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Tess of the D'Urbervilles
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February 2014 - Tess > Phase the Second: Maiden No More

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Lindsey Buis | 77 comments Discussion for Chapters 12-15

Kaycie | 13 comments I have hardly ever been more impressed with a heroine that with Tess, after she knows she is "spoiled" for other men, leaving Alec and going back home anyways.

But this is also a conflict for me with Tess's character. She seems so meek and complying that I am surprised she had the courage to tell Alec she didn't love him and leave instead of trying to "trap him in marriage" like everyone is expecting. It is like she is sometimes a victim of fate, but occasionally wakes up, realizes how strong she is, and fights against her lot in life.

I was also incredibly touched by the scene with her mother after she returns home. Her mother was angry that Tess didn't marry Alec, but she was very understanding and almost sorry that she never warned Tess of the dangers she might face. It speaks strongly to education as well, that knowledge could have helped Tess be on her guard and prepare herself against men like Alec.

John I may be the only one but I don't see Tess as meek. I see her as terribly proud. She hates to accept help from Alec. She doesn't want him to help her family even though her family needs it. She seems to come home carrying her "shame" with pride. She won't take help from anyone.
I really want to like her but I'm struggling with it.

Lindsey Buis | 77 comments I agree about Tess's mother. I kind of feel this type of thing goes on still today, maybe not to this extent. I do feel girls are not always warned of the danger that presents itself in terms of being used.

John, I don't see Tess really as meek either I guess. She's very convicted and concerned with the right thing. I do like Tess though. What don't you like about her? I do like that I don't always like every character all the time in the novel. I do remember times reading that I did not like Tess. She doesn't really try and mingle in with the other workers or other townspeople got example.

Kaycie | 13 comments John - I am coming around to Tess's meekness actually being pride, but I am still confused on a few issues with her. I think this is where my conflict with her personality is coming in to play - I just do not understand her choices and have a hard time seeing where they are coming from. But I see her as meek in situations like where she really didn't want to go to Trantridge but went anyways. I still can't attribute that to pride (am I missing something?) Just massive guilt that makes her meek and complying at the worst possible moments for her! She just picks weird battles (to me) to fight versus not fight, and I can't place what is making her do that.

I agree about not really liking her though. I mean, I don't DISLIKE her, but as the novel progresses, I sympathize with her less. She is her own worst enemy, and I have a hard time relating to her.

Lindsey Buis | 77 comments I get where you are coming from with the pride/meekness issue, but do you think it's pride or sense of duty? To me, Tess is not so much proud, but trying to do the right thing. Tess doesn't really have anything to be proud about does she, other than her beauty? I'm really asking myself now what are the concise words to describe her personality. I think it's more complex. Now that I think I can see meekness as well as strength. I think in this section in particular she shows strength: she has a baby, she works in the field, she baptizes her child. There was a lot of religious symbolism during the part where her child is sick and she baptizes him. I guess she has pride when it comes to the issue Of having a grave for her child and I agree with her on that. Pride in the sense that she won't give into Alec's advances...

Alice | 1 comments I really loved those chapters and the decisions Tess made. I have never read a book where I could understand heroine/hero the way I understand her, no matter what she does I can imagine doing the exact same thing for the same reasons, every time I think about what I would do next she does the same. There is not one sentence that made me think "Why did she do this ?" Of course I can't imagine what she's going through but everything she says and feels I think I would say and feel too.

Lindsey Buis | 77 comments I agree that I feel like she makes good decisions here. Even when she trusts Alec and goes off with him (while the others are starting to hang up on here) I see why she'd do if. To me she tried to do the right thing. What do you think Tess's best decision is so far? Or worst? : )

Kaycie | 13 comments Oh man, this is funny! I tend to not understand Tess's decisions, which is probably why I am having such a hard time understand her personality!

I don't have a particular decision here that is bad, but in general I just think she waits too long to make her decisions. The decisions she finally makes could have been "right" when it was first presented to her, but by the time she has decided to do it, I think she should be making a different one. I know I think just think very differently from Tess (and have a very different decision making process), so I was definitely not on board with her for most of the book. Still super interesting to read about someone so different from yourself, though!

message 10: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John Great thoughts. I see that she doesn't make decisions but allows them to be made for her. She leaves her family because her mom wants her to. She goes with Alec because others force her to. She chooses not to love angel but finds she's in love with him. She can't decide whether to tell him of her past.

She is complicated and I struggle to get her. I think her pride holds her back because she hates to ask for help.

This is a great read but it's so depressing. Can the girl catch a break?

Kaycie | 13 comments I agree about her pride - this was especially apparent in the later chapters. I just tend to think shes not catching a break because shes not making her own breaks. Like you said - she lets other people decide things for her and waffles on decisions until shes really stuck between a rock and a hard place. At these points, no decision is going to be a good one, and it seems like nothing goes right for her.

Lindsey Buis | 77 comments Do you think her way of decision making has something to do with the time period? Is there a reason she does this or do you think it's just a character flaw in Tess?

Lindsey Buis | 77 comments I wonder myself what it is like to be a woman in this time period particularly how she looked upon by others after being taken advantage of. It's more Tess's burden. What were the attitudes then?

Kaycie | 13 comments I do have a hard time discerning time period differences because I forget that even though I wouldn't do those things, I have no idea if I would have done them THEN. But taking from the context of the book, it does seem like she is different from many other women of the time period. Her mom was talking like women frequently had dalliances with men before their marriages and just never told their husbands (or married the guy!). Her mother and girl friends do not seem to waffle as much on their decisions as she does. I have a feeling many other women were in Tess's situation, but handled it differently from her - thereby seemingly much less of a social outcast because of it.

I think a lot of her issues come from having different ideas from the rest of her friends and mother - as in actually wanting to be in love with and open with her husband. She wanted these things, but was either too shy to push for her way or society wasn't ready for it. For example, she had a sinking feeling that Alec was trouble, but didn't push hard enough to not go to Trantridge or go off with him. That would make it a character trait that was just incompatible with the times...not necessarily a flaw.

Crystal (infiniteink) | 87 comments Tess is controlled by her guilt and her sense of duty. I don't think that this makes her meek, though. Meekness is giving up the fight and letting yourself be walked over because of external pressure from others. Tess doesn't do this, though. Rather, because of her sense of morality, she goes against what she desires to do what she feels is right.

For example, you may argue that she goes to Trantridge because she gives into her mom. I think that the stronger motivator is the idea she forms that she is to blame for her family's position and now must find a way to provide a new horse for them. Had her siblings not teased her and her mother not nagged, I daresay that she would have ended up accepting the offer to work anyway if she hadn't found any other suitable work.

Moreover, I don't think that her getting onto the horse with Alec was because she was forced. She was fleeing a volatile situation and miscalculated as to which path was safer.

I agree that she is prideful, although I don't mean it in a negative way. Rather, she has a great amount of self-respect mixed with a heavy sense of guilt. When what she deems to be the greater good doesn't clash with her self-respect, she presents herself the most strongly.

She dismisses Alec instead of marrying him because, although it might have made her situation easier at first, it wouldn't have truly been right. Nor would it have been for the good in the long run. And her withdrawing from society was in reaction to the misplaced guilt she feels from what happened to her, as well as a sense of shame. She hid for the whole of her pregnancy. Even if people were sympathetic toward her, given the insight that she "wishe[d] the baby and her too were in the churchyard," you can hardly expect her to have proudly worn her pregnancy in public (chapter 14).

The scene that affected me the most was at the end of chapter 12, when she's speaking to her mother, and her mother chastises her for not being more careful if she "didn't mean to get him to make [her] his wife." And Tess passionately asks, "Why didn't you tell me there was danger in men folk," telling her that she "never had the chance [of] learning in that way, and [she] did not help [her]." And then her mother reveals that she feared that, had she warned her daughter, she would lose her chance of them marrying. How absolutely heartbreaking!

Lindsey Buis | 77 comments I like the scenes with Tess's mother as well. I actually find the moments between mother and daughter pretty truthful. I was surprised to get this sliver of truth in this novel. I have been looking into Hardy lately.. I will post some links in the misc. section.

Emmaline (nixied) Kaycie wrote: "I was also incredibly touched by the scene with her mother after she returns home. Her mother was angry that Tess didn't marry Alec, but she was very understanding and almost sorry that she never warned Tess of the dangers she might face."

I felt strongly about this section too. I'm sure it was beyond satisfying, but it was almost as if Tess would be able to say "I told you so". She told her parents not even to think about her marrying, and they were so eager to have it happen anyway,and probably thought she might change her mind, they didn't prepare her at all. To be sent off into a completely new situation, with no long standing friends or anyone you trust, at your parents wish, and then to come back which such a result - I can only hope it was a sobering lesson for her parents to not push the rest of the children in similar situations on the hope of elevating their status in society.

Lindsey Buis | 77 comments Emmaline wrote: "Kaycie wrote: "I was also incredibly touched by the scene with her mother after she returns home. Her mother was angry that Tess didn't marry Alec, but she was very understanding and almost sorry t..."


Mochaspresso  | 5 comments John wrote: "I may be the only one but I don't see Tess as meek. I see her as terribly proud. She hates to accept help from Alec. She doesn't want him to help her family even though her family needs it. She see..."

You are not the only one. I felt Tess was her own worst enemy. I don't know how far you are into the book as I've just begun to read these threads, but I felt that many of her decisions turn out to be poor ones rooted in foolish pride.

Daisy (bellisperennis) In these first two sections there seems to exist so much that is unsupportive or contrary to Tess’s natural inclinations.

As has been mentioned in much of the comment above, there exists her lack of experience and lack of certain various types of education. She is young yet has the appearance of someone much older and is therefore treated as such. She feels obligated to family financial difficulties and she is the oldest of her siblings and thus has more responsibility. There exists the parental pressure, almost inexistent, or at the very least questionable, role models and community and girlfriends are heartless due their own petty jealousy. I can’t help but think that she must also be susceptible to her own yet child-like dreams and desires and (not for long) innocence.

Whether she strays due to what she deems as her own follies or for situations and events coerced or forced upon her, she rallies. Tess finds within herself, a sense of fortitude, conviction and determination. Bravo.

Jennifer | 9 comments Daisy wrote: "In these first two sections there seems to exist so much that is unsupportive or contrary to Tess’s natural inclinations.

As has been mentioned in much of the comment above, there exists her lack ..."

I couldn't have said it any better. This is how I have understood Tess.

Shannon Teper (shanteper) Part of Tess 's decision not to stay with Alec stemmed from the fact that he hadn't asked her to marry him. Since she didn't love him, she wouldn't have wanted to anyway, but might have to save her reputation if the offer had been a better one. Alec promised to buy her nice clothes and help her family, but the implication was that she would be his mistress not his wife.
Tess is proud rather than practical in this instance, it seems, but at the same time Alec was a player and she was just his latest enthusiasm. If she had become his mistress, she might have ended up in much worse shape when Alec tired of her than she did by choosing to return home alone.

message 23: by Gary (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gary Although, I read Tess of the d'Uberville years ago I remember my overall take on the book. I thought the story was archaic and only another English romance with a realist twist. Tess was driven by her environment and also, her naivety. She was a pre-modern player in a world ready to explode. The Great Panic occurred not long after Hardy wrote this. Which thrust the world in to economic chaos The author's insight in to the world around him made him one of the first "Realist' writers. Could Tess be understood as a prototype feminist? I believe her passivity was a way of the author to condemn old world suppression of women in general and still appeal to the norms of the male dominated hierarchy in the late 1800's. It definitely has a place in my heart as a great book

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