Tess of the D'Urbervilles Tess of the D'Urbervilles discussion


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Selflessness and virtue, not rewarded after all.

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message 1: by Angie (last edited Dec 26, 2012 10:50AM) (new)

Angie I have checked both Hardy novels: Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, and I found out that both of them show that selflessness and virtue are not always rewarded.

They show the contrary, if someone thinks in the others first, this can lead to unhappiness and tragedy.

What do you think?


Mochaspresso In the case of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, I don't think it was selflessness and virtue that led to Tess' unhappiness. I am completely convinced that most of her unhappiness was due to her foolish pride and some of the poor decisions that she made based on that pride.


Cassie The theme I got out of this book was twofold.

The first is of the power of forgiveness and the consequences of un-forgiveness. It was not till Angel forgave Tess that he was able to really hold onto her. If he had loved her more, had been able to forgive her when she told him of her past then he would have always been able to keep her near him. In a way his un-forgiveness is the linch pin that ultimately lead to Tess' death.

The second thing that I believe Hardy was showing is the social inequality of the time. Tess could not be forgiven for her past mistakes but Angel could. Women were expected to be perfect paragons of virtue. While men did not have the same standards. I believe Hardy was suggesting to have the standard morals even across the board for both men and women.

Furthurmore the original title of the book is Tess of the D'Urbervilles; a pure women. Do you approve of this title?


message 4: by Mimi (last edited Feb 23, 2013 11:08PM) (new)

Mimi Angie wrote: "I have checked both Hardy novels: Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, and I found out that both of them show that selflessness and virtue are not always rewarded.

They show the contrar..."


So, "virtue rewarded" is obviously sited from Richardson's Pamela, who refused to succumb to her seducer and kept her virtue, in the end, she was rewarded. Tess succumbed to her seducer in the beginning of the novel, and became fallen woman, which means no virtue. So she cannot be rewarded for something that doesn't exist. Rape or seduced, either way, fallen woman is doomed to die in the tradition of the literature, like Ruth, or Clarissa.

Tess showed selflessness, but most of the time, she failed to deliver results. She failed to secure the marriage twice, with Alec and Angel, which could've brought her family a security. Her self-satisfaction came in the way.


message 5: by Angie (last edited Apr 16, 2013 07:02AM) (new)

Angie Mimi wrote: "Angie wrote: "I have checked both Hardy novels: Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, and I found out that both of them show that selflessness and virtue are not always rewarded.

They sh..."


Tess didn't succumb to her "seducer", she was raped. And she was since the beginning the woman whom Victorian society was promoting.

Society at those times expected the woman to be very intelligent and virtuous, alas that included that she should be a very quiet and passive character while her man or her family was solving the problems.


Lit Bug Hardy's works belong to the literary movement called 'Naturalism', which means that life is governed by the laws of Nature, which are not always fair and just. God does not decide the course of your life. Random words and deeds do. So good does not necessarily beget good, nor evil always beget misery. This explains the pessimistic turn of his novels.

Naturalism was an outgrowth of literary realism - a tendency to depict life as it is - unjust, unfair and often melancholy, rather than portraying it as it ought to be, under God's rule.


message 7: by Dave (new) - added it

Dave Lit Bug wrote: "Hardy's works belong to the literary movement called 'Naturalism', which means that life is governed by the laws of Nature, which are not always fair and just. God does not decide the course of you..."

Lit, excellent point on naturalism. It deserves emphasis. In Tess and his other novels Hardy revels in realism and doesn't shy away from it when misery is exposed. He seems to have felt it was important to expose misery and the wrongs that cause it. One existentialist reviewer cited Tess as an example of the world as absurd (partly meaning that good and evil are only accidentally "rewarded") in which each individual has to create their own sense of meaning.

Hardy was reported to follow philosophers J.S. Mill, Auguste Comte and Leslie Stephen in a belief in Ethical Evolution in which individuals evolve from the religious to the metaphysical and ultimately the altruistic. They believed that misery was needed to reach the altruistic level, and in that sense misery was not viewed as indication one was a loser. Tess obviously would have led a longer, more comfortable and happier life without her identifying with all living things and willingness to sacrifice to others. Many readers consider her life a failure perhaps because in our time we tend to worship the acquisition wealth and comforts. We can see that to Hardy Tess' life wouldn't have meant nearly as much had she been less altruistic.


message 8: by Ken (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ken Why should selflessness be rewarded? Is it part of the fabric of the universe? I think not.


message 9: by Dave (new) - added it

Dave Kenneth wrote: "Why should selflessness be rewarded? Is it part of the fabric of the universe? I think not."

Kenneth, what place altruism has in the fabric of the universe, or at least western societies is certainly a controversial question that deserves and receives lots of attention. On this forum concerning Tess, however, it's enough to say Hardy believed that altruism was a superior mindset for individuals and societies. Some feel that ethical evolution with altruism as the ideal is an over arching theme in Hardy's novels.


Teresa I believe that Hardy saw Tess as a victim of the world he was living in, and he was trying to expose the absurdity and evil of society's views towards women (ie, rape victims blamed and shamed for their rape, double standards). He says in the beginning that Tess was more of a child than she appeared, I believe she was indeed raped, not seduced, as evidenced by her bemoaning her parents for not having educated her to be more suspicious of men that act too familiarly. I think he used Tess to show the absurdity and tragedy of the plight of women. I feel he was somewhat of a fatalist, suggesting that for some people the world is out to get them regardless of whether they deserve it or not, and perhaps the world will always be thus in some capacity. Slavery, inequality, violence, starvation...it continues.


message 11: by Dave (last edited Feb 01, 2014 08:37AM) (new) - added it

Dave Teresa wrote: "I believe that Hardy saw Tess as a victim of the world he was living in, and he was trying to expose the absurdity and evil of society's views towards women (ie, rape victims blamed and shamed for ..."

Teresa, all your opinions about Hardy's intentions are likely true. In addition to Hardy illustrating the absurdity in life through Tess, perhaps it's also shown in virtually all the other characters. Tess' parents pass their lives depending on luck. Tess' friends, Marion, Iz and Rhetty, have no control over their lives and probably are doomed by the poor Wessex economy, the mechanization of agricultural labor and their poverty. Alec is doomed by being a slave to his instincts and seems to understand his life is pointless. Angel's self-esteem seems to depend upon believing himself a free thinker even while we know him as a conformist depending on the views of others to direct his own life.

Hardy is known to believe evolving toward altruism is the best hope for society and the individuals within, but not because anyone will reward you for it. Rather, altruism enlarges a person's sense of self and leads to an individual creating a sense of a meaningful life in an absurd world.


Teresa Good reflections, Dave...I agree with you.


Jennie Millerhagen This book caused me to hate college English. I liked the story but the endless analysis drove me crazy.


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