19th Century Epic Romances discussion

Tess of the d'Urbervilles > Tess of the d'Urbervilles Spoilers

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message 1: by Kylie (new)

Kylie | 77 comments When you have finished the book, please talk freely about the book here, no need to label spoilers!

Donadee's Corner (donade) | 51 comments Wow, what a book, I was stunned when Tess killed Alec. I just did not expect it. I do wish the author would have given a little more details on the ending and about Angel's relationship with Tess's sister.

message 3: by Anna (new)

Anna (SylviaGrant) | 12 comments What, really?

message 4: by Anna (new)

Anna (SylviaGrant) | 12 comments what about the TV series??? anyone?

message 5: by Laura (new)

Laura (filoviridae) | 13 comments Anna wrote: "what about the TV series??? anyone?"

I've seen the version with Justine Waddell as Tess. Well worth your time!

Donadee's Corner (donade) | 51 comments When did they do the series? Would it be on Netflix?

message 7: by Romina (new)

Romina | 3 comments i did this book for lit a-level and i think it is truly amazing! i highly recommend the BBC production, its around 4 hours long with gemma arterton as Tess and it is the closest to the book you can possibly get!

message 8: by Allison (new)

Allison | 8 comments I happened to read this book last month since it was a classic I had never gotten to. I really enjoyed it.
Even though it is quite epic it really kept my attention. I knew as a Hardy it was going to be depressing and full of missed connections, but Angel and Tess's relationship tore at my heart strings.
Although sometimes I wanted to kick her low self esteem in the butt. So many of their issues seemed to hinge on her belief she was a piece of crap. I know back then her circumstance made her an outcast, but she was always so down on herself.
Really enjoyed the book overall.

message 9: by Lena (new)

Lena | 19 comments There's two different TV versions. There's a 1998 one and a 2008 one.

message 10: by Laura (new)

Laura (filoviridae) | 13 comments Lena wrote: "There's two different TV versions. There's a 1998 one and a 2008 one."

I believe the 1998 one is the version with Justine Waddell (she was also in Wives & Daughters). There is also a version called just 'Tess' and I believe it's from the 60's & 70's...Roman Polanski directed?

message 11: by Linda (last edited Jun 19, 2013 01:17PM) (new)

Linda (lindy-lou) | 12 comments I, too am reading this a second time and my response to it is different this time. The first time I read it I was in my early twenties and this time I am decades older and have a wider experience,including a better understanding of the time in which it was written. Perhaps I mean to say I recognize that the opinions of the time the book was written are not the opinions that are held now. And of course now it occurs to me that some people still hold those old intolerant attitudes.

Back to literature: Tess was a woman who had to live under the attitudes of her time and yes, those attitudes were tough and unfair. Perhaps they are good for us to keep in mind now.
EDIT: I meant so that we don't have the same sanctimonious judgmental behaviors. How did I miss that?

message 12: by Donadee's Corner (new)

Donadee's Corner (donade) | 51 comments Thank you, Lena. I am going to see if I can find a copy.

message 13: by Susan (new)

Susan Fonseca (susan_fonseca) | 6 comments I finished the book today and must say I too was shocked with Alec's murder. The end so so quick and the knowledge of Angel with Tess' sister was weird to me.

message 14: by Donadee's Corner (new)

Donadee's Corner (donade) | 51 comments Susan, I understand where your coming from but Tess did ask Angel to protect her baby sister. I just wish he would have giving us more info on their relationship. To me it would have given a more complete ending to the book.

message 15: by Linda (last edited Jun 24, 2013 10:21AM) (new)

Linda (lindy-lou) | 12 comments I did remember Tess' request to have Angel look after her sister, but my (modern) mind still reels with his approach to "protect". Marriage? That goes a few steps beyond protection, but that again may be my modern take on what goes into marriage. Perhaps he could have protected her until someone else wanted to be her husband. Tess, who resembled her, had no shortage of manly interest expressed in her.

I wonder how Tess would have reacted to the newlyweds. Angel didn't seem to learn much from his experience and Tess certainly paid for her choices and her being victimized.

message 16: by Laura (last edited Jun 24, 2013 06:49PM) (new)

Laura (filoviridae) | 13 comments Lindy-lou wrote: "I did remember Tess' request to have Angel look after her sister, but my (modern) mind still reels with his approach to "protect". Marriage? That goes a few steps beyond protection, but that agai..."

As they were not related, that was the only option in which to protect her and not ruin her reputation.

message 17: by Jen (new)

Jen | 20 comments I gotta say I'm not a fan of the tragic romance if that's what you can call this book. Hardy sure makes you feel for Tess. She is such a victim on so many levels. Part of me wishes she would have listened to her mother and kept her darn mouth shut, considering the time period and how women were treated back then, but at the same time I know that going into marriage being up front and honest with something that huge is probably a good idea. What kills me is that Angel is such a hypocritical jerk to her. How is it ok for him to have a past, and not her. I was pretty disappointed that Hardy though sympathetic to Tess's plight offered no happier way out for her. So depressing.

message 18: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Marion | 9 comments Just finished this sad wonderful book. I knew there was not going to be a good ending. Poor Tess..talk about living in the wrong age. Her circumstance would not even be talked about in our age. What about a double standard..okay for a man to fool around and not for a woman especially since she was raped bt Alec. Tess did so much for her family it led to her untimely death just when Angel finds her. It would be interesting to know more about what happened to Angel and Tess' sister.

message 19: by Trudy (last edited Jul 02, 2013 01:36PM) (new)

Trudy Brasure | 95 comments Truly epic but agonizing. What a sensitive and thinking man Hardy was to reveal how harsh the world might be to a pretty country girl in her time. He could not have realistically portrayed her as any more virtuous and self-sacrificing as she already was. Everyone supposed to guide and protect her failed. And one tragic meeting with fate in the form of a stalking seducer (Alec) is the undoing of her entire life. She was a victim, but treated as a sinner. It was a horrible double standard. And even the rebellious Angel could not escape the formative cultural/religious training of his past that labeled his sweet wife a whore for being raped. The effect of this type of judgment still exits today. How many deragatory words are there in English for a women who sleeps around? How many for men?
I would have loved to have Hardy spell out much more self-condemnation from Angel after Tess is taken away. Tess, the 'guilty' was the true angel of the story.

message 20: by Natalie (new)

Natalie Price | 1 comments I enjoyed this book overall, but found it hard to read. A lot of details were missing and left for the reader to insert. I wonder what the author intended on this or whether this was a reflection on the fact that much of the subject would have been taboo at that time, so left out as if it were a discussion on a subject that couldn't be discussed. We would certainly interpret the missing content differently than a 19th century reader.

message 21: by Sara (new)

Sara Weather (saraweather) The missing details really got me too. I know it is the reason that at first I had to sparknote to realize where the possible rape scene occurred. I notice that a lot of classics skirt around the scene or do not say blatantly what has happened. I still to this day do not get the big sexuality said to be expressed by Dracula. It has some rough points for me because of the flowery language.
I was so annoyed with so many characters specifically Tess and Alec.

message 22: by Wanda (new)

Wanda (wandae) | 65 comments I was annoyed with Tess and Angel more than Alec. But the whole book annoyed me, especially the ending. Tess stabbing Alec just didn't seem to fit in with her character and actions up to that point. And Angel had become so forgiving that even murder was ok?

message 23: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 95 comments I think it's wholly possible Tess had reached her breaking point. Alec strained her beyond endurance, constantly pestering her and finally getting her to submit to his 'care-taking.' He was speaking against Angel when she snapped.
It's utterly frustrating to watch the characters suffer from the moral indictments of the era. It all seems somewhat ridiculous or annoying to us today, but it was all too real and complicated for them. The book really forces you to live in the social culture of that time period.

message 24: by Tara (new)

Tara | 3 comments Just finished reading Tess for the first time. What a heartbreaking epic story, I was an emotional wreck throughout! I agree that all the characters could be very annoying at times, its easy to scorn Tess's decisions that led to the many tragic circumstances, that was the point though I think, she acted in a virtuous way (except the murder part ;)) and the consequences she faced were unjust and heart wrenching. A sad truth and critique of the morals of 19th century England.

I loved this book, I probably never would have read it if it was not for this group, so thanks everyone for voting for it! :)

message 25: by Mochaspresso (new)

Mochaspresso  | 5 comments Did poor people typically have more freedom in society than people of wealth and/or title? More specifically, did the women have more sexual freedom when they were poor?

I ask because it seemed to me that they did and were not so caught up adhering to as many rules of propriety. That night in the chase, Tess seemed to be looking down her nose at the behavior of the other party-goers who were just enjoying themselves and enjoying life. I hate to victim blame, but I can't help but think that what happened in the chase would never have happened if Tess could have just loosened up and tried to enjoy herself with the others. I thought the same thing when she was among the milkmaids at the dairy farm. It seemed as if she was always extremely judgemental of the other girls.

message 26: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 95 comments I thought Tess was extremely sensitive to the feelings of the other dairymaids, even feeling guilty that Angel loved her when she knew other girls had a crush on him. I didn't get the sense of her being judgmental at all.
Life was pretty stark for women back then. Your only real shot at finding some kind of security and happiness would to marry as well as you could or find permanent work that was not unbearable. There was no reliable form of birth control, therefore no such thing as sexual freedom for females. Pregnancy was always a possibility, ruining your chances of marrying anyone.
As to Tess and that night in particular, if she didn't care to join the revelers in dancing, flirting, or drinking, does that automatically make her judgmental? "Fun" isn't always the same for all people. I think it's perfectly understandable why Tess might not see drinking in a favorable light after all she had to bear with her father's behavior.
As I recall the other girls she was walking home with were jealous of her beauty and mean to her. Of course she didn't want to be with them!
Tess was trying to be as wise as she knew how and do what was right. She was naturally always being dutiful and trying to be good. Doesn't she have a right to choose how she thinks and behaves? I don't equate striving to be virtuous as a detriment to others or as an automatic sign of a self-righteous person.

message 27: by Linda (new)

Linda (lindy-lou) | 12 comments Trudy wrote: "I thought Tess was extremely sensitive to the feelings of the other dairymaids, even feeling guilty that Angel loved her when she knew other girls had a crush on him. I didn't get the sense of her ..."

Trudy, you have bowled me over with the intelligence and insight contained in your comment. If one considers Tess as an individual just as we are individuals now it is sensible to recognize that her actions represent her attitudes and values within those of the time she lived. Yes, she was expected to be "virtuous", which as an unmarried woman meant absolutely chaste, and she also had preferences and dislikes (abhorrences, even).
Thanks for posting.

message 28: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 95 comments Lindy-lou wrote: "Trudy wrote: "I thought Tess was extremely sensitive to the feelings of the other dairymaids, even feeling guilty that Angel loved her when she knew other girls had a crush on him. I didn't get the..."
Yes, Tess was an individual and would have had her own inclinations, dislikes, and aversions.
The whole point of the book, in my estimation, is to examine the effect of that society's cultural morals on a girl of considerable determination to do right. What happens to her is tragic.

message 29: by Mochaspresso (new)

Mochaspresso  | 5 comments Since Tess is an individual, shouldn't she also be held accountable for her actions? Yes, what happened to Tess was tragic, but I also think that Tess, through her actions and very poor decisions, played a very big part in her own tragic circumstances. If she is always trying to be good and do what is right, wouldn't it have been right for her to tell Angel about what happened to her BEFORE they married? Was it right for her to withhold that information from him? Was it right for her to murder Alec? Was it even right for her to be his mistress, not once, but twice? Tess was a victim...but she was also her own worst enemy.

message 30: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 95 comments Great literature can engender really thoughtful discussions. We may not all agree on how to interpret the story. I think Hardy's main purpose in writing this was to get the reader to see things from Tess's perspective, and to sympathize with her. I don't think she was presented as faultless, but I don't see how any blame can be affixed to her for the initial tragic event of the story: rape. She did not want to be violated by Alec. For the rest of the story Hardy shows us how Tess deals with her altered status and circumstances. In my opinion, we're meant to sympathize with her. Would we have been able to extricate ourselves from the trials Tess faced in the same circumstances? Unable to undo her tainted history, she was left little options for a happy future. She wrestled mightily with the decision of whether to tell Angel her past. I don't disparage her fear of ruining her chance of happiness, and might have agreed with her mother in letting her history remain buried. But, Tess did decide to tell him. The note didn't reach him. (Nasty plot device, Hardy!)
The moral complexities of the story really do make you think. What was right? Who is at fault? Could things have turned out differently? What should Tess have done? Who should she have turned to for help or guidance? Was there anyone? Did she make things worse for herself? What should she have done? I'm able to see all her choices in a compassionate light, trying to imagine myself in her position.
I'm generally perplexed to find Tess the object of intense moral scrutiny. Why don't we talk about Alec? Do men have a natural right to sexually conquer at will?
Hardy's book has great relevance in the current debate of our 'rape culture' where women still bear the greatest stigma and condemnation and men are seldom required to suffer any consequences for their actions. Feminism has advanced women's rights in many aspects, but this is still something that needs a lot of careful thought to elevate justice and individual rights.
At no time did Tess want to have sex with Alec. He coerced her into doing his will. If I recall, when she succumbed to his desire to keep her, it was largely because he promised to provide for her family. Tess basically prostituted herself for her family. She was emotionally drained at that point and had given up finding happiness.

message 31: by Mochaspresso (last edited Aug 09, 2013 06:12AM) (new)

Mochaspresso  | 5 comments In contemporary society, no one wants or asks to be raped and it is not their fault when it happens. That's not what I was trying to insinuate. I just think that women can and should take steps to empower themselves by taking responsibility for themselves and for their actions. Be safe. Be smart. It's not safe to go jogging alone through certain places at night. It's not safe to drink to the point of intoxication and go home with someone that you barely know. It's not safe to leave a party and go to a private room place with a guy, EVEN IF HE IS A FRIEND OR BOYFRIEND. I am not implying that those who do these things are asking to be raped or deserve to be raped. No. Not at all. I am saying that women can empower themselves by being safe and being smart in potentially dangerous situations. They can also empower themselves by understanding that they do have choices.

Tess seemed to despise Alec for the most part. Plus, given the strict rules of society at that time, wouldn't being alone with him be viewed as scandalous, or at least as inappropriate, in an of itself? Why leave with him? Imo, she left with him because she was an innocent and mistakenly viewed him as the lesser of two evils. Yes, I thought Alec was a cad and a despicable character and I hated him for taking advantage of Tess.....but I don't believe that Tess had absolutely no choices, even during that time. Innocent or not, she didn't have to leave alone and she didn't have to accept his offer of a ride. I felt those were poor choices on her part and I felt that she made many poor choices throughout the entire book.

I think the true tragedy in "Tess" is how unforgiving that particular society was toward women either way. She was ruined in society regardless of how her "deflowering" came to pass. I also think that it was very sad that in that society, she felt that she had to allow her "ruined state" to define who she was as a person for the rest of her life. I think it is very interesting that Hardy also doesn't tell the reader specific details behind Alec's murder. Why not? I think this is because just like that night in the chase, it doesn't matter. In that society, she was going to hang for it regardless of how or why it happened. I understand that Tess was a victim. I just don't necessarily think, even in those times, that she was entirely powerless and that she didn't have choices.

message 32: by Elise (new)

Elise Well said Trudy. I'm hitting my "like" button!

message 33: by Donadee's Corner (new)

Donadee's Corner (donade) | 51 comments Trudy, thanks for summing it up nicely. I'm hitting my like button also.

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