The roles of rustic characters in Tess of the D’urbervilles are used in many concepts to express Tess’ superiority in the book. Throughout the novel Hardy emphasis his love of the character Tess, he has always made Tess stand out, for example in the opening when we first meet Tess she is described as the most beautiful dancer their but he has also added the red ribbon so she stands out in the crowd of white dresses.
Tess of the D’urbervilles, like the other major works by Thomas Hardy, anticipates the twentieth century in regard to the nature and treatment of its subject matter.
Tess is the twelfth novel published by Hardy. He began the novel in 1889 it was rejected by several other periodicals from July to December 1891. It was finally published in December 1891.
The novel questions societies sexual mores by compassionately portraying a heroine who is seduced by the son of her employer and who thus is not considered pure and chaste women by the rest of the society. Upon its publication, Tess encountered brutally hostile reviews; although it is now considered a major work of fiction, the poor reception of Tess and Jude the Obscure precipitated Thomas Hardy’s transition from writing fiction to poetry.
Tess of the D’urbervilles deals with several significant contemporary subjects for Hardy, including struggles of religious belief that occurred during Hardy’s lifetime Hardy was largely influenced by the Oxford movement a spiritual movement involving extremely devout thinking and actions. Hardy’s family members were primarily orthodox Christians and hardy himself considered entering the clergy, as did many of his relatives. Yet hardy eventually abandoned his devout faith in god based on the scientific advances of his contemporises, including most prominently Darwin’s on the origin of species. Hardy’s own religious experiences can thus be seen in the character of Angel Clare, who resists the conservative religious experiences beliefs of his parents to take a more religious and secular view of philosophy.
The novel also reflects Hardy’s preoccupation with social class that continues through his novels. Hardy had connections in both the working class and the upper class, but felt that he belonged to neither. This is reflected in the pessimism contained in Tess of the D’urbervilles toward the chances for Tess to ascend in society and Angel’s precarious position as neither a member of the upper class nor a working person equivalent to his fellow milkers at Talbothays. Again, like Angel Clare, Thomas Hardy Found himself torn between different social spheres with which he could not fully align himself. Tess of the D’urbervilles reflects that divide.
It was the stories he heard from his mother and grandmother he used in his story about secret baptisms, he witnessed a hanging of a woman who killed her husband for being unfaithful. Hardy was well of but still joined in, in all the country activities, he uses events from his background e.g. the wild country dancing; where he often played his violin he uses this in describing the dancing in Chaseborough.
His affinity with nature and the rural environment is used very often in the novel because of his love of the countryside and his home life being around nature and animals he grew to love it and describes it with such emotional attachment when he talks about the season, which he has combined with symbolism.
Hardy disliked anything new, and continued telling use this throughout the book since the beginning when Tess goes to Alec’s house he describes it as a ‘crimson brick lodge’ hardy always uses symbolism to represent things red (crimson) is a sign of danger and warning. And also mentioned ‘everything looked like new money-like the last coin issued from the mint. He doesn’t like anything new and states from the beginning that he doesn’t like the idea of Tess going to Alec at his house.
Hardy describes the countryside and the season as a sign of symbolism like spring is a happy and cheerful season when good things happen and then when its cold, bad and misfortune takes place.
He describes the old and traditional ways of Marlett with joy and happiness, he like the club walking because he describes the evening and the spring. He dislike the combine harvester by the industrial revolution because it destroys the nature and life; he writes that the animals ‘huddled together, friends and foes, till the last few yards of upright whet fell also under the teeth of the veering reaper and they where everyone put to death by the sticks and stones of the harvester’ he describes the whole thing in a negative attitude he calls the threshing machine at Flintomb Ash a ‘ red tyrant’.
Hardy in some cases does make rustic characters friendly, sympathetic and kind e.g. whilst harvesting when the children brought Tess her baby they respected her and were sympathetic towards her. Also when her father made a fool of himself at the beginning they don’t laugh or sneer but understand their difficulties.
When Tess returns to Trantridge her friends help cheer her up, also when Izzy tells Angel that Tess loves him more than anyone else.
He makes them hard working to show they are better than urban dwellers like at the harvest field and farms. The brothers of Angel are not the rustic characters that hardy made the village people but more of upper class well of children who fell to higher than the rest of the village folk to talk part in dancing in public because they feel it is wrong and are afraid that someone may see them and know who they are. The family of Tess are almost the same, they don’t care about anybody but themselves and all they want after finding out that they are from a rich family is to have the money and well fair that will come from it. They don’t care for what they do to Tess to make her do what they want, and the children are only passengers on the shiftless house of the Durbeyfield going nowhere with no future.
There are many other roles to the rustic characters the good and bad one the one who are kind, the ones who are jealous and hateful, some that have humour and make you laugh like the treacle and Car.
The rustic characters are used to make Tess stand out more like the milk maids all like Angel but they say that Tess is pretty and that Angel likes her but they are not jealous, they accept her and are still her friend. When Car has treacle on her back she doesn’t like the fact that Tess is laughing at her because she is the favourite of Alec, also they say ‘ very well, miss Independence’ meaning that she is strong and won’t let others do the work for her and not many where like her. This does change the way we look at Tess she is made most superior than the others, made to stand out against all odds.
The seasons changing symbolise the future events and the mood of the character. Like the faint luminous fog on page 86 just before the rape, this symbolises danger is up ahead and the fog is blinding Tess from the truth, and what’s about to happen. In the novel it stops her from seeing where they are going, so inevitably Alec uses this to his advantage to seduce her without realising.
On page 3 it is spring everything is happy cheerful and people are safe and happy nothing can go wrong in May.
Page 131 it is spring, which was the happiest time in Tess’ life so, it predicts that it is a new start it predicts a happy future for her.
Page 90 when she is about to be rapped it writes that the chase was wrapped in thick darkness now she is totally blinded from all that is about to come, and all that is going to change her life.
Tess is very careful in the things she does; the atmosphere around her reflects how she feels, and also the seasons. The dead leaves that she was lying on while she slept before the rape. This tells use that no matter what she doesn’t feel safe she likes the country life with the simple everyday living. She doesn’t trust the world beyond Trantridge, we see this in the way she feels living Trantridge for the first time.
The colours are used to warn use of the future and certain characters.
Darkness is used in the triangular tent door Alec comes out of darkness, which shows that his intensions are dark and evil. For example ‘darkness and silence ruled everywhere around’ when they where in the woods before the rape.
Blue narcotic haze, it almost blinded her from what he’s thinking of almost drugging her unconscious of her present situation.
Red is a sign of danger warns readers that something is going to happen.
White is the sign of purity and fairness.
The first time she leaves with Alec he writes ‘behind the green valley of her birth, before, a grey country of which she knew nothing’. Describes the journey to his home green-past, grey-future, green is what is good and full of life, safe. Grey is when she leaves her green happy life in to a grey bleak one.
Red is the sign of danger and a warning. It is used throughout this book it starts with her wearing a red ribbon I believe this represents the fact that she is pretty and pure but the future ahead is full of struggle and danger.
Hardy mentions that Alec has red smooth lips this states seduction.
The crimson brick lodge-red, new, Hardy doesn’t like new non-country things at Alec’s house.
Strawberries- red and always a symbol of seduction, so his intensions of giving her these are clear at his house the first time thy meet.
The blood red ray- it means because she is blinded by the smoke she is blurred from the figure who is a dangerous person in her life while she eats.
Overall Hardy has used rustic characters in many ways, to emphasis the fact that Tess is his favourite, to make her more superior then the that fact that she was educated till the 6th grade, which is something not many people where. The characters are also there for comfort and humour. Hardy uses symbolism to show danger, predict the future and show passing of seasons and show intensions of characters. In the book he also uses extended metaphors one example is the shiftless house of the Durbeyfields, this extended metaphor of the shiftless house talks about the children’s life in the house which has no destination how they have no choice or future entirely dependent on the choices of the two adults for there pleasure, their necessities, their health, even their existence.
The image that is given is of a unstable complicated family with parents and the only choice the children have is to follow nothing else they can do except help when they get older, its no future for them in the ‘shiftless house of the Durbeyfields’. The extended metaphor when she is getting raped it talks about atmosphere, what she’s lost and then finds reason why it was done to her. It talks about no one looking out for her where was god. Where was the providence in her faith?
Tess is his favourite character without a doubt he presents her in a light which finds her very favourable to him. Tess can be classed as a tragedy in the Shakespearean scene because basic flaws e.g. pride, guilt, stubbornness and excessive loyalty.
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Topic: Hardy’s use of symbolism and characters in Tess of the D’urbervilles
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