism and Tess of the d'Urbervilles 405
Tess of the d'Urbervilles: Hardey's Anthropology of the Novel 422
Feminist and Gender Criticism and Tess of the d'Urbervilles 441
Tess and the Subject of Sexual Violence: Reading, Rape, Seduction 462
Deconstruction and Tess of the d'Urbervilles 484
Echoic Language, Uncertainty, and Freedom in Tess of the d'Urbervilles 506
Reader-Response Criticism and Tess of the d'Urbervilles 521
"Driven Well Home to the Reader's Heart": Tess's Implicated Audience 537
Cultural Criticism and Tess of the d'Urbervilles 552
The Same and the Different: Standards and Standardization in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles 571
Glossary of Critical and Theoretical Terms 591
About the Contributors 605
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First Chapter

PHASE THE FIRST

THE MAIDEN

Chapter One

On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking homeward from Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore or Blackmoor. The pair of legs that carried him were rickety, and there was a bias in his gait which inclined him somewhat to the left of a straight line. He occasionally gave a smart nod, as if in confirmation of some opinion, though he was not thinking of anything in particular. An empty egg-basket was slung upon his arm, the nap of his hat was ruffled, a patch being quite worn away at its brim where his thumb came in taking it off. Presently he was met by an elderly parson astride on a gray mare, who, as he rode, hummed a wandering tune.

"Good night t'ee," said the man with the basket.

"Good night, Sir John," said the parson.

The pedestrian, after another pace or two, halted, and turned round.

"Now, sir, begging your pardon; we met last market-day on this road about this time, and I zaid 'Good night,' and you made reply 'Good night, Sir John,' as now."

"I did," said the parson.

"And once before that -- near a month ago."

"I may have."

"Then what might your meaning be in calling me 'Sir John' these different times, when I be plain Jack Durbeyfield, the haggler?"

The parson rode a step or two nearer.

"It was only my whim," he said; and, after a moment's hesitation: "It was on account of a discovery I made some little time ago, whilst I was hunting up pedigrees for the new county history. I am Parson Tringham, the antiquary, of Stagfoot Lane. Don't you really know, Durbeyfield, that yourgyman explained that, as far as he was aware, it had quite died out of knowledge, and could hardly be said to be known at all. His own investigations had begun on a day in the preceding spring when, having been engaged in tracing the vicissitudes of the d'Urberville family, he had observed Durbeyfield's name on his waggon, and had thereupon been led to make inquiries about his father and grandfather till he had no doubt on the subject.

"At first I resolved not to disturb you with such a useless piece of information," said he. "However, our impulses are too strong for our judgment sometimes. I thought you might perhaps know something of it all the while."

"Well, I have heard once or twice, 'tis true, that my family had seen better days afore they came to Blackmoor. But I took no notice o't, thinking it to mean that we had once kept two horses where we now keep only one. I've got a wold silver spoon, and a wold graven seal at home, too; but, Lord, what's a spoon and seal?...And to think that I and these noble d'Urbervilles were one flesh all the time. 'Twas said that my gr't-grandfer had secrets, and didn't care to talk of where he came from...And where do we raise our smoke, now, parson, if I may make so bold; I mean, where do we d'Urbervilles live?"

"You don't live anywhere. You are extinct -- as a county family."

"That's bad."

"Yes -- what the mendacious family chronicles call extinct in the male line -- that is, gone down -- gone under."

"Then where do we lie?"

"At Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill: rows and rows of you in your vaults, with your effigies under Purbeck-marble canopies."

"And where be our family mansions and estates?"

"You haven't any."

"Oh? No lands neither?"

"None; th ough you once had 'em in abundance, as I said, for your family consisted of numerous branches. In this county there was a seat of yours at Kingsbere, and another at Sherton, and another at Millpond, and another at Lullstead, and another at Wellbridge."

"And shall we ever come into our own again?"

"Ah -- that I can't tell!"

"And what had I better do about it, sir?" asked Durbeyfield, after a pause.

"Oh -- nothing, nothing; except chasten yourself with the thought of 'how are the mighty fallen.' It is a fact of some interest to the local historian and genealogist, nothing more. There are several families among the cottagers of this county of almost equal lustre. Good night."

"But you'll turn back and have a quart of beer wi' me on the strength o't, Pa'son Tringham? There's a very pretty brew in tap at The Pure Drop -- though, to be sure, not so good as at Rolliver's."

"No, thank you -- not this evening, Durbeyfield. You've had enough already." Concluding thus the parson rode on his way, with doubts as to his discretion in retailing this curious bit of lore.

When he was gone Durbeyfield walked a few steps in a profound reverie, and then sat down upon the grassy bank by the roadside, depositing his basket before him. In a few minutes a youth appeared in the distance, walking in the same direction as that which had been pursued by Durbeyfield. The latter, on seeing him, held up his hand, and the lad quickened his pace and came near.

"Boy, take up that basket! I want 'ee to go on an errand for me."

The lath-like stripling frowned. "Who be you, then, John Durbeyfield, to order me about and call me 'boy'? You know my name as well as I know yours!"

"Do you, do you? That's the secret -- th at's the secret! Now obey my orders, and take the message I'm going to charge 'ee wi'....Well, Fred, I don't mind telling you that the secret is that I'm one of a noble race -- it has been just found out by me this present afternoon, P.M." And as he made the announcement, Durbeyfield, declining from his sitting position, luxuriously stretched himself out upon the bank among the daisies.

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."

"Oh?"

"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 t o 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! Well, vamp on to Marlott, will ye, and order that carriage, and maybe I'll drive round and inspect the club."

The lad departed, and Durbeyfield lay waiting on the grass and daisies in the evening sun. Not a soul passed that way for a long while, and the faint notes of the band were the only human sounds audible within the rim of blue hills.

Copyright © 1998 by Simon & Schuster

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Reading Group Guide

1. Why do you think Thomas Hardy chose the subtitle "A Pure Woman"? How does Hardy define "pure, " and in what sense does Tess personify purity? Does Hardy idealize Tess? Is she a victim or does she participate in her own undoing?

2. Discuss the roles of Alec d'Urberville and Angel Clare in Tess's life. Consider the ways in which Hardy describes them and how his choices influence the reader's impressions of them.

3. What is the significance of the seven phases into which the book is divided? Tess of the d'Urbervilles was serialized in a newspaper before it was published. Do you think the divisions relate to the serialized breaks? What else might the junctures represent and what episodes do they separate? What is the meaning of Hardy's use of the number seven?

4. In the course of the novel, Tess Durbeyfield becomes a d'Urberville. In what ways does Tess's transformation from "field" to "ville"-and her move from a country farm to a mansion in a larger town-mimic the change in English agrarian life in the wake of the Industrial Revolution?

5. In Hardy's hands, Tess and the landscape seem to have a reciprocal relationship. How does the landscape represent and reflect Tess's outlook and her situation? How do Hardy's descriptions of Tess mirror what is happening to the countryside from which she hails?

6. Before devoting himself to writing full-time, Hardy apprenticed with an architect and intended to become one himself. How do the principles of architecture inform the structural elements of the novel?

7. Thomas Hardy seems to work both within and without the traditions of theliterature of his day. What are some of the hallmarks of the writing of the time? In what ways does he break with the styles and themes of many of his contemporaries?

8. Hardy once said that he refused to "[end] a story happily merely to suit conventional ideas." Indeed, his novel took an unconventional moral stance and shocked readers upon its publication. In what ways might Tess of the d'Urbervilles have been controversial? What were some of the mores that governed and epitomized the Victorian age?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 76 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 75 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Tragically Wonderful

    Tess is one of the more depressive novels I've read lately. My wife will attest to the fact that I have a strange affinity to depressing stories. With that in mind, let me say that I really enjoyed this book.

    The writing was at times a bit too much for me for the reason that I get annoyed at many 18th and 19th century novels...namely, that Hardy focuses far too much on minute descriptions and in-depth analysis of setting and location. Don't get me wrong, I love a vivid and lush environment and I much prefer a fleshed out character to a flat one. I just sometimes feel that all of the flowery descriptions slow down the story telling element too much. There were a few paragraphs/pages that I tried to skim through in order to get to the next relevant points of plot. Still, I don't know that I'd want to edit out the descriptive text since it does comment on the narrative itself in a metafictional sort of way.

    The main characters in this book are wonderfully composed. They are absolutely and completely frustrating but they are superbly crafted nonetheless. I wanted to smack each of the main characters on many occasions.

    Tess is far too willing to simply be acted upon and then to bemoan her fate. Alec is an absolute pig (although towards the end of our experience with him, it's debatable just how awful he truly is). And Angel is far too inconsistent to be liked at all...at first he seems almost lovable...then he deserves to be hated...then he seems slightly adequate...then he becomes repulsive again...he's just far too wishy-washy in his behavior and ideals to ever be fully redeemable.

    The story itself falls into the realm of realism taken to its extreme. The plot elements felt almost like the Bible story of Job...whatever could go wrong willgo wrong. And even though Tess was generally found to be almost whining about her circumstances rather than trying to make things better for herself, the story was still rather thought provoking since it makes you wonder just how you would handle horrific circumstances and what can truly be done about them. Is it better to try and solve the problem or better to just let fate and happenstance take its toll.

    Personally, I try to make the best out of any bad situation...perhaps that's why I like "depressing" stories...they make me realize my life could be worse and they help inspire me to always think of the best possible outcome.

    I'm sure this book won't be for everyone. Those who want a happy fairy-tale romp through a girl's life would do better to stay away. Those who are easily frustrated by fallen characters, will find themselves hating all of the primary roles in this book. The book isn't terribly lengthy (~300-400?) but some of the longer descriptive passages do crawl by at times.

    Still, I whole-heartedly recommend this book to those who are willing to look imperfection and awful situations square in the face and come away smiling. It's not a happy book. It's not a terribly fast past book (which can also be frustrating...I wanted to shout Just do it to Tess many times).

    But it is a wonderfully rich book and definitely worth getting into.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Tess of the d'Urbervilles

    Tess Durbeyfield is beset by guilt over the accidental death of one of her family's horses - a main source of family income. In an attempt to create a social connection and to gain financial assistance for her family, she entreats the d'Urbervilles to acknowledge an ancient familial connection. Unfortunately, Alec d'Urberville is taken with Tess and rapes her. Her life is haunted by his sexual assault from that point forward. Eventually, Tess begins to recuperate and finds employment elsewhere as a dairymaid. Her days as a dairymaid are happy and peaceful until she falls in love with Angel Clare. She agonizes over telling him of her tainted past, and when she confesses the truth on her wedding night, Angel is repulsed over her past and her deception of waiting to tell him. Tess is parted from her true love and never fully recovers, even when he returns to her.

    Tess of the d'Urbervilles is more than a sad story. It pays homage to the type of unhealthy family atmospheres that many children are raised in. The death of the horse is a direct result of her father's drunkenness and irresponsibility, though Tess never realizes this. When her parents hear of her misfortune, her mother reprimands her for not seeking marriage to the very man who raped her. The story also explores the mental effects that sexual assault can have on a person. Tess experiences extreme guilt, depression and feelings of unworthiness - common feelings for victims of sexual assault. In the end, as she is continually subjected to Alec d'Urberville, she experiences insanity which results in extreme actions.

    This particular edition included an introduction and notes about the text which I found helpful. However, I thought the girl on the cover did not resemble the maiden of the book. The girl on the front is plain and unremarkable, whereas, Tess, according to the text, is remarkable.

    I can see why this book is considered a literary classic, but I can't say I enjoyed it. That being said, I think everyone should read this book once. Tess is a memorable character that one can not help being fascinated with.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2001

    never read this book!

    This book was very terrible. there is nothing even close to appealing in this book. The dialect is absolutely impossible to understand. It is the most difficult book i've ever had to read and I would never read this book again. Please don't read it, you're doing yourself a favour, trust me!!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 1999

    This book sucks

    This book is so hard to read. I have to read it for my high school English class and the dialect is crazy. It is so difficult! I mean, not to spoil it for anyone or anything, but I didn't even realize that she was raped. Really and truly, no idea. If you are going for a book that is not hard to understand and that is enjoyable, I'm sorry to say, but do not go for this book. Have a great life everyone! ~Krysti

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2012

    Could not keep me interested Did not have thevpatience to Did not have the patience to get to the end of this one by h Did not have the patience to complete.

    Was interested in the story until it took forever to be told. Tess could not walk a few feet without an overkill of scenery description. Got tired of skimming through these areas.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2007

    Fiction Novel Review

    Tess of the d¿Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy enthralls its readers with the life of Tess Durbeyfield and the trials she is faced with. Hardy captivates the reader by characterizing the characters so well that it elicits certain responses to certain characters like sympathizing with Tess, loving Angel, and hating Alec. Tess is portrayed as the naïve, beautiful country girl who is going to live a fairy tale life when a handsome prince will sweep her off her feet. Thus, capturing the hearts of the readers, and immediately setting us against Alec, the antagonist, without a shred of sympathy. Alec pesters Tess with his ¿love¿ and ruins her chances by robbing her of her innocence, forever scarring her. Tess is presented with one chance to right her life with Angel, the love of her life, and her, his. Their unconditional love for one another touches the reader, evoking feelings of hope and optimism for the couple, although their happiness is ephemeral when Alec yet again, dashes it. By this point, the reader is frustrated and seething with anger toward Alec who constantly ruins things. There finally comes a point when Tess and Angel are reunited and the reader breathes a sigh of relief, but Hardy takes an unexpected twist at the end, leaving the reader unsatisfied and discontent. It feels like Hardy has taken us on a great roller coaster, and we¿re climbing up a steep incline, only to slowly glide down a tiny hill, and at the very end, there¿s a sharp turn, jolting the reader. The overall book is fabulously unsatisfying.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2005

    Extremely Boring

    This has got to be one of the most disappionting books that I have ever read. First of all the topic or focus of the book is very loose so the book is hard to follow and you can easily get side tracked. The over all writing style is the main problem of the book though. The writing style is more like a text book than an actual story so it almost seems like a chor to read it. However the over all idea is okay because Tess's charecter does have many emossional complexities and has to face many emossional challenges. It is interesting to see how her relationship with men can change when she lets her history or past get the best of her. The idea for this book was not bad but the whole writing style seemed very uninspired. I can see why this was Hardy's last book, people got sick of his boring writing style!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2004

    Wonderful Story of Troubles, Love, and Life!

    This book is an EXTRAORDINARY story of how the young Tess Durbyfield is torn between two lovers, a romantic, Alec D'Urberville and a preachers son, Angel Clare. She finds before meeting Alec her troubles begin when she accidentally kills the family horse. After meeting Alec and his blind mother she finds him attractive, and he her. After romancing, she realizes she doesn't love him, it is only infatuation. She returns home before venturing out again after her child dies. She finds work on a farm in a nearby town and meets Angel Clare. She had promised to never fall in love again, although Angel persisted they should be lovers. After turning down many proposals from Angel she finally accepts. On their honey-moon night, eat up with her guilt, Tess confesses her dark and mysterious past to Angel which causes him to become jealous since Alec is still alive. He decides to go away to Brazil until he can forgive Tess. While he is away Tess returns home yet again to tell her parents of what she had done. Tess decides to find and talk to Angels parents but her plan is thwarted. She travels to the near town and over-hears a preacher, but the voice sounds familiar. It is Alec! The two lovers see each other after so long. She refuses to talk to him and tell him of what she has done.....If I continue I will tell the most brilliant climax of the entire novel!!! You must read this book to find out what happens when the two lovers meet again, who forgives who, find out who is murdered, who is executed. The ending of this book is beyond shocking! This book may be a bit difficult to get into at first, but once you begin reading you can't put it down! You only wish to know what happens next!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2002

    A good tale, but utterly maddening

    Hardy is an absolute wonderful story-teller, but this book is definately not for the faint of heart. It takes a few chapters to really get into and the climax of the story really doesn't live up to the tale itself. Wonderful writing, but a let-down in the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2000

    Don't Waste Your Time!

    This was absolutely the worst book I have ever read. There is nothing in this book that is even close to being worthwhile, not language, not emotion, not likeable characters, nothing. If you feeling like numbing your brain and lowering your intellegence, go ahead and read it. But for anyone who values their sanity, find another book, please.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2012

    Very long and drawn out

    Emotionally draining

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  • Posted June 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    you feel you can relate to the characters

    This book involves a woman who is trying to make ends meet and find her place in the world despite her past. You can relate to the characters in the book whether if it is Tess, Angel or the dreaded Alec. A good read that involves romance, hatred, nurturing, and a lost girl who stands up for herself.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2009

    One of the worst books ever written

    I absolutely abhor this book. The first time I was forced to read this book was in middle school. From the very first page to the last, I found myself hating the main characters more and more. I loathe, despise, and abominate this book. I have no sympathy for any of the characters. There are only a few other books that rival this one in terms of being badly written "literature." They are "Twilight" (really, any book in that series was terrible), "Moll Flanders," and "Wuthering Heights." As much as I hated the characters in this book, a million times more did I hate Catherine and Heathcliff. I wanted them both to die early on and stop depressing me with their whiny stories. Classics? I think not!

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2008

    Classic and a good read, but a bit depressing.

    Tess of the D'Urbervilles is definetly one of the better books I have read. I think everyone should read it, but it does drag at some parts, and seems rather depressing overall. It is definetly a book meant to draw attention to the hardships of rural life during the 1800's, and has many twists throughout the book that would keep you entertained. I do recommend this book to anyone who likes classics.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2007

    A reviewer

    Truly one of Hardy's greatest works. this book had everything that makes a novel great, an amazing story, a secret love, heartache, and a truly saint-like character,Tess. This story will tug on your heartstrings for weeks after you read it, but the happiness is there also. I recommend this book over Jude the Obscure, that was the most depressing novel i have ever had the displeasure to read. ughhh how could he do the things he did to those characters, but Tess I highly recomend.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2007

    Please read the alternative

    I understand Tess to be classic Hardy: well-written, evocative, cynical. I find it interesting that the context of such a famous book seems to remain obscured today. Tess is a response--part of a dialogue. This book was published approximately ten years after George MacDonald's Paul Faber: Surgeon, and is a clear response. The books could hardly be more different, but the most fundamental and significant plot elements are common to both books. Hardy actually makes a veiled reference that you will enjoy during the scene immediately following the marriage that essentially quotes a passage from the same event in Paul Faber--only flatly disagrees with MacDonald. Both are good authors, and you will lose nothing in quality when you venture to MacDonald, but where Hardy finds despair, irony, and ultimately destruction MacDonald finds forgiveness, hope, and victory of the divine in humanity. Please read both, if only to choose for yourself which more accurately represents the world in which you live.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2007

    Very disappointing,

    As I was assigned to read a book for my teacher, I decided to choose this book. I wish I hadn't. It's very boring, and I found it extremely difficult to read it all the way through. The story line is very drab, and the plot isn't that great, either. We have the typical poor family needing some financial help and lying about being related to a rich family in order to be financially stable. The book isn't that difficult in general to read, but the tone of the book is that of a very dated time, and it just wasn't appealing to me. I felt that the book could have been a lot better than what it turned out to be. If you enjoy very old, typical books, then this would be one for you. There was some basic interesting parts, such as the soap-opera like scene where Tess is reunited with a man that raped her, or when her child dies, but all of the scenes are very normal. You'd expect to find them in a book like this, and that's what makes this book all too ordinary. If I had to recommend this book to anyone in general, I wouldn't. I honestly thought this book was very ordinary, nothing out of the normal, with not really any intense scenes. I wouldn't read it again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2006

    Tess of the D'Urbervilles

    Although written well over a century ago, Tess of the D¿Urbervilles is a surprisingly modern novel with unmatched poetic beauty. The author, Thomas Hardy, jabs at the age-old issues of sexism, social class, and morality in this seemingly simple tragic romance. The heroine is the titular Tess, an elegant but unassuming countryside beauty from a poor farming family. Her misery begins when the family discovers that they are not the shabby Durbeyfields after all, but rather the descendants of the illustrious and ancient D¿Urbervilles. But Tess' doom goes hand in hand with her heritage. Introduced to her newfound rich relations, she is forced to become the mistress of her cousin Alec D¿Urberville. Naturally she is blamed for her ¿defilement¿ and resulting pregnancy. Tess of the D¿Urbervilles cynically examines the high-strung, sexist Victorian society and the hypocritical Anglican Church, while simultaneously providing a window into the human soul. Hardy captivates the reader with his luminous heroine, a saintly creature forced to commit terrible deeds against her will. He questions the very nature of morality, asserting that neither society nor the church has the authority to judge virtue. Tess of the D¿Urbervilles is a masterpiece of literature¿tragic and romantic, poetic and critical¿a wondrously perceptive literary work. The reader is captivated from start to finish, from the opening imagery of the lovely English countryside to the fateful, deeply symbolic conclusion set amid the cragged rocks of the Stonehenge.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2006

    A Traditional Hardy

    Hardy has a reputation for depressing, tragic books. However, i think it is important that we read at least one of his books if only to see how the world deals with loss, with grief, with sin. when things go wrong for Tess, how does she respond? How would you respond? I hope you would not make the same choices she makes. A dark depressing feel lies over the plot like an ominous cloud. The first chapter or so was rather random, but it focuses on Tess as it continues.Actually when you look back on the opening, it is actually quite genius.HArdy opens telling you of the area, Tess'family, and the recent events. The middle season of sunshine and happiness was my favorite, because it had a lighter playful feeling, showing what Tess' life could have been. The ending is very depressing, but it is the only way to satisfy the innate knowledge that everyone has of justice. I cried for Tess several times, hating the men Hardy placed in her path. Also it is heart-wrenching to look back at her one mistake with Angel clare. Overall a worthwhile read, but not something to reread over and over again. And defintiely not something to read when you are already depressed. You will become so depressed that you sink into the Pit of Despair.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2004

    somewhat touching

    I chose to read this book for a reading class, not really knowing what to expect. As I read this book, I kept getting confused and it wonders off so much. The book suprised me however at the end. I did not expected to happen what HAD happened. A girl, close to being a woman from a physical view and not a mental view, is faced with many unorthodox things in her life. She finally finds the love of her life and he will not forgive her for a sin that he himself commited. She is later forgive but at that time she is unhappily with the man that she was with before. Hardy strays in the beginning with his descriptions of places and even people that aren't exactly improtant, but when you get to the whole point of the book, it is very enjoyable. This is a book one would enjoy, if you keep you focus on it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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