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Archived Group Reads 2009-10 > Tess - First & Second Phase

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message 1: by Paula (new)

Paula | 1001 comments To discuss the first two phases of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, chapters 1-15.

**Spoiler Alert!**


message 2: by Silver (new)

Silver Ok there is just something I just have to say, becasue it has been bugging me ever since I read it.

I have heard a lot about this book before reading it, and everyone always talks about Tess being raped, but I just cannot see it that way after reading about what happened.

From the start to the book Tess is shown to be a person who allows herself to be easily persuaded by other people, and it does not take much effort to get her to forsake her own will for someone else's and to give into what other people want of her.

Based upon what is known about the kind of person Tess is and her own reflections after the incident occurred I believe that Tess allowed Alec to pressure her into consenting to his advances. She might not have per sea truly wanted to do it, but I do not believe that she actively protested against Alec or made any attempt to resist him, but gave into what he wanted, and consented to allow him to have his way with her.

Alec was a cad and he did use his position to take advantage of Tess as well as used her own weakness against her, and Tess was naive and did not have a very strong personality, she was easily malleable, but I do not believe that Alec physically overpowered Tess and violently forced himself upon her.

While he did put Tess in a disadvantageous situation, pressuring someone into agreeing to do something which they may not want to do while is morally questionable I do not think constitutes "rape"

I do believe that Tess shares in part some responsibility for what happened for I believe that she could have by her own actions and behavior prevented herself from being placed in that position if she had on more than one occasion listened to and trusted her own judgement and stood more firmly behind her own convictions instead of so easily giving way to what others want.


message 3: by Silver (new)

Silver Christopher wrote: "I have read Tess several times over the past 30+ years, and I'll not read it again. I don't think it is one of Hardy's best; that would be, in my opinion, Far From the Madding Crowd. For me, whil..."

Though Tess herself annoys me a bit at times. I have to say honestly she comes across sometimes as being the sort of "pretty but air headed" types. Perhaps she is not necessarily stupid or unintelligent, and well her naivety and ignorance came from how she was raised and that fact that there wasn't a lot of options for women to be educated especially in a working class family. But still she just seems so ditzy at times.

But with that being said on the whole I am enjoying reading the book. It is my first Hardy book and I have been wanting to read him for a while and looking forward to this book. The book itself I do find to be engaging and a fairly easy and interesting read.


message 4: by VMom (new)

VMom (votermom) | 11 comments Silver wrote: "While he did put Tess in a disadvantageous situation, pressuring someone into agreeing to do something which they may not want to do while is morally questionable I do not think constitutes "rape" "

I guess today one would call it sexual harassment.

It's sort of the point that it's ambiguous on whether it's rape or not -- it's only the two of them who know for sure, and who would take the word of a country lass over that of a landowner? In fact, at the point that it happens, that probably runs through Tess's mind -- her resistance has been worn down, and what's the point of resisting anyway?


message 5: by Silver (new)

Silver Mayakda wrote: "Silver wrote: "While he did put Tess in a disadvantageous situation, pressuring someone into agreeing to do something which they may not want to do while is morally questionable I do not think cons..."

I guess in a way it can be seen as the Victorian version of "date rape" not to imply that Tess was drugged, but well she was put in a position of disadvantage and she was coerced into doing something which went against what she truly wanted and left feeling as if she did not have a choice or as if there was nothing she could do.

But still I cannot quite believe that she was actually physically, violently assaulted or taken by an act of physical force.

I think she was persuaded into it, using her weakness and naivety against her.


message 6: by Grace Tjan (new)

Grace Tjan Silver wrote: "Mayakda wrote: "Silver wrote: "While he did put Tess in a disadvantageous situation, pressuring someone into agreeing to do something which they may not want to do while is morally questionable I d..."

I agree. I don't think that there is any violence involved. But consider that she is barely 16, naive and easily malleable. If it were to happen today between a minor of 16 and a twenty-something man, it would be considered statutory rape. I think that's what happens here.

Her family practically delivers her on a silver platter to the rich D'urbervilles, seemingly to do as they pleased, provided that they get some monetary compensation out of it.


message 7: by Silver (new)

Silver Sandybanks wrote: "Silver wrote: "Mayakda wrote: "Silver wrote: "While he did put Tess in a disadvantageous situation, pressuring someone into agreeing to do something which they may not want to do while is morally q..."

I think that is a tad harsh upon her family. And in the beginning the father was originally against the idea, it was primarily the mother who wished it and I do believe she genuinely hoped that there would be a marriage.

Perhaps there was selfish designs upon the mother's part, but I do not think the family had any ill meaning intent and though Tess was pressured into going I don't think her family would have actively forced her if Tess had refused.

In addition, after the incident took place, she was welcomed back into her home, and her family did not reject her or ill treat her regardless of what had occurred.


message 8: by Grace Tjan (last edited Mar 15, 2010 10:05PM) (new)

Grace Tjan Silver wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: "Silver wrote: "Mayakda wrote: "Silver wrote: "While he did put Tess in a disadvantageous situation, pressuring someone into agreeing to do something which they may not want to do..."

I don't find the parents to be sympathetic figures at all. The father is not a good provider, the mother is foolish, and they both drink too much at times. The mother sends her pretty, inexperienced 16 year old daughter to the rich 'relatives', alone, without bothering to warn her about the dangers that she might encounter there. The other villagers know what the mother is after and speculate that Tess might end up pregnant. I think the mother is desperate for a financially advantageous marriage and she just doesn't care about Tess' physical and mental well-being, as long as it is achieved.

From Chapter 13:

"How pretty she is; and how that best frock do set her off! I believe it cost an immense deal, and that it was a gift from him."

Tess, who was reaching up to get the tea-things from the corner-cupboard, did not hear these commentaries. If she had heard them, she might soon have set her friends right on the matter. But her mother heard, and Joan's simple vanity, having been denied the hope of a dashing marriage, fed itself as well as it could upon the sensation of a dashing flirtation. Upon the whole she felt gratified, even though such a limited and evanescent triumph should involve her daughter's reputation; it might end in marriage yet, and in the warmth of her responsiveness to their admiration she invited her visitors to stay to tea."

Mrs. Durbeyfield just doesn't give a damn about Tess' reputation, or feelings, as long as she is able to capture Alec's affections. Of course, she initially aims for marriage, but even an illicit liaison is perfectly acceptable, as long as it comes with material advantages.


message 9: by Silver (new)

Silver Sandybanks wrote: "Silver wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: "Silver wrote: "Mayakda wrote: "Silver wrote: "While he did put Tess in a disadvantageous situation, pressuring someone into agreeing to do something which they may..."

I just find it difficult to be wholly sympathetic towards Tess because she proves herself not to be THAT gullible or that purely "innocent" not to say that she wanted what happened to happen.

But throughout the first two phases of the book I cannot count the number of times when Tess showed herself to be actively aware that things were not how they should be or when she was aware of something being "wrong" or going against her general feelings and principles, but she always just shrugs it off and goes along with whatever is happening.

She may have been naive, but I just find it difficult to wholly feel sorry for a person who is so willing to allow everyone else to make her decisions for her and never once speaks up for herself.

Tess was not completely oblivious to what was going on, she just chose not to act upon any of her feelings or thoughts and to ignore her own better judgement and turn a blind eye to what was happening.


message 10: by Grace Tjan (new)

Grace Tjan Silver wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: "Silver wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: "Silver wrote: "Mayakda wrote: "Silver wrote: "While he did put Tess in a disadvantageous situation, pressuring someone into agreeing to do somet..."

That's true. Hardy's story is not a simple black and white morality tale. Tess is a flawed character herself and her decisions, or perhaps indecisions, also contribute towards her eventual fate. In her defense, it could be argued that at 16 she is still underage and easily influenced by the expectations of her family and others around her.

POTENTIAL SPOILERS


Later, when she's older has learned some bitter lessons from her experience with Alec, she is more decisive and independent, but even then she is still human enough to make other mistakes. I don't view her as a heroine that we should be wholly sympathetic for, but as a pretty realistic study of how a farm girl of her social and educational background would react in such difficult circumstances.


message 11: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 16, 2010 02:09AM) (new)

MadgeUK Here is an interesting discussion of the 'was Tess seduced or was she raped' question:-

http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/eng...

The age of consent was 13 until 1875 when it was increased to 16 because of publicity about child prostitution. Tess was published in 1891.

Hardy intended to give a sympathetic portrayal of how a 'fallen woman' would be treated by Victorian society and he attracted much criticism for daring to portray a seduction and illegitimate birth. Throughout the novel he stresses Tess' morality and purity and after publication he asked his readership not to judge Tess as a 'fallen woman' but to see her in the light of her unfortunate tragedy. The book was subjected to quite a lot of censorship, especially the ending, because it offended Victorian sensibilities.

SPOILER http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=OM...


message 12: by Eliza (new)

Eliza (elizac) | 24 comments Christopher expressed my feelings about this book so far when he used the words melodramatic and tedious. I can't really get engaged in the story because honestly I don't really like any of the characters. Hardy's writing is beautifully poetic at times (maybe I'll try his poetry) but I have a lot of trouble picking this one up to read.

As far as the rape I agree that she wasn't physically assaulted but I believe she was emotionally overwhelmed. The word seduced brings to mind a willingness that I really don't think give her distate for Alec I don't think existed.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

I think that rape may be too strong of a word for what occurs here. Hardy is extremely vague as to how the events played out and there is a lot left to the imagination. So far as I remember there isn't any indication that it is a violent encounter.

Personally, I feel more sympathetic towards Tess and less inclined to place responsibility on her. She was only 16 years old, had a drunk for a father, and a mother who also wasn't exactly a good example. Her actions do not seem out of character for someone in her position considering her age and her background. It's not uncommon for even modern teenagers to forgo good intentions in favor of acceptance, no matter how fleeting. This is even more probable without good examples, of which Tess had none. It seems like I remember an instance where Tess even confronts her mother about why she didn't do more to educate her.


message 14: by VMom (new)

VMom (votermom) | 11 comments Nicki wrote: "I think that rape may be too strong of a word for what occurs here. Hardy is extremely vague as to how the events played out and there is a lot left to the imagination. So far as I remember there..."

I agree with you, Nicki, my sympathy is with Tess.


message 15: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie | 12 comments I feel so bad for Tess. I mean, her parents pretty much stink. Her father is a drunk and her mother is just trying to find a way to get her off their hands, into an advantageous marriage with Tess' supposed rich cousin. She is 16 and is very naive about the world outside of Blackmoor. She also has an extremely guilty conscious, and people use it to their advantage. She is easily persuaded by her guilt. The reason she sets out to Trantridge, even though she is against the idea, is because she feels guilty about Prince's death. All of these reasons lead me to have sympathy for Tess.


message 16: by VMom (new)

VMom (votermom) | 11 comments I was going to say Tess is almost literally a babe in the woods when I realized what a bad pun that would be. Eep.


message 17: by Jamie (new)

Jamie  (jaymers8413) Christopher wrote: "I have read Tess several times over the past 30+ years, and I'll not read it again. I don't think it is one of Hardy's best; that would be, in my opinion, Far From the Madding Crowd. For me, whil..."

I totally get where you are coming from. Besides Tess the only Hardy book I have read is Far From the Madding Crowd. Although they both have tragic parts, Tess reads more like an Edith Wharton novel (I have only read The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence) leaving you feeling sad and depressed at the unraveling of the main characters lives. FFMC has a hint of poetry from Hardy's descriptions of the landscape and doesn't leave you with those feelings. I do think it would have been a great book for girls who's mothers didn't explain the dangers of sex and some men to read.


message 18: by Jamie (new)

Jamie  (jaymers8413) I think because of Tess's guilt from Prince's death and her strong desire to help her family she submits to Alec's advances. Although she knows her actions and the advances she allows Alec to make are wrong, she continues at Trantridge because it is what her parents wish. Her flaw in the book seems to be her blinding devotion to those she loves, if they deserve it or not. I do not think her parents taught her fully about sex and she was in a very vulnerable state when Alec took advantage of her.


message 19: by Silver (new)

Silver I think that some of the criticism against Tess's parents are a bit overly harsh if you consider the time period in which they lived in, their social status, being peasants and the fact that they did not have a whole lot of options.

Granted that certainly were flawed, and had their vices and were not the most responsible parents in the world and did not set a very good example.

Consider the fact that after the death of their horse, and Tess had I forget just how many younger brothers and sisters that needed to be cared for and provided for, the family stood in genuine danger of starving.

Her parents could have at the very least gave Tess a bit more preparation or warning for the possible dangers which she may encountered, and she was thrust out into the world with no experience and still being quite naive but while it is not an ideal or agreeable situation, the family did not have a whole lot of other plausible options in sustaining themselves.

And it was common place for your women to be married off to men whom they barely knew and who were older then they were in order to secure some finical gain.


message 20: by Paula (last edited Mar 16, 2010 07:50PM) (new)

Paula | 1001 comments One thing that strikes me about this conversation so far is that people really seem to take a stand one way or another about their impressions of Tess, the situation, and Tess's parents. The comments also seem more ... charged than other discussions. Do you give Hardy credit (in regard to his writing style) for eliciting such strong emotions from you as a reader, even if they might be negative?

Has Hardy appropriately played the Tess/Alec card in a way to fully gain sympathy for Tess's situation, or does anyone side with Alec there? Alec had a young woman thrown at him, and he took advantage of the situation. I wonder if Alec considered that he had done something wrong?


message 21: by Silver (new)

Silver Paula wrote: "One thing that strikes me about this conversation so far is that people really seem to take a stand one way or another about their impressions of Tess, the situation, and Tess's parents. The commen..."

You bring up an interesting point. You are right this discussion has raised some very strong opinions perhaps that is due to the skill in Hardy's writing and his eliciting just the sort of questions in which he wished to bring to the people's mind in considering these issues and the fact that I do not think anything is one-sided in the characters.

There are many different possible sides and angles, for me there is no clear hero/heroine or villains. There are people with their flaws, and weaknesses, and motivations but they are all very "human"

I do think that making the "incident" between Tess and Alec vague was intentional to rise strong commentary and let the readers reflect upon the issues.

In regards to Alec, though I do think that he did take advantage of Tess and I would not say that I agree with him or sympathize with him and what he had done, on the other hand I do think calling what happened "rape" is unduly harsh and not fair.

In addition, it is true that Tess did send some mixed feelings in her constant wishy-washy nature and how easily she let herself be led by others. She would reject him on one hand, but on the other hand she would relent and give into him. She never stood firmly behind her convention and would ultimately give into Alex.


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Silver wrote: "Paula wrote: "One thing that strikes me about this conversation so far is that people really seem to take a stand one way or another about their impressions of Tess, the situation, and Tess's paren..."

Paula, Silver, you're right about this novel. It does evoke passions from the reader. Mostly, I just get angry about what happens to Tess. Sure, I suppose that Tess might ought to have known better, and that her parents ought to have looked out for her; but Hardy is telling us that in the English countryside stuff like this happens all of the time. Unfortunately, I think he is right.

As I said above (way above), this novel ultimately depresses me; it is just too damned maudlin and melodramatic for me; and I believe that Alec is a heel; a real s**t. [And as a father of adult daughters, I'd kill the b*****d!:] I am not going to say anymore for fear of exposing more of the plot.

On this note, I am going to bow out of the discussion about this novel. It is a matter, for me, of "having been there, and done that." I wish you the best in your discussions of the novel. Cheers! Chris


message 23: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK At the time of writing the seduction of lower class women, especially servants, was common amongst the gentry and Hardy may be commenting upon the iniquity of this. In judging Tess as foolish (romantic?), we must also judge Alec for taking advantage of the situation especially bearing in mind that he was more likely to realise what the consequences might be.


message 24: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Location, Location Location!

Here are some scenes of Dorset and surrounds, which comprise Hardy's fictitious 'Wessex' and 'Tess' Country':-

http://mysite.verizon.net/hardycountr...

A map showing where Dorset is in England:-

http://www.luventicus.org/maps/englan...

And a more detailed map of Hardy's Dorset:-

http://www.britainexpress.com/History...

Pubs and Inns in Dorset mentioned by Hardy and other authors:-

http://www.homesteadbb.free-online.co...


message 25: by Juanita (last edited Mar 17, 2010 07:15AM) (new)

Juanita (juanita19) | 5 comments Well, I've never read the book prior to now; so most of you are the experts, but I'd have to say, she was 16 and he was what 23-24? Constitutes statuory rape in the very least and that's not even taking into consideration the age of the book and by today's standards, Tess most certainly would seen as beyond gullible or naive--think about young 16 year old girls today and their behavior.

I'm still only on The Second Phase and perhaps my opinion will change....


message 26: by VMom (last edited Mar 17, 2010 07:48AM) (new)

VMom (votermom) | 11 comments MadgeUK wrote: "At the time of writing the seduction of lower class women, especially servants, was common amongst the gentry and Hardy may be commenting upon the iniquity of this. In judging Tess as foolish (roma..."

Exactly. Alec is taking advantage of his inferior and dependent; makes him despicable, imo. The fact that it is so accepted a situation makes it worse. I think Hardy is trying to show readers that it is wrong to simply paint Tess as a fallen woman that she should have kept her knees together no matter what.
The really sad thing is that we STILL get that kind of attitude today. (Like Whoopi saying statutory rape isn't "rape-rape", frex.)


message 27: by Grace Tjan (new)

Grace Tjan Juanita wrote: "Well, I've never read the book prior to now; so most of you are the experts, but I'd have to say, she was 16 and he was what 23-24? Constitutes statuory rape in the very least and that's not even ..."

That's how I see it. At that time the age of consent was 16, so technically what Alec did was not illegal, but from our perspective it IS statutory rape. The fact that Tess' mother condones the liaison, and that Tess herself is sometimes ambivalent about it doesn't absolve Alec of guilt.


message 28: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 17, 2010 10:55AM) (new)

MadgeUK I don't think Hardy was suggesting that Tess 'should have kept her knees together' per se. I think he meant to show how easily innocent young women such as Tess could 'fall from grace' and how unjustly they were treated, whereas the men got off lightly.

By our standards Tess seems young but when life expectancy was only around 40 and 3 out of 5 babies died before their first birthday, it was important for a woman to marry when she was in her strong, childbearing years. Women therefore began to think seriously about marriage from the age of 15, although the statutory age for marriage was 21. (Census returns for 1871 show that 20% of female servants were aged 15 and 20% of children in factories were under the age of 14 so 16 was a mature age.)

Tess' first mistake, encouraged by her parents, was to think that because she was supposedly related to Alec, she was of the same class. She had been brought up as a working class girl and he was of the 'gentry' so by Victorian standards they should not think of marrying and even a flirtation was against that society's mores. As the Victorian hymn 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' said :

'The rich man in his castle
The poor man at his gate
God made them high or lowly
And ordered their estate .'

Tess had foolishly been encouraged by her parents to believe that she was part of the aristocratic D'Urbeville family and so was naive about her actual position in society but Alec would certainly know the difference in status between them. I therefore see him as the more culpable party.


message 29: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Some Visuals:

These Youtube videos of the 2008 BBC production give an insight into the dialect, costumes and show some wonderful Dorset scenery:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nX6F-7...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUa7vg...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIr7Es...


message 30: by Silver (new)

Silver Juanita wrote: "Well, I've never read the book prior to now; so most of you are the experts, but I'd have to say, she was 16 and he was what 23-24? Constitutes statuory rape in the very least and that's not even ..."

I do not think it is really fair to judge it from that point of view though, considering that it was not uncommon for women to be married at that age, or even younger at that period of time.


message 31: by Juanita (last edited Mar 17, 2010 11:07AM) (new)

Juanita (juanita19) | 5 comments I agree it may not have been uncommon, but would hold fast that just because something is an accepted practice, does not give rise to consent, nor make it morally right. I believe the age of consent was changed from 13 to 16 before the publication of Tess.

Again, I'm just into Chapter 2 of Part II, so perhaps my reaction is strictly emotional. We were all 16 once and most of us remember that vulnerability we felt. Tess from the beginning was uncomfortable, yes flattered, but uncomfortable and leery of Alex. I thought it was made clear she was most afraid of being taken advantage of in some way by Alex right from the beginning. She even came right out and asked her mother why she didn't warn her, give her guidance about matters between the sexes. She was poor, he wasn't; she mostly uneducated (more educated than the average villager perhaps), he educated; he was refined, she wasn't. . . at 16 years old, how do you fight against such odds?


message 32: by Silver (new)

Silver Juanita wrote: "I agree it may not have been uncommon, but would hold fast that just because something is an accepted practice, does not give rise to consent, nor make it morally right. I believe the age of conse..."

Yet at the same time she thought to herself it seemed at least 5 different times that she was going to go back home but she never acted upon it.

That is one of the reasons why I cannot feel overly sympathetic toward Tess, she was aware that something was wrong, she was leery. She was not taken fully by surprise she was not wholly oblivious, but she continued to stay in that situation.

Her family never forced her to go in the first place, they pressured her into it, but it had still been within her power to refuse and not go.

And when it came to Alec she was always backing down from her own convictions. She would reject him, and than relent and accept his affections. She was uncomfortable but she just closed her eyes to what was happening and allowed it to happen.

She could have left at anytime she was not being held against her will. She may have been driven by her feelings of guilt about the accident with the horse, but that does not change the fact that she choose to stay within a situation that she had a sense was dangerous to her.


message 33: by VMom (new)

VMom (votermom) | 11 comments MadgeUK wrote: "I don't think Hardy was suggesting that Tess 'should have kept her knees together' per se. I think he meant to show how easily innocent young women such as Tess could 'fall from grace' and how unju..."

Oops. Bad sentence structure on my part. I meant common attitudes towards women at the time would be "she should keep her knees together" and Hardy was actually arguing in Tess' defense.


message 34: by VMom (new)

VMom (votermom) | 11 comments Silver wrote: "Her family never forced her to go in the first place, they pressured her into it, but it had still been within her power to refuse and not go. "

Realistically, what were her options as an uneducated 16 yo in that time?


message 35: by Juanita (last edited Mar 17, 2010 12:07PM) (new)

Juanita (juanita19) | 5 comments Silver wrote: "Juanita wrote: "I agree it may not have been uncommon, but would hold fast that just because something is an accepted practice, does not give rise to consent, nor make it morally right. I believe ..."

I hear you and don't entirely disagree. But I was 16 and vulnerable once; wanted to belong and be a part of things; said yes when I wanted to/should have said no about so many things and in so many different kinds of situations; took conflicting stances on matters between heart and head; and on and on and on. I guess I just feel, at the ripe old age of 48, that a 16 year old (in fact, I KNOW) is not capable of making completely rationale, informed, sound judgment calls.

I agree with you no one in the family forced her to, per se, but they didn't make it a secret either that the wanted her to, and blantantly guilted her. Again, at 16 years old....how much power did she really have?

I appreciate the opportunity to debate and hear other opinions!


message 36: by Silver (last edited Mar 17, 2010 12:11PM) (new)

Silver Mayakda wrote: "Silver wrote: "Her family never forced her to go in the first place, they pressured her into it, but it had still been within her power to refuse and not go. "

Realistically, what were her options..."


Well she seems to be making out decently upon the dairy farm, and that option would have been opened to her with or without Alec.

Though she might not have been compelled to leave without the incident, it is still an option that would have been open to her.

And realistically if the incident had not occurred she probably would have done what I am sure many other women have done in her own position and found a man within the village to marry, something which even educated and women of high socially standing ultimately had to do.


message 37: by Silver (new)

Silver Juanita wrote: "Silver wrote: "Juanita wrote: "I agree it may not have been uncommon, but would hold fast that just because something is an accepted practice, does not give rise to consent, nor make it morally rig..."

I suppose the biggest problem I have with people wanting to just use the fact that she was 16 as some sort of ultimate excuse as a way to free Tess of all responsibility is the fact that within this group we have read before books of women/girls Tess's age or younger that were in fact head-strong, and willful and demonstrated the fact that at 16 a person is still capable of standing up for what they want even against the pressure of others.

Granted in some of those cases they would have in fact been better off if they actually had listened to the advice of others, but they did not just automatically cave in to what other people excepted of them, simply because of their age


message 38: by VMom (new)

VMom (votermom) | 11 comments Well, Tess is on my list of characters I long to shake some sense into, specially as the novel progresses.


message 39: by Silver (new)

Silver Mayakda wrote: "Well, Tess is on my list of characters I long to shake some sense into, specially as the novel progresses."

I can agree with that, there were moments in Phase Four where I partically wanted to strangle her.


message 40: by Sasha (new)

Sasha | 0 comments Christopher wrote: "I have read Tess several times over the past 30+ years, and I'll not read it again. I don't think it is one of Hardy's best; that would be, in my opinion, Far From the Madding Crowd. For me, whil..."

I'm with you, Chris. Many of Hardy's novels are so dark they bring me down. Sometimes I wonder how he could bear to write them. I love his poetry, but then again I can only read one or two poems at a time as they are usually melancholy.

I read an excellent biography by Claire Tomalin about Hardy. She believed Hardy derived little joy from writing his novels (small wonder) and considered himself a poet. Novels were his bread and butter.


message 41: by Paula (last edited Mar 17, 2010 08:06PM) (new)

Paula | 1001 comments Mayakda wrote: "Realistically, what were her options as an uneducated 16 yo in that time? ..."

I think this is a brilliant question. Most of the books we've read so far involve people in a higher social class - and rarely in a rural setting. Tess's family wasn't wealthy at all, they just stuck to the connection of a name. There didn't seem to be many opportunities for her in a large household/small home situation. She could try to find work, marry a local boy, or continue on in her role at home, but she was a little left to the mercy of what the parents thought best for her.

I'm sure it's been said before, but parents were looking to make an advantageous match with their daughter, whether through marriage or simply a liaison that could bring about certain advantages for her and her family. I agree with the statement that the parents wanted certain things and tossed the daughter out like bait on a fishing line. Perhaps they, too, were naive that it wasn't a simple trout waiting in the water, but more of a snapping turtle.


message 42: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 18, 2010 02:00AM) (new)

MadgeUK Silver wrote...we have read before books about girls of Tess' age who were headstrong...but capable of standing up to others

I think we have to bear in mind that Hardy was deliberately writing about a girl who was 'pure' (virginal) and weak and what might happen if she didn't stand up to a man like Alec.

IMO Hardy's novels are more realistic than dark. He is describing the hard life of those times, especially as they relate to women. He wrote that his subject matter was the 'monotonous moils of strained, hard run humanity'. He was not a romantic writer and was very interested in the 'Woman Question':-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_woma...

His first love was poetry and after bad review of Jude the Obscure and perhaps because of the criticism and censorship of Tess, he abandoned a successful career and returned to writing poetry.

Here is an ironic poem of his about a 'ruined' young woman like Tess:-

http://www.love-poems.me.uk/hardy_the...


message 43: by Sasha (new)

Sasha | 0 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Silver wrote...we have read before books about girls of Tess' age who were headstrong...but capable of standing up to others

I think we have to bear in mind that Hardy was deliberately writing abo..."

Thanks Madge, The Ruined Maid is a delightful poem.


message 44: by Silver (new)

Silver MadgeUK wrote: "Silver wrote...we have read before books about girls of Tess' age who were headstrong...but capable of standing up to others

I think we have to bear in mind that Hardy was deliberately writing abo..."



I am not arguing with that, I was just making the point, that in this discussion it seems people are latching on just to her age as a way of making it seem as if Tess is rendered completely helpless.

But the fact is that because she is 16 alone, does not excuse her from all ability to take some sort of responsibility for herself.

It is not primarily because of her age, though that may play a factor, it is known that women/girls at 16 are capable of being more independent and that a 16 year old does have the ability to stand up for herself to some degree, but it is the fact that Tess is so weak and malleable and does not have a very strong personality, but this is not a direct result of only her age.


message 45: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Silver wrote: "Though Tess herself annoys me a bit at times. I have to say honestly she comes across sometimes as being the sort of "pretty but air headed" types. Perhaps she is not necessarily stupid or unintelligent, and well her naivety and ignorance came from how she was raised and that fact that there wasn't a lot of options for women to be educated especially in a working class family. But still she just seems so ditzy at times. "

Wow. I see her as just the opposite of ditzy. Her mother, now, SHE is ditzy, yes. But Tess is the one who holds the family together. She's the one who is responsible, who knows her father is making a fool of himself with this Sir John nonsense, who has her feet firmly planted on the ground. She has been to as much school as was available to her. She is the one who has to go to Rollivers to collect both father and mother. She's the one who is willing to get up at 1:00 and take the beehives to market when her father is too drunk to and her mother couldn't possibly. When the tragedy happens she is the one willing to go out to work to earn money to buy a new horse, even though she doesn't want to. She is the one who resists Alex's advances, even to the point of faking her bonnet blowing off to get away from him (a ditzy girl would have kissed him back!)

What she is is innocent. Brought up in a small village with a mother who has no sense of how to be a mother to a young woman, pushed out into a world she is totally unprepared to deal with, but deals with as best she can.


message 46: by Silver (new)

Silver Everyman wrote: "Silver wrote: "Though Tess herself annoys me a bit at times. I have to say honestly she comes across sometimes as being the sort of "pretty but air headed" types. Perhaps she is not necessarily stu..."

When it comes to resisting Alex she really is quite wishy washy. It does not take much for her to allow him to walk her into accepting heir favors. At first she resists him, but than she gives in and does let him kiss her, and let him put his arm around her.

It is the fact that she never listens to her own better judgement and her own instincts, and the fact that even if she thinks something does not feel right she will go along with it anyway and just shrug off any feelings of uneasiness she gets that gives her a feeling of being somewhat "ditzty" to me.


message 47: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 18, 2010 08:39PM) (new)

MadgeUK ...it is known that women/girls at 16 are capable of being more independent...'

That is because the women and girls of today have been given independence and are able to go out and about in the world, which was not the experience of Victorian 16 year old. Girls of Tess' class would have been more independent than a cossetted aristocratic girl but would have been unlikely, like Tess, to have experienced any life beyond that of their village: 'The world of Blackmoor was to her the world and its inhabitants the races thereof....She had hardly visited the place , only a small tract even of the Vale and its environs being known to her by close inspection...but for what lay beyond was dependent on the teaching of the village school...'

Even today we would expect a village girl to be less 'worldly' than a city girl. So I do not think that Tess is weak and malleable, she is simply naive at this stage of the story: 'Simple Tess Durbeyfield stood at gaze, in a half alarmed attitude, on the edge of the gravel sweep [of The Chase:]. Her feet had brought her onward to this point before she had quite realised where she was; and now all was contrary to her expectation.' When she met Alec, a representative of the supposedly aristocratic D'Urbevilles, she had expected an 'aged and dignified face' and had to 'screw herself up to the work in hand'.

In fairness to Alec, Hardy writes that Tess 'had an attribute which amounted to a disadvantage just now...a luxuriance of aspect, a fullness of growth which made her appear more of a woman than she really was.'....'Thus the thing began.'


message 48: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Silver wrote: "Ok there is just something I just have to say, becasue it has been bugging me ever since I read it.

I have heard a lot about this book before reading it, and everyone always talks about Tess being raped,but I just cannot see it that way after reading about what happened...."


John Sutherland, in his delightful The Literary Detective- 100 Puzzles in Classic Fiction offers as one of his puzzles "Was Alec a Rapist?" He notes that most Victorian critics were critical of Tess for not fighting more fiercely against being seduced -- "led astray, not violated or forced into sexual intercourse against her will." But, he goes on to note, the modern critics are more inclined to consider it rape, or "seduction cum rape," or as Ian Gregor says "it was both a seduction and a rape." (Comments Sutherland: "try that< in court!"

He notes that Hardy himself was a bit conflicted. In the serialization of the novel, before it was published as a full book, he dropped the dance/woods scene entirely and had Tess subjected to a fake marriage with Alec and thus deflowered with her full (if deluded) consent. This gimmick had been used by several authors before Hardy; it allowed a heroine to be deflowered innocently, protecting her purity (recall the sub-title of the novel: "A Pure Woman.")

Sutherland notes that at the dance, the scruff dust creates a sort of impressionistic scene, into which Hardy injects several classical references, "Of the rushing couples there could barely be discerned more than the high lights--the indistinctness shaping them to satyrs clasping nymphs--a multiplicity of Pans whirling a multiplicity of Syrinxes; Lotis attempting to
elude Priapus, and always failing." These are all classical images of rape. This is hardly, I think, inadvertent!

Perhaps the "bottom line" is the definition of rape. This isn't "date rape," since they weren't on a date, but it may be close to it. Recall that Tess was exhausted, and asleep when Alec returned to her. He lies down beside her, perhaps already partly unclad, starts to open her clothes and to caress her, she wakes up totally lost in a world of deep fog (he couldn't even see her, but stumbled over her), dark night in a dark wood, did she even know who he was or what was going on? Should she have leapt up and screamed? But who was there to hear her?

For me, though I think Hardy tries to leave it a bit open ended and up to the reader, he shows his hand later in a passage when her sister brings the baby to her during the reaping. Talking of the baby, one of the field hands says:

"A little more than persuading had to do wi' the coming o't, I reckon. There were they that heard a sobbing one night last year in The Chase; and it mid ha' gone hard wi' a certain party if folks had come along."

What is that but a pretty clear suggestion of rape? That, at least, is how I read it.


message 49: by Grace Tjan (new)

Grace Tjan I think Hardy writes Tess as a realistic character, instead of a romanticized or idealized one. She is a 16 year old farm girl with barely any education, who is pushed into a relationship with a socially superior man by her mother. Her instinct is to avoid the entanglement, but she is also conscious of her mother's expectations. Her sense of responsibility for her family's welfare eventually induces her to accept the relationship. And a small part of her might be have enjoyed the prestige that the relationship confers on her.

I see her a naive but also conflicted character --- and her behavior is very realistic considering her age and background.


message 50: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Mayakda wrote: "I was going to say Tess is almost literally a babe in the woods when I realized what a bad pun that would be. Eep."

LOL!!!


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