"Tess Of The D'Urbervilles"

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Today I want to welcome my good friend, Jean, who has kindly agreed to do a guest blog. There was a certain amount of arm twisting involved but we won't talk about that now. Thank you Jean!

Here's what she had to say about "Tess Of The D'Urbervilles":

"This is my first Thomas Hardy book. Ordinary Reader recommended the book to me and asked if I would do a guest blog. I agreed and here I am. This is my first Thomas Hardy book and my first blog. I confess I’m not well read nor can I write eloquently like Ordinary Reader but I will give my opinion on this book.

When I started “Tess”, I wasn’t sure if I could actually get the story without a dictionary. The book had a lot of description with words I wasn’t familiar with, maybe a bit too much for me.

I can say I really enjoyed watching the characters unfold and become so real.
Hardy easily captured my attention and I was enjoying the character of John Derbyville. He was an odd sort but I liked him. I wish there had been more of John in the book.

“Tess” and “Angel” brought out many emotions in me. I was happy for them at times, angry with them for being so ridiculous, frustrated that “Angel” had double standards. I was surprised at the strength Hardy gave to “Tess”. Her character was quite interesting. She is a young naive innocent at first then her strength and determination start to show.

While I was reading this book I was thinking to myself, I bet there is going to be the typical ‘happy ever after’ ending and I didn’t want that. I admit I didn’t read the subtitle of the book “The tragic masterpiece of the Victorian era”, that would have taken care of the happy ever after ending I was dreading.

I don’t think I would have minded the tragedy but it was all too quick. The last quarter of the book moves too fast compared to the pace of the first three quarters. I felt the book ended somewhat abruptly.

The book opens with a tired man on his way home and along comes an elderly parson and enlightens the man named “John Derbyfield” that he is really the descendant of the prestigious family of D’Urbervilles. The parson calls the man “Sir John” and he then becomes excited to think he can claim he is of the family of D’Urbervilles and should be rightly recognized as one. He sends his older daughter, Tess, to go visit the D’Urbervilles and claim their family’s heritage. He feels that if she goes to the family she will be married to her cousin “Alec D’Urberville”. Alec falls for her immediately but she is not interested in him at all. Alec seems to rescue her from the drunken crowd she is with but he then takes her on a long ride in the fog and they are lost. She lies down to rest and when he returns from getting their bearings, he defiles her.

Tess leaves the home of the D’Urbervilles and makes attempts at a new life. Tess travels in an opposite direction of the D’Urberville mansion in hopes of never seeing Alec again in her life.

Tess becomes a dairymaid and this is where “Angel Clare” is introduced. He is unhappy with ‘religion’ and the role of the ‘church’ in the life of individuals. Angel falls in love with Tess and Tess with Angel. Tess always has this terrible feeling that she is unworthy of happiness and she tells her friends she will never marry, but she doesn’t reveal to them why.

Tess tries to tell Angel many times why she is unworthy of him but he always tells her to wait until after they are married to confess to him her sins. After they are married, Angel confesses first to Tess that he had a 48 hour sin with a woman. This seems to open the door for Tess to confess her sin. Tess tells him she was defiled while a young innocent. He is all of a sudden in a rage about it. It seemed his deliberate sin and her unfortunate sin was not equal. Tess could forgive Angel but Angel wouldn’t be able to forgive Tess.

Angel and Tess parted ways a few days after they were married. Angel went to Brazil to find a farm to buy and then ‘if he could forgive her’ he would send for her.

Tess struggles for 2 years trying to look after herself by working in the fields doing work made for a man but given to her by the farmer. Tess did the work, pined away for the love of her life to forgive her, and then wrote him a letter pleading forgiveness and asking for him to send for her.

While working in the fields, when she would have welcomed death sometimes, along comes the villain, Alec D’Urberville, offering to look after her and her family. Tess tells him to go away many times. When her father dies and there is no home for her mother and siblings she helps move them to a new home, upon arrival in the town, the promised home is already taken. Tess finds them another home and then Alec D’Urberville shows up once again and she is so tired, defeated, lonely and hopeless that she gives in and goes to live with him. Alec looms in the background in the last quarter of the book and I don’t feel he ever takes his place as a ‘real’ villain.

Angel, while in Brazil, has been very sick and had received Tess’s letter begging him to send for her or come home and forgive her. He struggles to get home and searches far and wide for Tess. He finds her family and they tell him where she is living. Angel goes and finds that Tess is going by Tess D’Urberville and living with Alec. When he knocks on the door and the servant answers, it isn’t long before Tess is coming down the staircase. She shows no sign of happiness at his arrival. Angel is torn up inside and he leaves heading for the train station. Angel buys his ticket and sees Tess heading for the same area and he decides to be anywhere she isn’t.

Angel finds his train is delayed by 2 hours and decides to walk to the first stop the train makes. He hears someone following him and turns and it is Tess. They declare their love for one another and she tells him she has killed Alec and then they are on the run. They find shelter in an abandoned estate, which is only tended to, when the weather is sunny, by a local lady. The lady sees them there and they leave and now they try to make it to the coast and get a boat out of there. They walk a long hard way that night and rest in a Stonehenge. Tess and Angel are sleeping when Angel feels the presence of someone. He notices heads moving in the darkness. They are surrounded by 16 people and Tess is finally caught.

I found myself angry at Tess’s mother for keeping Tess so naive which led to her tragedy that marred her for life. I wanted to shake Tess for being ridiculous and her husband Angel for having double standards. I didn’t like the villain but then again, I shouldn’t. I laughed while reading this book, I had sympathy for some characters, didn’t care what happened to others. I think the most prevalent emotion I had was ‘anger'. Tess and Angel were exasperating to me.

I found this book took a turn for the worse quickly, almost too quickly. I had a hard time dealing with the strong character of Tess turning into someone who lost their mind. Angel’s character turned into an ‘all accepting’ man. The two characters lost their strength at the end of the book and became boring. I had suspicions that Hardy had a lot of his own life in this book and when I found a Hardy biography it confirmed my suspicions.

Would I read another Thomas Hardy? I definitely would. I also recommend Tess of the D’Urbervilles to anyone, unless you are looking for a happy ever after ending."


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