Thomas Hardy's description of Tess of the Urbervilles

Tess of the Urbervilles (1891) is the twelfth novel by Hardy and can be classified as the gloomy work of his maturity that sees man's existence as tragic. The novel depicts a godless universe in which hostile powers are at work and against man through the story of Tess, the daughter of the poor rural family.

As Hardy wrote Tess, in his novels, he had already developed an obsessive mindset about the conflict between human consciousness and the universe's unconsciousness. While the protagonists of Hardy seek to assign meaning to their lives and to the universe in which they live, the forces outside their control still overpower them. Creating a cause-effect relationship in his novels in the form of a chain-reaction, Hardy reveals that there is a First Cause for his tragic characters, a triggering incident which contributes to the sequence of events, and that "we find that the First Cause operates almost always malevolently against humanity." (Saxena-Dixit, 2005, p.25) The fate of a tragic character is sealed by this malevolence. In Hardy's fiction at first, man is unable to realize that some forces have already been arrayed against him, but later on, the character fully understands that irrational powers

They're at work, and they've been weaving a "plot" against him already. The final reaction of the protagonist, in hysteria, is an unexpected suicidal response, a final challenge to the universe's strange existence by human consciousness.

Jack Durbeyfield's meeting with the parson, who tells him that his "ancestor" was one of the twelve knights who supported the Normandy Lord Estremaville in his Glamorganshire conquest. And] the branches of[ his] family had manors over this part of England "(Tess of the Urbervilles, p. 4). A chain reaction occurs because of this coincidental event, which can be called the "First Cause," and everything is drawn into the sequence of events, initiated by this core event, which changes the life of Jack's daughter Tess, and also changes the lives of the characters related to her through this change.

Therefore, the concept that everyone is related to everyone is introduced in order to describe mankind as one great body, and from Hardy's point of view, the idea of Christianity's "salvation" was simply a man-made myth because he created Christianity itself.

Influenced by both Ludwig Feuerbach and Auguste Comte, Hardy sees Christian God as man's creation and is committed to the "Positive Polity System." In a world where there is no God, man is alone and must create his own universe philosophy that can never be in line with the universe's "illogical" logic. Therefore, what is called "fate" is, in fact, the "logic" of the cosmos that man can hardly comprehend. Since Hardy knows that with his poetic justice there is no benevolent God, the only way to cope with the hostile powers is through human solidarity, which is nearly impossible to achieve. Man is therefore hopelessly alone and forlorn in the world, and only endurance in the face of crass casualties is what is left for man.

The demise of Tess is not the work of the Christian God, but in the form of a series of mishaps triggered by the blind forces. Tess's First Cause is her family background. Born of a poor and thoughtless mother who happily gave birth to "so many little sisters and brothers when it was such a trouble to nurse and care for Them "(Tess of the d'Urbervilles, p. 30) and as the daughter of a vain peddler, her fate has already been marked as an unfortunate girl. She inadvertently kills the family's only horse in the chain-reaction of cause-effect relationships, the only source of the family's income: exhausted from hard work, she sleeps as she drives to the market. And her dad was horribly intoxicated to carry himself on the journey. The horse slips into another vehicle's path and is killed. Although Tess is not guilty of the accident, she blames herself for the loss, and this is the beginning of her journey into life: she agrees to be sent to Mrs. d'Urberville's house where she meets Alec, her seducer, in order to compensate for the loss. Since Tess feels the family's responsibility more than her parents, she agrees to go and see Mrs. d'Urberville, who, the parents think, is their relative, making the fortune of Tess.In fact, there is no connection between the two families. 

"The d'Urbervilles— or Stoke-d'Urbervilles, as they called themselves at first — who owned all of this was a very peculiar family to be found in such an old-fashioned part of the country. Parson Tringham had really spoken when he said that our brazen John Durbeyfield was the only truly linear member in the country of the old d'Urberville family. When old Mr Simon Stoke, who later died, made his fortune in the North as an honest merchant (some said money lender), he decided to settle in the South of England as a country man. . . . And in doing so, he felt the need to begin with a name that wouldn't associate him too readily with the smart trader of the past. Conning the pages of the plays devoted to dead, half-extinct, blurred, and destroyed families for an hour in the British Museum. He thought that d'Urberville, like any of them, looked and sounded. He took that name as the name of his family that] poor Tess and her parents were naturally in ignorance. (Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Page-31-32)

She meets young Alec, the family's only child, when Tess goes to the d'Urberville house. Even at first sight, Tess does not like him. But Alec appreciates her beauty, and when she says they're from the same family, he thinks at first that Tess is one of those Stokes, a poor relationship. But he doesn't reveal his true identity even after learning that Tess came to visit his wife, Mrs. d'Urberville, because of a misunderstanding. She's just a victim to be seduced and manipulated by Alec, a typical licentious and lustful Victorian gentleman.

Hardy places the conflict between "man and nature" at the center of his novels, yet he deals with the Victorian theme of social stratification through conflict between "man and man." With the importance given to class in the society of the late nineteenth century, Hardy shows why human altruism in the Victorian world can not be achieved. John Durbeyfield is under the impression that his "aristocratic past" is important because this context ties him to the wealthy d'Urbervilles in a society where the idea of class has already been formed to shape the individual relations of dispute and contract. It is the delusion that leads him to make the fatal error of sending her daughter to the d'Urbervilles.

They don't suffer because Tess ' parents are so numb and numb to understand what suffering is. Tess, however, is the character of suffering with consciousness and sense of responsibility. Since the parents have no perception of the expected danger and conscience to protect Tess, and since there is no benevolent God and His protective angels, Tess is so helpless: she is such a prey in Alec's hands that no guardian angel can save her from rape. As Hardy says, "All around there was darkness and silence. The Chase's primeval yews and oaks soared above them, in which gentle roosting birds poured in their last nap; and the hopping rabbits and hares stole around them. Yet, maybe some people say, where was the guardian angel of Tess? Where was her basic faith's providence? Perhaps, like that other god of whom the ironic Tishsbite talked, he thought, or he sought, or he was on a quest, or he was sleeping and not to be awakened. (Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Page-64-65) 

Here, Hardy seems to be attached to Feuerbach's idea that "the Christian god is the product of man's need to imagine perfection" (Schweik, 1999, p. 66) and protection, and the benevolent and omnipotent God who "sees" everything does not help the ethical, therefore tragic characters. For Hardy, while taking their inspiration from religion, all social norms and moral rules are human creations. The invented God of false Christianity will not hinder any breach of these laws. There is either either no God for Hardy, or God has left the world and man already. In the above passage, he makes fun of God's inability to interfere throughout human affairs, saying that God might have been "sleeping and not to be awoken" when Alec was raping Tess. Because God is absent and therefore unable to intervene in human affairs, man is in the world alone and defenseless. The view of the hardy lowers man to the level of other animals: in terms of the rules of survival, he sees that man is no different from the other creatures of nature: he is no better, no worse. He has a transient existence, like the other creatures, and only exists for a brief moment. Since there is no Allah, in the presence of natural laws, man is in the possession of universal morality, or to put it another way. Nevertheless, the world is not malevolent or benevolent. Man and his mind were oblivious.

The justification for such a rape is apparent as Alec takes full advantage of Tess. Alec feeds Tess with strawberries (Chapter V), as mentioned early in the book, when Tess first visits the d'Urberville mansion. In fact, this scene is very suggestive; it portrays Alec as the sensuous stereotypical man, and it reveals his licentious motives toward Tess. Because Hardy presents Alec as the amoral sensual character that never cares about human feelings, we come to know him as the stereotypical trigger that in a chain reaction causes catastrophic consequences. His taking advantage of the moment is therefore natural: lust, passion, or taking advantage of the situation as it develops, does not, however, exculpate his act as more than a dark intention. Tess is impregnated with this rape by Alec. What he is doing will have tragic consequences.

Tess returns to her village to give birth to Alec's child in "Phase the Second," titled "Maiden No More." She isolates herself from everyone during her stay at home. Even "the bedroom she shared with some of the kids formed her retreat more continuously than ever before." (Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Page-75) She shuns people, and she goes into the woods only after darkness. She never panic the shadowsand her only thought seemed to shun humanity, or rather that cold accretion called the universe, which is so unformed, even pitiful in its units, so awful in size. (Tess of the Urbervilles, p. 75) At this stage of her life, she gradually begins to feel that "some abstract moral being whom she could not clearly identify as the God of her childhood" (Tess of the d'Urbervilles, p. 75) took control of her life, and as she becomes aware that she is a victim. She differentiates herself from the other characters as she grows from her sorrow.

Hardy's scientific discoveries and mid-Victorian intellectual changes influenced Hardy to the point of merging science and philosophy into a new synthesis and thus forming his own theory of man and his place in the universe. In addition, in mid-Victorian England, apart from the controversies between utilitarians and political conservatives, biologist Thomas Henry Huxley's popularization of Charles Darwin's theories challenged existing beliefs: "Victorian England was definitely competitive and individualistic, and gradually a significant percentage of Darwin's intellectuals came to accept that space……But almost every other aspect of Darwin's theory was rejected. They would accept evolutionary theory as long as certain offensive parts were removed just the parts outsiders quote as reasons for Darwin's contemporaries to accept his theory. (Hull, 2005, p. 149)

In contrast, astronomers ' observations are similarly disconcerting by expanding comprehension of celestial ranges to dizzying expanses. Indeed, these sciences and scientific discoveries reduced man to nothingness.

Tess begins a futile battle against the biases of her social environment after being seduced by the sensualist d'Urberville. The people around her are snubbing her. She has to find a job though it's very hard for a country girl to live with only her work. Though socially impoverished by biased and patriarchal men, she luckily meets the dairyman and his wife's kindness. At Talbothays Dairy, she finds a job, but it's only seasonal. She's happy for the second time. She met Angel Clare at the May Dance for the first time. Later Angel found Tess, but he hadn't danced with her. She encounters Angel Clare again in this dairy, the woman she idealized as a young girl. The two are falling in love. Angel suggests to Tess, and she thinks she'll be able to get rid of her fate by marrying Angel.

Angel Clare is twenty-six years old when they meet in this dairy. He's very beautiful and he's followed by almost all the dairymaids. For Tess, the fact that she loved Angel Clare wasn't hidden from herself, but even more deeply because she knew the others had lost their hearts for him. Angel Clare is different from the sensualist d'Urberville in the sense that he's an academic. However, this man turns out to be more cruel than Alec. "Angel is not just a prig and a hypocrite, but also a snob with all his emancipated thoughts. He does not understand the meaning of the d'Urbervilles ' decline and his attitudes towards Tess are one of self-righteous idealization "(Kettle, 1990, p. 306). After Tess confesses what she lived with Alec d'Urberville and what happened to her baby and all the other misfortunes she had experienced, he says he preferred not "a woman of social standing, of fortune, of world knowledge." But a woman of] rustic innocence. Tess becomes a fallen woman for him and begins to believe he's made a big mistake in getting married to her. While Tess suggests he should divorce her because she is now an evil woman in his eyes, for family reasons, Angel opposes the proposal. Poor Tess even reveals that she even thought of committing suicide, but was afraid of Angel's name's scandal, making Angel even more furious.

He can not divorce Tess because this divorce is also going to bring shame to the reputation of the family. His attitude to Tess shows that he does not see Tess as his mother, but as a lower peasant woman: "Don't Tess; don't argue. Various societies, different ways. You almost make me say that you are an incomprehensible peasant woman who has never been initiated into the proportions of social things. "(Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Page-203) Hardy's strong emphasis on the authority of Victorianism and Victorian traditions in the lives of individuals is exposed to Angel's patriarchal behaviour, And with Tess's submissiveness. To Hardy, the couple's lives were complicated by these rituals. Although they had the chance to get happy together, they miss this opportunity because of Angel's Victorian-minded reaction and because of Tess ' limited worldview. It is therefore difficult to find what is called "solidarity" in the Victorian culture. Because his mother can not be "forgiven" by the typically thinking Angel, Tess is left to the mercy of natural laws.

Angel leaves Tess says "fallen", "I'm coming to you. But until I come to you, it's better not to try to come to me. "(Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Page-222) He doesn't tell Tess that she's free and that she's going to be able to take a new direction in life. He's only leaving Tess, setting himself free, but keeping himself tied to Tess. She also feels she is trying to get rid of the financial burden of this marriage by leaving a sum of money to his dad in case Tess can use it. Yet Tess won't touch Angel's money left for her use.

His social position worsens after Angel leaves Tess. At Talbothays Dairy, she loses her job as the work was seasonal. Instead, she takes a position in Flintcomb Ash where -she and other girls are completely proletarianized, working in the toughest, most humiliating conditions for wages. The dairymaids were proud people at Talbothays and felt the responsibility for the work itself. Customers have also been generous. Everyone was kind and polite, especially in the common kitchen where the dairyman's wife presided. There's nothing good or fulfilling at Flintcomb, however. Conditions are harsh, and during the winter, Tess and the other dairymaids suffer a lot. (Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Page-255) Tess, meanwhile, is busy idealizing and idolizing her husband. However, her boss teases her saying, "Some women are so stupid, to take every look as seriously earnest." In fact, the disappearance of Angel is in keeping with his vague existence. He didn't exist from the beginning; he was just a glimpse of the book. The sensuous Alec has a concrete physical existence in the novel, despite his "spirituality" and his physical non-existence. He's coming up again, seeking Tess. He tells her that he lived since she left; that he felt terribly sorry for ruining Tess; that he now became a good Christian and a preacher with the aid of Emminster's parson, old Mr. Clare. When we continue to read, Alec assumes new identities. The womanizer is a pastor now. Then he becomes a production manager. And then, he's going to be a victim.

Alec is making a proposal for a marriage to Tess which she declines to say she has no feelings for him and is in love with her boyfriend. In fact, Alec did not know that when he proposed to Tess, Tess was already married to another. Nonetheless, when Alec learns that she is a married woman and in love with another, he displays the kind of understanding. If Angel had demonstrated the same kind of understanding when Tess confessed her past with Alec to him, it would have avoided the tragedy of Tess. As the story goes on, she is becoming increasingly unhappy. With the creation of events for which she feels responsible, her personality slowly disappears into nothingness. She just turns into a black flag at the end of the novel, signaling her execution and non-existence.

Hardy's best book is Tess of the d'Urbervilles. The novel is the culmination of the Victorian texts created before and during the career of Hardy as a writer, both victorian and modern. He involves the tragic construction of the classical playwrights in this novel, but moves it into a new form to mix it with multiplicity, irony, and surprise. He makes his special contribution to the novel genre by enriching his style with the strands of intellectual development, beginning with the transition from the Victorian to the new.

Hardy never transforms his work into a didactic debate accomplished by irony, unlike the other victorian novelists. So he's pushing the Victorian novel to its limits. By challenging man's life in the light of new scientific and philosophical developments, and taking an anti-traditional voice, he shows that both his traditional reasoning and the powers beyond his influence are the victims of man. Man is just a victim in a godless universe, because man is unable to change his destiny.

To read more about Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d’Urbervilles Click Here


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