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Books Read in 2017-2018 > Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Spoilers

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message 1: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
Please use this thread to discuss the book freely!


WhatIReallyRead | 372 comments I've read this book last December and really enjoyed the writing. Cried several times because it got a little heavy. Though, I found some elements of the story to be unrealistic - Tess was a little too angelic and appealing to everyone for a simple peasant maid. But it's understandable - the author had to write her this way at the time, otherwise, the girl would be written off as a whore and no one would pay attention to the point Hardy was trying to make.


message 3: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments I want to see if anyone can help me with the following question:

What does the word "occidental" mean in the following sentence I found in Chapter Three: "A sort of halo, an occidental glow, came over life then."

For me, I have always read "occidental" to mean "European" or "Western" when I have come across it in older books, but I am not sure that that would be a correct substitution in this case because I am not sure what he then would mean by the phrase "European/Western glow."

Is the word "occidental" being used with another meaning in mind, or does it really mean to be "European/Western"?

If it is "European/Western glow" properly translated into contemporary English use, then what do you think Hardy meant by that description?


message 4: by Marina (new)

Marina (sonnenbarke) | 429 comments Not being a native speaker of English, I'm definitely not the right person to answer your question, MJD. I tried a little research and I've seen on Your Dictionary that the meaning is in fact the one you mention, which was what I thought, too. If you scroll down the page, you will see that another meaning is "Of a gem or precious stone: of inferior value or quality. [from 18th c.]". Interestingly, I have found no mention of this additional meaning in British dictionaries such as Cambridge or Longman.


message 5: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments Marina wrote: "Not being a native speaker of English, I'm definitely not the right person to answer your question, MJD. I tried a little research and I've seen on Your Dictionary that the meaning is in fact the o..."

Thanks for bringing my attention to "Your Dictionary." I was having trouble finding another dictionary that had any other meaning for the word.

Going back to the sentence I quoted, I think that substituting "occidental" with this other definition you found we could then have the description of "gem-like glow," which I think works well in the sentence and in the paragraph that I found the sentence in.

Thanks again. :)


message 6: by Marina (new)

Marina (sonnenbarke) | 429 comments You're very welcome, MJD. I love words (not surprising, since I work with them), so I have a plethora of dictionaries to which I refer. When I read that definition, I thought of the same interpretation as you did, but I was unsure whether that could be.


message 7: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments Having read 6 chapters now, I can see where some reviewers are coming from when they have pointed out that Tess may be too two dimensional and too innocent and "pure."

For myself, I think that that this form of non-complex character is okay if the structure of the story is sound (which I think this one is).

To elaborate, while I tend to like character driven stories populated by complex characters, I also appreciate what stories with less complex characters have to offer on their own terms. For me it's like how Star Trek and Star Wars are both are good on their own terms (as a side note, those that complained of the character Rey in the new Star Wars not being a fully fleshed out character are missing the point that a Star Wars movie is not the kind of movie that has complex characters, while a similar complaint about a Star Trek character would be well deserved).

In fact, having recently read Poetics by Aristotle (in which he seems to promote the simplification of characters and plot), it is interesting to see that the characterization of Tess and plot points so far seem to be lining up with what Aristotle promoted as the elements of a proper Greek tragedy.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... I finished tonight. 5 stars for me.

Here is my review: (Careful there are spoilers)

Thomas Hardy writes beautiful, clever, vivid sentences that describe scenery so well that I feel I have traveled to the place. He writes characters who are rich and real, completely flawed and often completely wronged. It is obvious to me that he became friends with his characters. That they shared tea, conversed and got to know each other well. In this book, he even gave it the secondary title: "A Pure Woman." This says so much about what he thought of Tess as a person. It says so much that he saw her as pure even though she had a child out of wedlock and lied to her beloved about her history and even about what happened to that child.

I rarely read anything that will spoil a book so I did not know the premise of this story, and did not know of the horrible events that marked Tess' life. But I had seen several people say that the book was bleak. That was the word I saw over and over again. They are right, it is bleak. It is tragic. It is shocking. And it is stunningly beautiful. Hardy explored feminism and justice (or lack thereof). He made me cry. He made me angry. And he made me excited to decide which Hardy novel I will read next!


message 9: by Marina (new)

Marina (sonnenbarke) | 429 comments Great review, Kelly :)


message 10: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
Kelly wrote: "I finished tonight. 5 stars for me.

Here is my review: (Careful there are spoilers)

Thomas Hardy writes beautiful, clever, vivid sentences that describe scenery so well that I feel I have travele..."


Good thing you used the spoilers thread then Kelly! 😜


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... Yes, but even in this thread I don't want to spoil the whole book for anyone especially when I finished so early in the month.


message 12: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) MJD wrote: "Having read 6 chapters now, I can see where some reviewers are coming from when they have pointed out that Tess may be too two dimensional and too innocent and "pure."

For myself, I think that tha..."


You've got some really interesting points here. Hardy's Tess is definitely plot driven, without having watched any screen versions of this novel (so not sure how screenwriters, directors and actors have reenacted this novel), I'm wondering if the screen (with the help of actor and director's vision) have the benefit to transform a novel's 2D character to 3D?


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... Inkspill wrote: "MJD wrote: "Having read 6 chapters now, I can see where some reviewers are coming from when they have pointed out that Tess may be too two dimensional and too innocent and "pure."

For myself, I th..."


I haven't see any film/tv versions either. But, for me Tess had a lot of life.


message 14: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) yes, Hardy drew Tess well but I thought it was within a boundary -- to help the plot / the novel's message (which for it's the l time, a brave one).

I should watch a screen version sometime, it would be interesting to see how, especially Tess is drawn. In this novel, she comes across as a woman who is ready to bare much, and be ready to carry the burden of others, it's like she's constantly at the mercy of fate.

It would be interesting to know in the meantime, if you think the characters in this novel, especially Tess, are different on screen?


message 15: by John (new)

John Chapter 14 was one of the most eloquent, well-written, and touching things I've read in awhile. I thought Hardy's description of the sunrise, the beginning of the day, the fields, and workers trickling in perfectly described that boundary between first light and the sun coming up.

Tess' interaction with the priest was a great example of personal compassion overcoming society's strictures. As much as I'm a die-hard Catholic, religion means nothing if we don't have the mercy and compassion we're taught to show.


message 16: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
John wrote: "Chapter 14 was one of the most eloquent, well-written, and touching things I've read in awhile. I thought Hardy's description of the sunrise, the beginning of the day, the fields, and workers trick..."

Oh my goodness John! What beautiful words that YOU'RE using to describe your feelings about what you're reading! It almost makes me want to read the book!


message 17: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments John wrote: "Chapter 14 was one of the most eloquent, well-written, and touching things I've read in awhile. I thought Hardy's description of the sunrise, the beginning of the day, the fields, and workers trick..."

I've put down this book for a bit to read some others, but due to your comment I will return back to it and hopefully knock it out soon.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... John wrote: "Chapter 14 was one of the most eloquent, well-written, and touching things I've read in awhile. I thought Hardy's description of the sunrise, the beginning of the day, the fields, and workers trick..."

This is exactly why I have loved all of the Hardy I have read. His use of words can be beautiful -- when describing places, and clever -- when describing the interactions of people. His sentences make me smile and think.


message 19: by John (new)

John Kelly wrote: "This is exactly why I have loved all of the Hardy I have read. His use of words can be beautiful ..."

Hardy's writing reminds me slightly of Dickens', but less wordy, less digressive. For me, there's almost an element of Hemingway there. It's very poetic - there's not one extra word, and each word seems essential to the description.


message 20: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
John wrote: "Kelly wrote: "This is exactly why I have loved all of the Hardy I have read. His use of words can be beautiful ..."

Hardy's writing reminds me slightly of Dickens', but less wordy, less digressive..."


Ugh! John! You lost me at Dickens! I am not a fan...😕


message 21: by John (last edited Jun 19, 2018 11:25AM) (new)

John Loretta wrote: "Ugh! John! You lost me at Dickens! I am not a fan..."

I read a lot of Dickens in my earlier days. I thought he was wonderful...then. I tried re-reading David Copperfield a few years ago and couldn't believe how much of a struggle it was.

I see both Dickens and Hardy using detailed scenery description as a method of setting the mood in the novel/sections/chapters and as a less intrusive way of seeing into a character's state of mind. Hardy however seems more direct.

Hardy is much more enjoyable than Dickens to me at this point in my life.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... John wrote: "Loretta wrote: "Ugh! John! You lost me at Dickens! I am not a fan..."

I read a lot of Dickens in my earlier days. I thought he was wonderful...then. I tried re-reading David Copperfield a few year..."


I love Dickens. But I love Hardy much, much more. I wish I was better at remembering quotes to share.


message 23: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
Kelly wrote: "John wrote: "Loretta wrote: "Ugh! John! You lost me at Dickens! I am not a fan..."

I read a lot of Dickens in my earlier days. I thought he was wonderful...then. I tried re-reading David Copperfie..."


You should write them down or if you're reading a real book put post it notes on the page. That's what I do.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... The problem is that I am often on audio. I would definitely have to stop, rewind, and write it down. Next Hardy, Dickens or Steinbeck I will try to do that.


message 25: by John (new)

John I just finished chapter 36...dang, men are jerks (I include myself in that generalization). From what I understood about Alec D'ubervilles' seduction of Tess, she had no fault in it. So for Angel to abandon her at this point seems to me just as reprehensible as Alec's actions.

And the fact that Angel fears he would himself use Tess' past as a condemnation if he were ever upset with her makes me wonder if all his exclamations of love were completely empty. I think he just loved her face.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... John wrote: "I just finished chapter 36...dang, men are jerks (I include myself in that generalization). From what I understood about Alec D'ubervilles' seduction of Tess, she had no fault in it. So for Angel t..."

I hate Angel! I think his name is irony.


message 27: by John (new)

John Just finished. 5 star all the way. I’ll post thoughts after vacation.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... John wrote: "Just finished. 5 star all the way. I’ll post thoughts after vacation."

I can't wait to read your thoughts.


message 29: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
John wrote: "Just finished. 5 star all the way. I’ll post thoughts after vacation."

Have a great vacation John! 😊


message 30: by John (new)

John The thing I picked up on this time reading Tess was the subtle comparisons between rural and city life, agriculture and industrialization, traditional and non-traditional morals.

Some of the most moving descriptions were of the English countryside, but that seemed to be where most of Tess' tragedies occurred.

When Tess was working at the farm in Flintcomb-Ash, the scene of the hired hand working the (I'll probably get this wrong, I don't have the book on me) threshing machine, standing aloof, apart from the other workers, I think was probably the strongest comparison Hardy used showing the industrialization that was occurring.

And from a 21st century POV, I had a hard time with all the characters and their condemnation of, or general attitude towards, what happened to Tess. I'm still unsure whether she was a willing participant or was actually raped by Alec d'Urberville, but either way, the complete despair that it caused seemed out of proportion. But I understand that there were different attitudes back then.

There were also some interesting points made concerning religion in the novel. Angel was the son of a fervent preacher, but couldn't bring himself to forgive Tess simply for not telling him about her past. Alec was initially and finally an unbeliever, but wanted to help Tess to find a better life (although that better life was to be completely tied and subservient to him).

The horrible attitude of believing that a woman was a man's "possession" is what I'm going to remember most from the novel. And that's probably a good thing, because I can see that that attitude is still unfortunately present today.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... I agree John. The treatment of Tess was awful. The interesting thing to me was the high regard in which Hardy held her. He spoke of her with love and compassion and respect. I think Hardy was a feminist for his time.


message 32: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
John wrote: "The thing I picked up on this time reading Tess was the subtle comparisons between rural and city life, agriculture and industrialization, traditional and non-traditional morals.

Some of the most ..."


Excellent review John. Thanks! I almost want to pick it up and read it! 😊


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... Loretta wrote: "John wrote: "The thing I picked up on this time reading Tess was the subtle comparisons between rural and city life, agriculture and industrialization, traditional and non-traditional morals.

Some..."


what is keeping you from reading it, Loretta?


message 34: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
Kelly wrote: "Loretta wrote: "John wrote: "The thing I picked up on this time reading Tess was the subtle comparisons between rural and city life, agriculture and industrialization, traditional and non-tradition..."

I'm not really sure Kelly. Lots of my Goodread friends have raved about the book, yourself included, but many have said the beginning of the book is hard to get into and I know me, if the book doesn't grab me within the first fifty pages I become bored.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... Loretta wrote: "Kelly wrote: "Loretta wrote: "John wrote: "The thing I picked up on this time reading Tess was the subtle comparisons between rural and city life, agriculture and industrialization, traditional and..."

I get that. I am apt to DNF at around that point if I am not into the story.


message 36: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
Kelly wrote: "Loretta wrote: "Kelly wrote: "Loretta wrote: "John wrote: "The thing I picked up on this time reading Tess was the subtle comparisons between rural and city life, agriculture and industrialization,..."

Still, I might try to read it at some point. 😊


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