Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

3.7 238
by Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble…  See more details below


Tess of the d'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

Highly controversial because of its frank look at the sexual hypocrisy of Victorian society, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles was nonetheless a great commercial success when it appeared in 1891. It is now considered one of the finest novels in English.

Using richly poetic language to frame a shattering narrative of love, seduction, betrayal, and murder, Hardy tells the story of Tess Durbeyfield, a beautiful young woman living with her impoverished family in Wessex, the southwestern English county immortalized by Hardy. After the family learns of their connection to the wealthy d’Urbervilles, they send Tess to claim a portion of their fortune. She meets and is seduced by the dissolute Alec d’Urberville and secretly bears a child, Sorrow, who dies in infancy. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer Tess love and salvation, but he rejects her—on their wedding night—after learning of her past. Emotionally bereft, financially impoverished, and victimized by the self-righteous rigidity of English social morality, Tess escapes from her vise of passion through a horrible, desperate act.

With its compassionate portrait of a young rural woman, powerful criticism of social convention, and disarming consideration of the role of destiny in human life, Tess of the D’Urbervilles is one of the most moving and memorable of Hardy’s novels.

David Galef has published nine books: the novels Flesh and Turning Japanese; two children's books, The Little Red Bicycle and Tracks; two translations of Japanese proverbs, Even Monkeys Fall from Trees and Even a Stone Buddha Can Talk; a work of literary criticism, The Supporting Cast; an edited anthology of essays called Second Thoughts: A Focus on Rereading; and, most recently, the short-story collection Laugh Track. In addition, he has written more than seventy short stories for magazines ranging from the British Punch to the Czech Prague Revue, the Canadian Prism International, and the American Shenandoah. His essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, Newsday, the Village Voice, Twentieth Century Literature, The Columbia History of the British Novel, and many other places. He is a professor of English at the University of Mississippi, where he also administers the M.F.A. program in creative writing.

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From David Galef’s Introduction to Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Hardy’s background suggests the dualities in the patterns of his fiction: the Victorian belief in social improvement versus a skepticism about the efficacy of reform; a love of the natural world versus the knowledge that nature is a mindless, impersonal system; and a nostalgia for previous eras despite the recognition that he himself probably would not have flourished back then. Born in 1840 and brought up in the rugged countryside of Dorset, which he turned into the Wessex of his fiction and poetry, Hardy became intimately acquainted with not just the local flora and fauna but seemingly every rise and bend in the region, or as Hardy mentions regarding Tess: “Every contour of the surrounding hills was as personal to her as that of her relatives’ faces.” But Hardy went beyond the little village of Stinson near his home. The school he attended from age nine to sixteen was in Dorchester, 5 miles away, a distance that he walked back and forth daily. Thus, when he opens a scene with “It was a hazy sunrise in August. The denser nocturnal vapours, attacked by the warm beams, were dividing and shrinking into isolated fleeces within hollows and coverts, where they waited till they should be dried away to nothing,” or describes how the “ripe hue of the red and dun kine absorbed the evening sunlight,” the pictorial naturalism speaks with the authority of someone who’s done a great deal of traipsing through the southwest of England. In fact, Hardy also drew upon real towns and their citizens. Thus, Dorchester becomes Casterbridge, Marnhull is really Marlott, Sturminster-Newton turns into Stourcastle, Trantridge is suggestive of the real town of Pentridge, and so on. (See the Map of Wessex and the Index of Places in this edition.) Even during Hardy’s lifetime, commentators compiled descriptions and photos of “Hardy country.” Visitors still make pilgrimages to those towns and other landmarks, a surprising number of which have been preserved.

Yet, living in the village of Higher Brockhampton near Stinson, Hardy grew up as many of the old rural ways were dying out: livelihoods, such as that of John Durbeyfield, described as a haggler or peddler; formerly independent businesses, such as inns, gradually taken over by franchises; and customs, such as May Day, a festival hearkening back to “when one-handed clocks sufficiently subdivided the day”; or simply the way John’s wife, Joan, makes a mirror in the country way, by hanging a sheet on the outside of a window. Taking longer to fade are attitudes, such as the timeworn view that a woman with a sexual past is “ruined”—but not a man.

Hardy only half regrets the vanishing of old ways. After all, the small rural towns of England in the mid-nineteenth century formed a world in which the family washing was never quite done, drinking was the sole pastime for many, and the death of a horse meant the loss of a livelihood. When Tess is down on her luck, she hires herself out first as a dairymaid, then as a reed-puller, and finally as a digger for swedes, or rutabagas. These jobs involve hard manual labor, as well as cooperation among workers. Hardy describes the tasks in the kind of detail that a novelist uses when the readership may be only half acquainted with its rural past: singing at cows to coax a greater yield of milk, or how to draw straw from corn stalks. If Hardy is able to place us in a bygone world, in fact he had the same transporting effect on his contemporary readers; most were far removed from rural life. At the same time, the rigor and plod of agricultural work forms a comment on the condition of the rural poor. As with Dickens’s novels, Hardy’s writings—including an essay from 1883 called “The Dorsetshire Labourer”—led to social change. Hardy, after all, was born into a world both more genteel and more barbarous than ours, with aspects that shock us today, even as ours, with its blatant sexuality, would shock people then. Hardy couldn’t directly refer to the rape scene between Tess and Alec in the forest, and what little he hinted at disturbed many of his readers. Yet our own society, so inured to erotic display, is more offended by social injustice. Unfair as Hardy’s world seems, his citizens observe a certain decorum and a sense of charity that partly compensate for life’s inequalities.

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Tess of the D'urbervilles 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 238 reviews.
Cougar_H More than 1 year ago
An enchanting, yet tragic story, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, has definitely shown its true Realism colors. Demonstrating how a woman's gender and status will always make society belittle her, Tess was a young maiden representing purity, natural beauty, innocence, and virtue. She has shown us the acts of sacrifice for love and her own sex. This story is calling out to woman everywhere, and for all history. Tess was a woman who stood strong no matter how unlucky she had been presented as. For example, when her rich and cynical cousin Alec had seduced/raped her while she was sleeping she had still tried to go on with her life. This shows that Tess was innocent no matter what people thought about her and she only wanted to find happiness in her life. In addition, her child Sorrow had died because it was so unhealthy, but she did stay in remorse. Her baby's name also tells us that her relationship between her and Alec was built with sorrow and sadness and ended in that way. She was also a great woman of virtue. Like from the very beginning she had protected her father from the rude gossipers, even though she knew herself that he was like that. This shows that although her family had put shame upon her, she had still treated them with respect and kindness. Furthermore, before she was about to get hanged, she asked her only true love to marry her sister. This shows, that even though she loved him, she showed no jealousy but desired what was best for him. But most of all, Tess was a woman of sacrifice. For example, when she had stabbed Alec to death in order to gain forgiveness from Angel Clare. This shows that even death and immorality cannot withstand her overflowing romance and love for Angel. In addition, before she gets captured, she sleeps on the Stonehenge; in that time, the Stonehenge was an immoral icon. This shows that she was lying there as if she was a sacrifice to the Heathen gods and in the same way she was sacrificing her life as the police came to arrest her. This fictional character signifies all women that have sacrificed their lives all because of men's greed and pride. Women who have tried to make a difference in this world so that maybe someone could not bias them because of their gender. But Thomas Hardy recognizes them, and asks us to recognize them too. He also aks us as Eves to continue to fight for our rights and their rights even in the 21st century, and all the centuries to come until we have finally reached our goals of being Adam's equal in all society, and in all humanity.
Linybean More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Tess of the d'Urbervilles because, as with most well-written novels, I was instantly endeared to the characters. You truly sympathize with the main character, Tess, and feel all the unfairness life heaps upon her. Hardy's characters come alive with passion and sorrow (and a little sarcasm) and he paints a clear picture of the duplicity of how one action so drastically affects two people. The opinions expressed on religion, morality and humanity give much food for thought. I felt at times the language ran on a little long, but I highly reccomend this book.

One word of warning though...it's not a happy-ending book, and I was pretty depressed the whole of the next day. That being said, I'm still glad I read it and am looking forward to seeing the mini-series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read this book over and over again many times during the past 10 years and each time I read it, I come away with something that I missed the previous time. I feel that Thomas Hardy is a genius and Tess is his greatest character. This story of a young woman wronged by society still rings true in our day. No matter how much women are given equal rights, it's still a man's world. Take the time to read this book and I promise that it will become one of your favourites as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book and found that it had a lot of unexpected turns. At times I found it a little hard to relate to the main character but enjoyed it all the same. Unfortunately I am finding that the classics do not alway end 'happily ever after'!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book. It is actually my favorite. Tess's story is tragic, as many others have pointed out. She's manipulated, used, abused, and eventually just breaks. The story is more or less a psychological study of this poor girl. I recommend this book to everyone who ever asks me. It's beautifully written and truly a wonderful book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thomas Hardy was way ahead of his time, and Tess is one of the most memorable characters in literature. One can't help but become emotionally involved and reminded of many of the problems with society that have changed little a century later.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I somewhat enjoyed this novel. However, at times I was confused about what was going on because of the descriptiveness of the writing. This novel seems to have a deeper meaning but it was kind of hard to pinpoint it. At times the writing is very bland and boring, but the dialogue is very enjoyable. It was extremely emotional and touching.
Di-DiDL More than 1 year ago
This book is required reading for upper division English in Colleges and Universities.  To call it depressing is dismissive and sophomoric .  Of course it's depressing, most Hardy novels are depressing by nature, but he examines the human condition from a vulnerable, innocent, well meaning character's point of view.  Some might feel it goes a little over the top in terms of misfortune, but I have always seen this as a testament of strength of the character.  What ironically breaks her is when utmost desperate, she commits murder, which plunges her into the depths of despair.  The use of Stonehenge as a symbol of sacrifice makes the situation all the more poignant .  Anyone who says she is bored with this needs to stop reading action novels and start looking a little deeper than 2 inches.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great change of pace.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! Truely the only book that I've actually cried at the ending.
lit-in-the-last-frontier More than 1 year ago
What can I say-I love Hardy. Why do I love an author whose books seem to move from one heartbreak to another? He is definitely not one you read for a light pick-me-up, that is for certain. But his writing is so nuanced that it feels as if I am floating down a quiescent rural stream; I know turbulent water lies ahead-I can feel the increasing pull beneath me-yet there seems to be no urgency to try to pull away in opposition. Going there just seems to be the natural flow of life. So why do I love this man whose plots I willingly follow into the very depths of despondency? Because the prose...oh, the prose! Thomas Hardy is a master of every literary element. For him, setting, especially, takes on such presence that it becomes an amalgamation of every place you have ever been. All of your senses become engaged. You hear the church bells peal across the meadow. The flank of the cow against Tess' cheek feels warm and fluid beneath your own. As she toils in the field you feel the grit of harvested grain in the sweaty crease of your neck and taste its dryness in your mouth. You feel refreshed by the wind and gladdened by the birds in flight. When it comes to character, Hardy is the consummate teacher. We don't just know that Tess' mother is hard at work on wash day. Her weariness is palpable. We aren't told that Tess is a good daughter. She pitches in just where she is needed, time and time again. Each character, major and minor, is presented so completely through their speech and actions that the narrator need fill in very little. For me they each even acquire a distinctive voice in my head. So if you have shied away from Hardy for lack of interest in his wrenching plots, I urge you to give one of his novels a try and experience the power of his incomparable prose.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book, you can really get attached to Tess as a character a feel for her and what she is going though. I cried a lot reading this book and there were times where I had to take a break from it. Over all I liked the book. If you like Classics go for it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing style, characters, and plot were all excellent, but the ending was very depressing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a well written book, but if you are going to read it, be prepared because it is one of the most tragic books i have ever read. Don't expect a happy ending, it concludes, so you aren't left hanging, but like most books during this time period. It is depressing. For like a whole day after i read it, i felt very down. BUT if you can handle it, it is good. I don't regret reading it.
I_am_Heathcliff More than 1 year ago
Can be a bit slow and lengthy at times but overall is a very good read. The characters seem so real and you can't help but hoping that everything will turn out well for Tess. You begin to love some characters while completely hating others. Tess is so naive and helpless at times that you just want to jump into the novel and help her. However, it is definitely not the easiest of reads; but for those who love classic literature and are ok with having a box of tissues near them when they're reading, it's definitely a must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the part where Tess was trying to figure out a way to support her parents after their horse died.
Kaila-Hubbs More than 1 year ago
So tragic and frustrating, it makes you glad you live in the 21st century. All of the opportunities lost by Tess and her companions due to misunderstandings and 'coincidences' make you feel the bitter pain of Tess' hardships as if they were your own. Thomas Hardy probably never imagined that he would be making young maiden girls weep at the horrible beauty of his story decades after it was written! I recommend this book only to those who don't mind heartache - this book certainly brings its share.
TessieSS More than 1 year ago
This novel had me frustrated at times but I did love it very much! I do not want to spoil the story, but I wish there was more forgiveness for Tess since it was not her fault. At times I found the language a bit too much, and could not make out what things meant and had to use spark notes for references- I would not have known what happened to Tess with Alec if I did not use the cheat! Overall the story is great, and I felt for the protagonist very much!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are whole paragraphs in this edition that seem not to have been transcribed well. Sentences don't make sense, punctuation is missing, weird symbols appear in random places. Sometimes a page will just end midway with no period. The next page moves on normally, but it makes me wonder what I'm missing. If this were a hard copy I would return it to the store. Not sure if that's possible with e-books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tess of the D'Urbervilles is both tragic and beautiful. Through this work of art, Thomas Hardy speaks of sin and redemption, love and sacrifice. I do not recommend this story if you are lacking either time or patience. Pieces of the story tend to move slowly, but I believe that this serves to better connect the reader with the characters, which makes the faster-paced sections of the tale more exciting and heart-wrenching. I often say that a story is well-written if it causes the reader to feel something (anger, frustration, saddness, joy, etc.). Based on this standard, Tess of the D'Urbervilles is a masterpiece.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read Tess multiple times and looking forward to the next time, too. The enchanting scenes (when Angel carries Tess across the water) and emotionally shocking scenes (the ending, beginning with Angels return) draw you in. Yes, the novel is tragic but beautiful all the same.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TulaneGirl More than 1 year ago
30 hours of reading over the course of 15 days. This was one of the most frustrating books I've ever read. I'm giving it four stars even though that doesn't accurately reflect how I feel about this book. So, the story was absolute crap. Tess was the most mealy mouthed, weak, pitiful female character ever written. Alec was an overgrown frat boy. And Angel was the most self-righteous prig. And don't even get me started on the end with Tess's sister. That was just awful. So, if I was grading this solely on the characters of this novel - it would be a two. Maybe - maybe even a one. There are minor characters which bump it to a 2 - namely Tess's dad. He's a hoot. So, here's where the frustration sets in. It's so beautifully written. The prose is amazing and the Thomas Hardy's description of just about everything transported me to the South of England. It might have almost been better if Hardy would have just described everything in sight and left out almost every character in this book! Hence, my frustration. And hence, my mixed review. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago