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Tess of the D'Urbervilles
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February 2014 - Tess > Phase the First: The Maiden

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Lindsey Buis | 77 comments Discussion for Chapters 1-11


Lindsey Buis | 77 comments In these chapters we are introduced to a lot of characters. I wonder how Tess must have felt going from her home in Marlott to working at the house in Trantridge.


Kaycie | 13 comments Tess is a very strange character for me. She is very meek and mild, willing to do almost anything someone tells her to do, but she has an incredible strength of character I wasn't expecting (up and moving to Trantridge by herself to help her family!) This is also evidenced by her seemingly succumbing to Alec's advances, but then showing incredible courage and removing herself from the carriage.

I worry about her, though. She seems to take on burdens that aren't hers and really internalize them - she has a huge sense of guilt. She is also unfortunately the adult in her family in terms of having to take over for her parent's lapses, but is still very much a naive child.


Lindsey Buis | 77 comments I agree with your comments on Tess as a character. She is very loyal and remains more moral than a lit of the other characters ( the other workers, her family). Her family sees Tess as an out in a way. She could marry into a rich family and be okay. Tess though doesn't love Alec and tells him that. She is conflicted a lot, because Alec, due to his position and money, is able to provide for her. It's interesting how Hardy writes the tale scene at the end of this phase. The action is "off stage" and it's almost written as if you fall asleep with Tess.


Kaycie | 13 comments Agreed on everything with Tess! I was really impressed that a male author in 1891 would write this. Hardy seems to be as flabbergasted as I am that the positions that Tess and Alec are put into by society are considered okay.

And yes, Hardy's writing is incredible. I am really enjoying his style in this book.


Lindsey Buis | 77 comments I was impressed as well that Hardy didn't judge Tess. I was really shocked that it seems to be the woman's burden to bear if she loses her innocence even if it was not consensual. I really wanted to do more research on this topic, attitudes toward women in this time period.


Crystal (infiniteink) | 87 comments All through this phase, I had a heavy foreboding feeling, and I almost didn't want to keep going. Every time Alec would push her and then back off, I would think, "Please don't go where I think you're going."

That last scene in the Chase was so expertly written. Hardy didn't need to put in a lot of detail or explicitly say what happened, and it made it all the more powerful for me. The vague way the scene played out is also continued when all other characters allude to it.

Personally, I don't see Tess as meek at all. Rather, she is a very strong character who is reined by guilt and a sense of duty. She didn't want to go to Trantridge, but she went because she was guilty about the accident with the horse and felt it her duty to provide for her family.

She is also very naive in this first phase, desiring to believe that Alec is good even though moments of his true colouring have shown. For me, the scene where she's in the woman's bedroom and observes him behind the curtain would have been final confirmation that he is not to be trusted. However, that obviously didn't solidify in her mind or shine light on his motives or else she wouldn't have gotten onto the horse with him or let herself fall asleep. I'm not at all blaming her, absolutely not, but I think that a lot of her poor choices were guided by ignorance and innocence.


Gita Reddy | 41 comments I like the restraint Hardy shows, and the subtlety. He took a sensitive topic and handled it so well. He does not blame Tess, rather he 'bemoans' her fate.

"But, might some say, where was Tess's guardian
angel? where was the providence of her simple faith? Perhaps, like that other god of whom the ironical Tishbite spoke, he was talking,or he was pursuing, or he was in a journey, or he was sleeping and
not to be awaked."

Also, he makes it mot the story of Tess alone, but of innocence.

"why so often the coarse appropriates the finer thus, the wrong man the woman, the wrong woman the man, many thousand years of analytical philosophy have failed to explain to our sense of order."

The writers of that age usually ignored such sensitive issues or branded such characters as 'fallen'. A writer of today would probably feel the need to be very explicit; some might go into graphic details as the 'story demands it.'
I feel Hardy makes us feel the impact of the catastrophe by naming Book 1 as 'The Maid', and Book 2 as 'The Maid No More.'


Lindsey Buis | 77 comments Crystal: My big thought was how can you fall asleep in the the dark woods, when you're lost? Around Alec?! Oh my, but I guess Tess is supposed to be very natural/ nature driven...


Lindsey Buis | 77 comments Gita: I agree! I was surprised by Hardy's very modern ideas. I was shocked that he seemed to be almost feminist in his attitude toward Tess. I was also very impressed with Hardy's restraint. I was questioning the phases and this is a good explanation as well.


Crystal (infiniteink) | 87 comments Lindsey wrote: "Crystal: My big thought was how can you fall asleep in the the dark woods, when you're lost? Around Alec?! Oh my, but I guess Tess is supposed to be very natural/ nature driven..."

I know, I know. But she's quite young at this stage, only sixteen, right? And she is so naive that I doubt she thought anything could happen beyond Alec stealing a kiss.


message 12: by Gita (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gita Reddy | 41 comments Crystal wrote: "Lindsey wrote: "Crystal: My big thought was how can you fall asleep in the the dark woods, when you're lost? Around Alec?! Oh my, but I guess Tess is supposed to be very natural/ nature driven..."..."

And she works on a farm which means she wakes up very early every morning and goes to bed early. She would be very tired after the long day and sleepy too, and as Crystal says, naive. She would have believed that they were truly lost. Alec's presence would have alarmed her but he left her alone which made her feel safe.


message 13: by Gita (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gita Reddy | 41 comments I am going back to the lines I quoted before.

"why so often the coarse appropriates the finer thus, the wrong man the woman, the wrong woman the man, many thousand years of analytical philosophy have failed to explain to our sense of order."

Here Tess is raped /seduced by Alec, the wrong man. Even before that, when Angel Clare misses dancing with her in her village, Hardy mentions about the two perfect halves which seldom meet.
This sentiment is echoed in his other books also, in different ways.
Far from the madding crowd, Return of the Native,The Trumpet Major immediately come to mind.
And Jude the Obscure. In a way it is the inverse of Tess. Jude is trapped by trickery into a soul destroying marriage.


Emmaline (nixied) Kaycie wrote: "Tess is a very strange character for me. She is very meek and mild, willing to do almost anything someone tells her to do, but she has an incredible strength of character I wasn't expecting (up an..."

I really agree with this character assessment. For her sake, I almost wish she wasn't so obedient. She is diligent and passionate and well spoken, for the most part, but when she is confronted with authority, she seems to almost always acquiesce.


Christine Crystal wrote: "All through this phase, I had a heavy foreboding feeling, and I almost didn't want to keep going. Every time Alec would push her and then back off, I would think, "Please don't go where I think yo..."

I agree that Tess is very naive. The author stated several times that her looks surpassed her age which would explain her naiveté. I also think that she has had to grow up quickly (because of her parents) which leads the reader to think that she if more mature than she actually is. I believe Tess to be a good caring person but this does not make her a mature one.


Lindsey Buis | 77 comments Gita wrote: "Crystal wrote: "Lindsey wrote: "Crystal: My big thought was how can you fall asleep in the the dark woods, when you're lost? Around Alec?! Oh my, but I guess Tess is supposed to be very natural/ n..."

Yes I do see your points : ) It's just so very different from my modern city dwelling instinct would be!


Lindsey Buis | 77 comments C wrote: "Crystal wrote: "All through this phase, I had a heavy foreboding feeling, and I almost didn't want to keep going. Every time Alec would push her and then back off, I would think, "Please don't go ..."

Very good point. Her age and naïveté are good points to remember. She seems older in ways due to having to bare the burden of responsibility, but in this phase she is really still a child in many ways.


message 18: by Cosmic (last edited Feb 26, 2014 05:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cosmic Arcata | 8 comments One of the symbols that Hardy used in the beginning of the story was the wagon of bee hives. The bee hives were to be delivered by her father. There was a time constraint. If they didn't get them to market no one would want them as they would have missed the season. The father was intoxicated and could not make the delivery. It fell on the girl to handle this responsibility. It had to be delivered in the night when the bees would still be in the hive. A kind of incubation. She only being 17 fell asleep and the horse was killed when d the mail truck pierced it.

Thus all the sweetness of life was lost by untimely events, and decisions.


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