Gemma's Reviews > Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
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Oct 22, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: classics, i-actually-cried, i-own-it
Read from September 03 to 13, 2012

Everything aligned somehow so I read this book exactly when it would have the most impact. Isn't it so quaint when that happens?

I didn't know what to expect from this, as I was only barely familiar with the plot and didn't even know the name of the book for the longest time. All I knew was that I'd seen part of a TV adaptation and was so intrigued by it that I had to track down the book. It took me awhile, but lo and behold, here it is!

I think I'll be focusing mostly on the characters here. In summary, I hated Alec with a passion, spent most of the time absolutely furious with Angel, and jumped back and forth between feeling empathetic and heartbroken for Tess and just wanting to thump her. I'll start with Alec, as he's the easiest. He got better than what he deserved, if you ask me. After what he put Tess through and how he ruined her life, he got off pretty damn easy! Oh, boo hoo, he repented for a little while because he felt so terrible for what he did and wanted to make amends, but when temptation struck again he was just as much of a...um...let's go with "pig," shall we? The only other villain that springs to mind at the moment I despised as much as him is Uriah Heep, and I really don't know that I might hate Alec a tiny bit more. And after all of that, he got a knife through the heart while he slept, thinking himself so victorious in having finally brought Tess back under his thumb. He deserved it, but he deserved more than that!

Onto Angel Clare, the bloody hypocrite...to be fair, he did love Tess after all and when it came down to it, he didn't blame her for Alec's actions or hate her for keeping the secret from him. But come on, man, you should have figured that out sooner! What is wrong with you?! You could have saved everyone, including your devoted wife, SO much heartache if you hadn't been such an obtuse moron! I started out liking Angel a bit (or at least, he was heaps and bunches more appealing than that turd Alec), then as I said, I spent a great deal of the book furious at him, his principles he abandoned in the blink of an eye, and his stupidity. Did you really have to run off to Brazil and just ditch the woman you made yourself responsible for? Everything she did, she did for love of you! You idiot!

All right, methinks it's best if I move on...

Tess herself was a tricky one to pin down feelings for. She was steady and devoted and pure, in spite of everything she'd been through, and I loved her for that. She was proud, self-sacrificing to the point of masochism, and she laid down her spirit in deference to her husband when she would have done better to give him the what-for, and I could have clocked her for that. Yet everything she did, she did for love of Angel. She tried to refuse him at first to avoid defaming him, she finally confessed to her history with Alec because she couldn't stand to lie to him, and she did her best to deter Alec's renewed advances out of loyalty to Angel even after he'd left her. She ultimately died for love of Angel, if you think about it. To rid herself of Alec and wholly attach herself to her husband, she committed murder and was put to death. While I cried as I read the last few pages, I still felt so relieved for her, because at last she was free of her misery and torment, knowing those few days of happiness with the man she loved and who (FINALLY!) loved her in return.

I loved Thomas Hardy's use of language throughout, his imagery and symbolism. My favorites were "A field-man is a personality afield; a field-woman is a portion of the field; she has somehow lost her own margin; imbibed the essence of her surrounding, and assimilated herself with it." That suited Tess perfectly, and I connected with that part. There was also "The greater the sinner, the greater the saint; it was not necessary to dive far into Christian history to discover that." Paul the apostle comes to mind, but as this was spoken in reference to Alec d'Urberville, the whopping pile of dung he is, this smacks of irony and hypocrisy. Boy, he must have made an impressive cleric, if a brief one! Best one of all, "'How can I pray for you,' she said, 'when I am forbidden to believe that the great Power who moves the world would alter His plans on my account?'" Oh, SNAP! Does she forgive that fantastic sinner? I don't think so! Every heroine deserves a "You go, girl!" moment, and that one was Tess's.

To wrap this up, it was a heart-wrenching read and one of the saddest I've read recently, but oh my, did I love it. The money I paid for this one was money well spent! (But I'll admit, it would be nice to get a brand-new copy when this one wears out...one that hasn't been scribbled all over by the previous owner...)
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