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‘Explore the ways in which Thomas Hardy uses setting to help portray Tess’ feelings. ‘ “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” is a tragedy novel by Thomas Hardy set in the 19th Century in the south of England. It focuses on Tess Durbeyfield, living in the rural county of Dorchester, an innocent young girl in the lower class of a very religious society. Tess is the eldest child of her family, which includes her mother, father and her four younger siblings.
The novel narrates the protagonist’s, Tess, life and Hardy uses many techniques to portray her feelings in certain events in her life for example, he uses metaphors, similes, personification and pathetic fallacy. The book tries to convey how hard Tess’ life is and how society was at that time to show the readers Hardy’s own feelings and opinions at that time of the society. The main theme of this novel is fate, however other themes are also incorporated for example, family, hate and love.
Chapter 14 begins with Tess binding in the field during harvest time in August. This is after she leaves the d’Uberville house following being raped by Alec and giving birth to his child. Hardy displays Tess’ current state in life in the first paragraph by giving a rich description of the season and the type of day it is; ‘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.
‘ Hardy has set this chapter in August to perhaps reveal to the readers, the future for Tess, as things tend to die in August and this is the case later on in this chapter when Tess’ baby, Sorrow dies. Thus implying that the future is not bright for Tess, as August marks the end of summer which means autumn and winter, two very dark seasons are about to come. This is furthered as it says: ‘dried away to nothing’ which shows that the ‘hollows and coverts’ are about to die.
This is an example of a metaphor that’s Hardy uses to illustrate Tess’ current situation. Also, Hardy uses the verb ‘attacked’ to perhaps imply violence in the weather which could be interpreted as a harsh or painful time in Tess’ life. Furthermore, in chapter 14 Hardy uses personification to display Tess’ current state. ‘The luminary was a golden-haired, beaming, mild-eyed, God-like creature, gazing down in the vigour and intentness of youth upon an earth that was brimming with interest for him.
‘ This is a portrayal of the sun in the second paragraph. The sun is seen as masculine because at that time, men had more power than women thus implying that the sun is powerful and superior. This idea is furthered as it is called a ‘God-like creature’ which shows immense supremacy. This is a metaphor which shows the sun to be powerful, also it shows that the sun gives and takes life away, like God, and this reign of life is shown throughout the chapter.
For example, when Sorrow, Tess’ baby dies without getting properly baptised, Tess has to bury him in the ‘shabby corner of God’s allotment’ during night time. This can be interpreted as Tess burying him in the darkness – the absence of the sun, which in this case, the sun may be seen to take life away when it is not there and to give life when it is there because the beginning of the chapter shows the sun’s presence whilst Tess’ baby is alive and in its absence Sorrow is dead. Furthermore, Hardy’s feelings about Tess burying Sorrow in the darkness can be inferred to be against it.
Hardy feels that Tess and her baby had done nothing wrong, and for Tess to have been told to bury her baby in the outcast area of the graveyard just because Sorrow was an illegitimate child and not baptised properly is unfair; “O merciful God, have pity; have pity upon my poor baby! ‘. Tess cries and asks God to have ‘pity’ on her baby. This highlights that Tess feels that the baby should not be punished and die for the fact that it is illegitimate and that God should punish her instead for her sin.
Hardy has incorporated his own feelings in this. This belief of his may have impact on the audience as the novel was written in the 19th century itself, which meant that religion played a major role in society and for Hardy to have expressed views against it may have shocked the audience as he is basically saying that religion was being cruel to Tess; this was seen as blasphemy. Moreover, the fact that Tess has an illegitimate child would have affected others’ views about her.
In that era, religion was an important thing and pre-marital sex was seen as a sin, so people would have seen Tess as un-pure as she lost her virginity after getting raped by Alec. Although it was not Tess’ fault that she got raped, lower class women like herself, would be blamed for it thus meaning that Sorrow’s birth was her fault altogether. In Chapter 14, Tess being an unmarried mother is seen as an outcast of society; ‘living as a stranger and alien here’.
The words ‘stranger’ and ‘alien’ suggests that Tess was excluded to a certain extent in society as many would have seen her as having sinned against God. Chapter 16 narrates Tess’ life after she has just spent two to three years in her parent’s home in Marlott. She has decided to leave home, again, and is set to go to Talbothays to work as a dairy maid. Hardy tries to suggest a more positive beginning at her future life in Talbothays by using many forms of figurative language; “On a thyme-scented, bird-hatching morning in May…
” The adjective ‘thyme-scented’ implies that the future will be positive as the word ‘thyme’ is a name of a plant which gives a nice smell, which also implies that new things will grow for Tess in her life. This can be interpreted as her new growth of love for Angel Clare. Here, he has used pathetic fallacy, as he has used Tess’ surrounding and nature to perhaps predict the future. Also, the adjective ‘bird-hatching’ signifies a new start for Tess as a new chick is born, which may be considered as a metaphor for her hatching into her new life.
Moreover, Hardy sets this part of her life to be in ‘May’ which is in spring. This, again, indicates a new and happy life for Tess as new life begins in spring. Overall, Hardy tries to show the readers that Tess’ life is to become more prosperous rather then the unfortunate events Tess had encountered in her past. However; Hardy mentions a ‘dark patch’ in the description of her way to Talbothays. This ‘dark patch’ indicates Tess’ sorrowful past when she was raped by Alec d’Urberville. This metaphor refers to the d’Uberville mansion that Tess inevitably passes on her way to Talbothays.
To further the sense of Tess’ ‘dark’ past, Hardy uses the adjective, ‘useless’ to describe her ancestors. This suggests that her relatives could not stop Alec raping her and that no-one helped her in her time of need. This may act a contrast to the more positive description earlier on in this chapter as this a reference to Tess’ past which was not very fortunate and joyful. This is effective as the readers can instantly recognise that this is a new beginning for Tess but that perhaps she can never leave her past fully behind.