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Tess of the D’urbervilles Novel Reading and Analysis

Paper type: Analysis
Pages: 10 (2499 words)
Categories: England, Novel Reading, Victorian Era
Downloads: 37
Views: 465

The text under analysis is a novel entitled “Tess of the D’urbervilles”. It comes from the belles letters style,sub-style is emotive prose. It has the functions of this design:

  • Authentic imagery accomplished by meaningful gadgets.
  • The usage of words in contextual and more than one dictionary least affected by the lexical environment
  • Strange individual selection of vocabulary and syntax showing individual examination of things or phenomena “Tess of the D’urbervilles” is a victorian, tragic, didactic unique teaching the reader a moral lesson and revealing the forming of the character.

    Tess isn’t a traditional tragedy.It occurs in a rural setting and it isn’t about the fall of a great and honorable character, we also desire to mention that it’s a “pastoral” story that represents the country (rather than the city) in an idealized or romantic method.

The majority of the bad things that happens to Tess is a result of modernization and civilization, and not from anything that would have come from in the country.

The language of the novel is literary, meaningful, communicating tone, mindset and feeling.The book is a rich blend of occasions, feelings that welcomes readers to probe listed below its deceptively basic surface for deeper realities.

Social and cultural background

Let’s examine social and cultural context and values of the story.There are some symbols in the story.Red and White are the two colors that we see in the story.Red is the sign of sin,love,hatred,while white is associated with purity and innocence.That is why in the first scene we see Tess wearing a white dress that Tess isn’t like other girls.In another scene,when Tess murders Alec there is the scarlet blot in the middle of the white ceiling. The D’urberville family vault is always in Tess’s mind and she returns to her ancestors in the end.The tomb is referred to when speaking about her noble family,the things her ancestors might have done and the life they might have had. The chase,all that remained of the ancient forest,is compared to the Slopes of the Valley where Alec’s family lived.The chase represents the old civilization,the past,the nature contrasted to the new,present life;where ”everything looked like money – like the last coin issued from the mint.” Brazil,where Angel Clare wants to go,start a new life,is the symbol of changes,happiness,freedom from prejudices,which is broken by his illness and return back to his home.

There are some realia in “Tess of the D’urbervilles”.Some geographical realia:the Chase,the Slopes,the village of Marlott,the Vale of Blackmoor(or Blackemore),Shaston. Ethnographic realia:farmer,landlady;May day dance;Parson,Priest,Sir,Mrs;pound. Thomas Hardy was an English novelist and poet.His works belong to the Naturalism movement.Several poems display elements of Romantic and Enlightenment periods of literature.He regarded himself as a poet who composed novels mainly for financial gain.Hardy’s family was Anglican and he often wrote about supernatural forces that control the universe,more through indifference than any firm will Hardy also gave some Biblical references,Cristian and Church rituals in his novels. The implied reader is an young adult who faces love,need for work and earning money,wish to create a family and live a happy life.

In my opinion,the novel was written to show the relationship between men and women.It is a nineteenth century work (was first published in 1891 at Random House,but also published serially in different periodicals) bit it anticipates the twentieth century.Now in the twenty first century we see that the problems raised in “Tess of the D’urbervilles” are still topical,so culturally we are not very far from the text:there are issues of love,hatred,purity,poverty and wealth,social relationships,cultural and religious values. The text was written in 1889 in England and reflects rural customs,values,stereotypes and expectations of that time.It concentrates on relationships between people and also shows their attitude to God,religion,moral,to their families,ancestors.

The drama of the text is created by the gender role of that period men dominating women,it was the time of strict differences is not so vivid:men can do babysitting,cooking,cleaning,be “househusbands” and women may work hard to earn the living for their families:work as builders,drivers,plumbers,judges,accountants,lawyers and other. To understand this novel better we must know the peculiar views of that time,social and cultural values.In my opinion,the attitude of people in the story to the main character (Tess) was very cruel,because what happened to her was not her fault and such indifferent and violent treatment of people is still characteristic for our time.What is accepted as culturally – appropriate behaviour does not correspond to true feelings and actions of people. Thanks to these book we arrive at deeper understanding of both English speaking cultures and our own,at understanding of past and present.

Gist and problem identification

There are several themes in “Tess of the D’urbervilles”:the injustice of existence;changing ideas of social class in Victorian England;non dominating women;love and hatred;wealth and poverty;life and death;good and evil;education and upbringing;family life;human vices. The major conflict of the novel is:Tess is seduced,impregnated,and abandoned by the son of her upper-class patroness,making her unacceptable to her true love Angel later in life. A man is opposed to himself:Tess does not understand her fault for what happens in her life;to the society:Tess is alone facing all the problems of having a child without a husband,being reproached with irresponsibility;to supernatural:Gods play with people sending them tests.

The main idea of the novel is that people see and accept only what seems to be good and proper for them,often violating the laws of nature and crushing other people’s feelings. Tess is described be the author as pure and innocent but the people see her as a sinful woman,wicked and deserving punishment.Angel refuses to understand and accept her,though he had done a similar thing. Thomas Hardy does not only pose the problems but he shows how they are solved and the solution is seen as the only,inevitable way.The text aims at a psychological influence on the readers to convince them of the reality and authenticity of the described subject.It is a lively account of the circumstances and the factors which led to the development of the plot.They is aimed at acquainting the reader with some disputable problems of social aspects of life.

Author’s tone and intent

The tone of the narrative is realistic and pessimistic.The text is told mainly in the gloomy vain.The events are described in detail and calm and tranquil description of nature is combined with tension and emotions.When the narrator is describing the landscape,he adopts the tone of a passing observer – someone who is interested in what’s going on,but on someone who’s really invested in any of it.During climatic or very emotional moments,he adopts a more sympathetic tone.For the most part,that sympathy is general – the kind of pity anyone would feel for someone suffering as Tess does.That universal sympathy makes the reader identify even more with Tess.

The author sympathies with Tess and disapproves of people and their attitude to Tess.The intent of the author is to provoke the readers brain and imagination to get to work to help him find he main meaning.Enough details are included to emphasize the author’s views:the descriptions of nature,cows,people,reasoning of supernatural forces and their role in people’s lives. The physical strength of a person is contrasted to his emotional weakness.The story ends on a tragic note: ”Justice was done and the President of the Immorfalls,in Aeschylean phrase,had ended his sport with Tess”.

Composition and content organization

Thomas Hardy is a writer of great narrative power.The narrator is anonymous.The narrator speaks in the third person,and looks deep into the character’ minds.The narrator is objective but has an omniscient understanding of future implications of characters’ actions as they happen.The description is combined with dialogue. The narration is done in chronological order to dramatize the hardship of characters’ lives.The duration of the novel is about 10 years. The plot consists of the exposition,complication,climax,falling action and denouement.So we can conclude that the plot structure is closed. In the exposition we get acquainted with the main character of the story – Tess.

She is young (16 years old) and lives in the village,in the poor family of seven children. In the complication Tess’s family’s discover that they are ancient English aristocracy,which gives them all fantasies of a higher station in life.Tess accidentally kills the family horse,which drives her to seek help from the d’Urbervilles,where she is seduced and dishonored. In the climax Tess’s new husband discovers her earlier seduction by Alec and decides to leave her,going off to Brazil and not answering her letters,and bringing Tess to despair.

In the falling action Tess’s decides to marry Alec,who claims to love her.Angel returns from Brazil to discover Tess marriage to her former seducer,and meets with Tess:Tess murders Alec and escapes with Angel. In the denouement Tess is apprehended and executed.Angel stays with Lisa-Lu – Tess’s sister. The author uses foreshadowing to give hints on the events of the novel.Tess’s killing of the pheasants foreshadows her own death by hanging;Alec’s assertion that he will “master” Tess again foreshadows his reemergence in her life.

Point of view, voice and focalization

The story is told from the third person point of view:the narrator does not participate in the action,it happens to the characters.But the narrator is omniscient and is able to reveal the unspoken thoughts of characters. The voice of the narrator is clearly heard in the story and it is different from the opinion of people,secondary characters of the novel.The author sympathises with Tess,supports her while the characters of the story condemn and despise her.The narrators presentation is reliable and realistic. The focalization is external and presents the information of characters’ external behaviour through their speech and action,though with thoughts of the author.

Setting and environment

The setting of the events is realistic.The tense is past.The time of action is the 1880s and 1890s.The place of action is Wessex,the southwest of England.They are given to establish the mood of the narrative:tragic and associations:pure nature against sinful people.The nature and the people symbolize moral environment and give contrast to characters:Tess is the part of nature whereas Alec and Angel are representatives of vicious society.

Character traits are given through the setting:

Tess is kind,generous,pure,innocent,beautiful,feminine like nature.Alec and Angel are cruel,indifferent,cold like all society.

There are different motifs in ”Tess of the D’urbervilles”: birds singing at moment of joy or being quiet at tragic moment,the book of Genesis,and variants of names:Angel is supposed to be kind and forgiving,but the character is not. The scenery is of primary importance for the plot development.


There are 3 main characters in the story:Tess,Alec and Angel and there are many secondary characters. Angel is the youngest son of Rev James Clare and his wife.He appears in the opening chapters of the book as a young man wither upper-class bearings that dances with Tess’s friends as they celebrate their May festival to Tess,he is “educated,reserved,subtle,sad,differing”.He idealizes Tess as a “fresh,virginal daughter of nature”,and when she puts off a wedding date,he insists.

At Talbothays he and Tess are portrayed as Adam and Eve. Tess Durbeyfield is the daughter of John and Joan Durbeyfield of Marlott in Wessex,the eldest of seven children.To Angel she is “a regular churchgoer of simple faith;honest-hearted,receptive,intelligent,graceful to a degree,chaste as a vestal,and,in personal appearance,exceptionally beautiful”.She has “passed the Sixth Standard in the National School”,and thinks about becoming a teacher.

Alec is the son of the late Mr.Simon Stoke,who added “d’Urverville” to his name to conceal his real identify when the family moved from southern England.He seems immediately taken with his pretty “Coz”.He is described as a villain.He appears as a devil with a pitchfork in hand and says to her,”You are Eve,and I am the old Other One come up to tempt you in the disguise of an inferior animal”.

They are characterized in directly through their appearance: Tess is a pure beautiful child of nature;actions Alec did wrong to Tess but tried to help her family;Angel is educated man of advanced ideas,but unable to overcome stereotypes.

The main characters are dynamic,they change throughout the story from good to bad,from kind to cruel,from strong to weak and backwards.They are contrasted to each other and to secondary characters:Tess is good – Alec is bad;Tess is sinful – other milkmaids are pure;Angel is kind and loving – Alec is cruel;Alec helps Tess’s family – Angel leaves his wife and her family in poverty/ Thomas Hardy gives direct characterization he describes the characters,gives them speaking names (Angel).

Language and imagery, individual style of writing

The author was standard English language in his novel.One literary device Hardy uses is metaphors.The book is full of them.One example is when Alec D’urberville sexually abuses Tess Derbeyfield.When he does this,he kills her spiritually.Eventually,Tess kills Alec physically because she cannot kill him in the same way that he killed her.Another metaphor in this same scene,is the setting Hardy chooses to put the two of them in.They are sitting in a dark,foggy forest.I believe that the forest in like Alec.Another example of a metaphor is when Hardy mentions Adam and Eve.Angel Clare and Tess are the two being talked about when these other names come up.The last example of a metaphors I want to bring up is when the narrator compares Tess and her countenance as “a natural cornation slightly embrowned by the season”.

Another example of metaphor is:”great bags of milk”,”A huge jerk accompanied each swing of the cot,flinging the baby from side to side like a weaver’s shuttle”. Another great literary device Hardy was is foreshadowing.There is a great example of this when Tess and Alec,again,are in the forest.When Tess kills the birds,it is foreshadowing her own death;suggesting that she is killing a part of herself.The part that accepted so many years of pain.After this,Tess starts to act differently,and it eventually leads to her decision to kill Alec.When she is hung by her neck in the end of the book,it is just like when she was snapping the necks of the birds in the forest. Hardy has used stylistic devices such as similes and the use of sounds,in an attempt to exemplify mystery throughout the piece.Hardy conveys atmosphere using several techniques,but the most pronounced method he uses is with sounds.The passage begins with,”The soundlessness impressed her as a positive entity rather than a mere negation of noise.It was broken by the strumming of strings.

Hardy uses personification in describing the musical notes,wandered in the still air”.By adding human characteristics it helps add to the magical atmosphere.It intrigues the reader why music which has heard before suddenly appears to her and Hardy uses a simile to describe her feelings towards the music,”a stark quality like that of needity.”

Another example of simile is:”The pointed shaft of the cart had entered the breast of the unhappy Prince like a sword,and from the wound his life’s blood was spouting in a stream,and falling with a hiss into the road”;”They(stars) sometimes seem to be like the apples on our stubborn-tree.Most of them splendid and sound – a few blighted.” The novel is rich “in epithets”:”luxuriously stretched himself ”;”frizzle – headed brawny damsel”;”dispersed village”;”nocturnal homegoings”;”ladder – like holes at the knees”;”lumpy throat”;”lamentable purpose”;”defiant triumpth”;”swarthy complexion”;”…full lips,badly molded,though red and smooth…”;”well – groomed black moustache”;”bold rolling eyes”.

Cite this essay

Tess of the D’urbervilles Novel Reading and Analysis. (2016, Oct 03). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/tess-of-the-durbervilles-novel-reading-and-analysis-essay

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