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Archived Group Reads 2009-10 > Tess - Third & Fourth Phase

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message 1: by Paula (new)

Paula | 1001 comments To discuss the third and fourth phases of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, chapters 16-34.

**Spoiler Alert!**


message 2: by Silver (new)

Silver This section of the book is starting to feel too much like a Soap Opera to me, when there is some big secret, and in every episode the viewer is teased into thinking the secret is going to be revealed, but of course something always happens to prevent it and it goes on like that ad nauseam

I wish Tess would either just tell Angel the truth already, or pull herself out of the well of her own self-pity, stop dwelling upon the past, and look forward to the future instead.

But nearly 200 pages of, I am going to tell him, I can't tell him, and I love you, I'm not worthy, I love you, I'm not worthy, is getting to be a bit much to take.

I just cannot quite find this book to truly be that depressing or "tragic" because for one thing Tess just is not a sympathetic character to me, and for another thing the melodrama at times is so over the top that I cannot quite take it seriously.


message 3: by Tracey (last edited Mar 18, 2010 08:25PM) (new)

Tracey | 11 comments Hi I read this book last year and absolutely loved it - It is the reason I am here with the Victorians. Yes it is melodramatic but I loved that about it. I personally don't find everything has to be "real". I loved getting lost in the story of Tess and the beautiful writing.

I loved the back and forth between Angel and Tess..the letter under the carpet had been screaming in frustration.....I found Tess totally sympathetic - 16/17 year old burying a baby conceived in those circumstances and in that period of history - and you say she should stop dwelling on the past yikes :) .It is all a lead up to the big finale..Perhaps hopefully when you have finished the book you can look at it differently.


message 4: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 19, 2010 04:02AM) (new)

MadgeUK (i>'...too much like a Soap Opera...'

Well, it was a serialised soap opera in its time and melodrama was beloved by the Victorians both in literature and in theatre.

Much of the dwelling on the past is in Hardy's narration which is in line with Victorian sensibilities and morality. Because Tess, as a good Victorian, feels the immorality of her situation keenly she cannot put her traumatic experience behind her: 'If she could have been but just created to discover herself as a spouseless mother, with no experience of life except as the parent of a nameless child, would the position have caused her despair? No, she would have taken it calmly, and found pleasure therein. Most of the misery had been generated by her conventional aspect, and not by her innate sensations'. (Chap 14 Maiden No More.) Tess was judging herself by harsh Victorian standards as 'fallen', 'ruined' and, worse, 'damned' and your feelings are very much in line with the Victorians who had no sympathy at all for Tess. However, as Tracey says, you may look at her differently when you have finished the book and can decide whether or not she had a future to look forward to.

http://www.loyno.edu/~history/journal...


message 5: by Silver (last edited Mar 19, 2010 10:34AM) (new)

Silver MadgeUK wrote: "(i>'...too much like a Soap Opera...'

Well, it was a serialised soap opera in its time and melodrama was beloved by the Victorians both in literature and in theatre.

Much of the dwelling on the ..."


Yes, perhaps it is true that my feelings towards Tess are more reflective of the Victorian audience, though my reasons for those feelings are different than they were for them.

I do not judge her as being immoral, and I am certainly not a prude. So my dislike of her does not come from the fact the loss of her virginity or because of what happened to her.

But her personality type just does not appeal to me. I know people like her in real life, and they drive me up the wall.

I just cannot bring myself to feel sorry for people who spend so much time feeling sorry for themselves and who lack any sort of will power of their own.

I can appreciate the fact that it was part of the Victorian sensibility to be so keenly affected by such experiences and to so strongly be concerned about the morality of it, and thus remain bond to such events, but for me reading it does try upon my patience when it seems to go on for an excessive amont of time.

And well in spite of the fact that I do find elements of Tess's personality to be a bit obnoxious to me, and though my gut-reaction to her might seem a bit harsh, I do not truly flat out dislike her. It is true I have difficulty sympathizing with her, because of the kind of person I am, but I do respect Hardy's portrayal of Tess as a "pure woman" in spite of what has befallen her and what she as been through. I enjoy the unconventionality of what Hardy is setting out to do with the story, even if Tess herself is not an unconventional character.

Perhaps that is my problem, though maybe they are not was "realistic" those that defy convention or generally the types who I am inclined to be more drawn toward.


message 6: by Silver (new)

Silver I do not want to get too hung up on Tess though certainly it is a crucial element to the story, I think regarding aspects of her personality and character we are just going to have to agree to disagree instead of being caught up in a loop of going back and forth upon the issue.

There is another matter I would like to address which was something that initially stuck out at me in these phrases of the book and that is the way in which it seems that Hardy is rather directly drawing out a comparisons/contrast between the characters and natures of Alec vs. Angel. (I cannot help but find it a bit curious that they bot have names starting with A, and well to say the least the name Angel has very blatant associations behind it.)

There seemed to be moments in the interactions between Angel and Tess which were an almost direct parallel of mimic of some of the episodes between Alec and Tess, though with clear differences both in the way in which Tess receives Angel's affections, and Angel's own treatment towards Tess. Showing that unlike Alec, Angel seems to be genuinely concerned with Tess's own wants and desires, and her own feelings.

There was the moment when Angel was watching Tess milk the cows when he was overwhelmed by the sudden desire to take Tess into his arms and pull her towards him, but immediately after he expressed some embarrassment, and was apologetic for having behaved in such a way.


message 7: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Silver wrote: "her personality type just does not appeal to me. I know people like her in real life, and they drive me up the wall.

I just cannot bring myself to feel sorry for people who spend so much time feeling sorry for themselves and who lack any sort of will power of their own. "


I so somewhat agree with you. OTOH, does she do more dithering than modern young woman who gossip endlessly about their boyfriends and love affairs on Facebook, Twitter, etc., or those who go onto Dr. Phil and other shows to display their angst in public?

She was raised in a very small village with, apparently, no good role model except perhaps the London teacher at her village or National school (not clear whether Hardy meant one or two schools by these two descriptions), and we hear really nothing of that woman on any influence she might have had on Tess. In many ways she was not that far removed from the animals she cared for, was she?


message 8: by Silver (new)

Silver Everyman wrote: "Silver wrote: "her personality type just does not appeal to me. I know people like her in real life, and they drive me up the wall.

I just cannot bring myself to feel sorry for people who spend so..."


Ah well I get just as annoyed with teen age girls today who do the same thing. It is just not something that appeals to me in people. My reaction to Tess reflect my real life reactions to people who are of the same basic nature.

In the 4th phase on chapter 30 when Tess is attempting to tell Angel her history it does say "And I was in the Sixth Standard when I left school, and they said I had a great aptness, and should make a good teacher..."

So considering that piece of information, though granted perhaps the education and even a teacher of a village may not be as well educated as maybe more so in the city or among higher classes, nonetheless being that she was even recommended to take a teaching job, can we still continue to portray as being a completely ignorant with no more intellect than an animal?

That seems to in some degree at least contradict the "uneducated" defense of her personality used thoroughly the discussion in the 1st and 2nd phase of the book.


message 9: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Silver wrote: "Everyman wrote: "Silver wrote: "her personality type just does not appeal to me. I know people like her in real life, and they drive me up the wall.

I just cannot bring myself to feel sorry for ..."


Book learning and life learning are two quite different things, aren't they? Or, if you prefer modern buzz words, IQ (Intelligent Quotient) vs. EQ (Emotional Quotient)


message 10: by Silver (last edited Mar 19, 2010 05:47PM) (new)

Silver Yes, but several poeple have used the term "uneduated" as a defence for her seeming lack of abilitly in thinking for herself. And I do not assosciate life-learning with the term "uneducated"

I was a bit confused as to why her father's drinking prevented her from becoming a teacher. It seems to be considering her family's position, and their general lack of options, and the fact that the father was not a very good provider her becoming a teacher would have been the perfect solution as it would have helped earn some extra money to support her family.

Unless she just felt that because of her father's "condition" she needed to stay behind and help her mother with taking care of the kids?


message 11: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 20, 2010 04:27AM) (new)

MadgeUK Silver wrote: Perhaps is it true that my feelings towards Tess...

Great post and a good explanation of how you feel about Tess. I am sure she irritates a lot of us who prefer women to be more decisive or 'upfront' in the modern way:). As the English saying goes, I would quite like to 'put her in a bag and shake her up' sometimes!

Hardy's description of Tess as a '...a fieldwoman pure and simple, in winter guise, a grey serge cape, a red woollen cravat, a stuff skirt covered by a whitey brown rough wrapper, and buff leather gloves' perhaps reflects how he saw her as a pure woman, just as towards the end of the novel he describes her as wearing 'a gown bleached by many washings, with a short black jacket over it, the effect of the whole being that of a wedding and funeral guest in one'. Like the 'rabbits, hares, snakes, rats, mice [which:] retreated inwards as into a fastness, unaware of...the doom that awaited them...' Hardy saw Tess (and her like) as someone who would be hunted down, attacked and destroyed because of the very vulnerability we criticise in her. It is perhaps that which stops me metaphorically putting her into a bag:).

I think the comparisons between Alec, the seducer, and Angel, the rescuer, are deliberate. Alec is very much the dark haired Victorian melodramatic villain and Angel the typical fair haired, spiritual hero - the yin and the yang, or perhaps Janus the god of beginnings and of endings.


message 12: by Silver (new)

Silver One of the things that is really intriguing to me just now, which is in subtle ways hinted at in the first and second phase, but than starts to appear much more deliberately obvious in the last part of the fourth phase is the role which fate is being played out within the story, and what Hardy seems to be suggesting about fate.

Within the first and second phase of the book, there are perhaps what could be seen as foreshadowing suggested. Within the very fact that we have this once great family the d'Urbervilles whose last remaining decedents have fallen into a destitute state.

There is also the moment in which Angel first encounters Tess, and yet does not choose her has his dancing partner which may be suggestive of events later to come.

And the fact that Alec's family just by chance happened to choose the very name d'Urbervilles to adopt when they just as easily could have chosen from numerous other similar old but fallen family names. I cannot help but to wonder if the very fact that Alec's mother was blind is also symbolic in some way?

Than in the fourth phase of the book, you can pretty much guess that something is going to go horribly wrong with the wedding. Tess has the sort of premonition or de ja vu feeling with the carriage when she learns of the myth in which one of the d'Urberville's committed some crime against the family. There was the omen of the crowing of the rooster, and the portraits of the grotesque past d'Urberville women. Even her adorning herself within the jewelry that were gifted to her through the will of Angel's godmother, while standing within the home of her ancestors house has a fatalistic feeling.

Is Tess destined to "fall" because she has taken on the identity of the old d'Urbevilles family?

As Angel believes in the rise and invention of new families, or the old families meant to stay dead, and so Tess is prevented from any attempt to rise under the shadow of their former glory?


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) I am finding the discussions of religion fascinating. especially relationing to Angel's family. What do you think?


message 14: by Silver (new)

Silver Vikz wrote: "I am finding the discussions of religion fascinating. especially relationing to Angel's family. What do you think?"

Yes it was quite interesting, though I have to say I could not help but to like Angel's father. Though he did not approve of Angel's choice with Tess, he did in his own way, though with resignation accept it and I think he did genuinely want to do right by his son. Even if he did not agree with Angel choosing to turn his back on the church, he still supported Angel, in his way, with the choice that he did make.

In spite of his own personal feelings he still did what he believed to be the right thing. I was touched in a way when he sent the box of Angel's godmother's jewels to Tess in spite of his feelings about the marriage because though they were rightfully willed to her, he could have just chosen not to honor that and held onto them unless forced to give them up.

But he did what he knew would be the right thing to do


message 15: by Grace Tjan (last edited Mar 20, 2010 09:20PM) (new)

Grace Tjan Vikz wrote: "I am finding the discussions of religion fascinating. especially relationing to Angel's family. What do you think?"

I agree. And I also find the narrator's attitude to religion to be fascinating. I don't know what Hardy's religious belief was, but it seems that he was some sort of a pagan with some pantheistic tendencies --- thus the wonderful alive descriptions of nature and the seasons. I think he appreciated the ethical aspects of Christianity, as reflected in the mostly positive portrayal of Clare's parents, but had no use for the dogma. He also had no use for the 'ranter' preachers (Methodists?) and their hypocrisy.

Interestingly, even an agnostic like Angel Clare who seemingly had freed himself from conventional Christian-based morality of his parents, still uses the old double-standard to judge Tess.


message 16: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 21, 2010 02:24AM) (new)

MadgeUK I think some of the instances of foreshadowing in the novel, if not all, were written as pot-boilers to keep the element of suspense in the serialisation.

I am find finding the discussions of religion fascinating...' At this time of his life, and following Darwin's publication of The Origin of the Species, Hardy was a sceptic and his views about christianity/religion is expressed when he describes it as 'the last grotesque phase of a creed which had served mankind well in its time.' (Chapter 12.)

http://www.infobritain.co.uk/Thomas_H...

When the vicar, whom Hardy calls a 'tradesman', refused to baptise Tess' baby and she baptised Sorrow herself, he observes: 'If providence would not ratify such an act of approximation [her form of baptism:] she, for one, did not value the kind of heaven lost by the irregularity.' (Chapter 14.)

Angel has broken away from his religious family and been exposed to modern ideas. He wishes to use his university education for the 'honour and glory of man', not God. Just as Tess has broken away from parochial convention, he is breaking away from adherence to received dogma.

Alec converts then deconverts so his religion is shown to be a fad. Hardy perhaps expresses his own beliefs in this conversation between the converted Alec and Tess (Chapter 46.):

Alec: 'You seem to have no religion...'
Tess: But I have. though I don't believe in anything supernatural...'
Alec: 'Then you think that the line I take is all wrong?'
Tess: 'A good deal of it...I believe in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount...'

Hardy's views in Tess seem to be of a humanist nature and Humanism was in vogue at this time, when orthodox religious views were in flux and 'dissension' was the order of the day.

http://www.humanism.org.uk/humanism


message 17: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Like the 'rabbits, hares, snakes, rats, mice [which:] retreated inwards as into a fastness, unaware of...the doom that awaited them...' Hardy saw Tess (and her like) as someone who would be hunted down, attacked and destroyed because of the very vulnerability we criticise in her."

A magnificent insight.


message 18: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Silver wrote: 1430273 One of the things that is really intriguing to me just now, which is in subtle ways hinted at in the first and second phase, but than starts to appear much more deliberately obvious in the last part of the fourth phase is the role which fate is being played out within the story, and what Hardy seems to be suggesting about fate. "

Hardy was very much a believer in fate.


message 19: by Silver (new)

Silver Everyman wrote: "Silver wrote: 1430273 One of the things that is really intriguing to me just now, which is in subtle ways hinted at in the first and second phase, but than starts to appear much more deliberately ..."

In addition to Hardy's intent of portraying Tess as a pure woman and challenging the conventional Victorian views in regards both to the double standards of men vs. women as well as their religious ideas of virtue and redemption and morality of their concepts of "fallen women" I also wonder if Hardy is also making some statement about the idea of these old families as well.

The story is called Tess of the d'Urbervilles opposed to Tess Durbyfield of just Tess, and this d'Urbervilles heritage plays a prominent part in what becomes of Tess.

Does Hardy agree with the sentiments that Angel expresses regarding the old families? In looking at them in a sort of romantic and poetic way, while believing against those who try to still draw upon those old family lines and put on airs because of such ancestral relations. Does Hardy like Angel see these old fallen families as having no more place within current society?


message 20: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 21, 2010 08:18PM) (new)

MadgeUK One of the reasons I reread Hardy is because of the beauty of the language, especially when he is describing his characters in relationship to the landscape. It is here that his poetry is most evident. Chapter 19 is one of the most beautiful in the novel, where Tess is seduced by Angel in an entirely different way to when she is seduced by Alec. Instead of being in a dark wood it is

'...a typical summer evening in June, the atmosphere being in such delicate equilibrium and so transmissive that inanimate objects seemed endowed with two or three senses, if not five... [Unlike the frightening silence of The Chase:]: 'The soundlessness impressed her as a positive entity rather than as the mere negation of noise. It was broken by the strumming of strings. Tess had heard those notes in the attic above her head. Dim, flattened, constrained by their confinement, they had never appealed to her as now, when they wandered in the still air with a stark quality like that of nudity. To speak absolutely, both instrument and execution were poor; but the relative is all, and as she listened Tess, like a fascinated bird, could not leave the spot. Far from leaving she drew up towards the performer, keeping behind the hedge that he might not guess her presence.'

The description of Angel playing the harp which follows, commencing 'The outskirts of the garden in which Tess found herself had been left uncultivated for some years...' is one of the most commented upon passages in Hardy's fiction and one of the most erotic.

'...she undulated upon the thin notes of the second-hand harp, and their harmonies passed like breezes through her, bringing tears into her eyes. The floating pollen seemed to be his notes made visible, and the dampness of the garden the weeping of the garden's sensibility....He concluded his plaintive melody, a very simple performance, demanding no great skill; and she waited, thinking another might be begun. But, tired of playing, he had desultorily come round the fence, and was rambling up behind her. Tess, her cheeks on fire, moved away furtively, as if hardly moving at all.'

This is very different to the fog of The Chase where 'darkness and silence ruled everywhere around.' At that seduction Hardy asked 'where was Tess' guardian angel', here an Angel plays the harp as if in heaven.

But will the 'harmonies' soon disappear to leave only the 'rank smelling weed flowers' amid the 'weeping of the garden's sensibilities'...


message 21: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 23, 2010 02:04AM) (new)

MadgeUK At the opening of Phase Three, The Consequence, I found it interesting that Hardy was quoting Walt Whitman's Crossing Brooklyn Ferry:

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes,
How curious you are to me!-

D H Lawrence, who learned a great deal from Hardy, deemed Whitman 'the greatest and first and the only American teacher' and it was in the UK that Whitman had been 'first recognised and treated as a major poet'. (Walt Whitman in England. Harold Blodgett.)

This chapter makes clear that Angel is now in love with Tess and in a state of heightened sensitivity: 'Something had occurred which changed the pivot of the universe...'. The poetic passage below is perhaps one of the most beautiful descriptions in literature of the transformation love can bring:-

'Every window of the house being open Clare could hear across the yard each trivial sound of the retiring household... That dairy house, so humble, so insignificant...what was it now? The aged and lichened brick gables breathed forth "Stay!". The windows smiled, the door coaxed and beckoned, the creeper blushed confederacy. A personality within it was so far-reaching in her influence as to spread into and make the bricks, mortar, and whole overhanging sky throb with a burning sensibility. Whose was this mighty personality? A milkmaid's.'

Throughout the novel Hardy shows, in such descriptions, his understanding of the human tendency to idealise, to exalt a person or object through association of various kinds. Following the above passage he writes of Angel's thoughts:

'The impressionable peasant leads a larger, fuller, more dramatic life than the pachydermatous king. Looking at it thus [Angel:] found that life was to be seen of the same magnitude here as elsewhere...Tess was no insignificant creature to toy with and dismiss, but a woman living her precious life - a life which, to herself who endured or enjoyed it, possessed as great a dimension as the life of the mightiest to himself....this consciousness upon which he had intruded was the single opportunity of existence ever vouchsafed to Tess by an unsympathetic First Cause - her all; her every and only chance.'

These assertions by Hardy that the lowly born were as important as the highly born would have been a heresy to the Victorians, who were prey to the idea that the
'rich man in his castle/the poor man at his gate/GOD made them, high or lowly/And ordered their estate' and so we might consider them to be a foreshadowing of less happy times to come.


message 22: by VMom (last edited Mar 23, 2010 09:45AM) (new)

VMom (votermom) | 11 comments Silver wrote: "Everyman wrote: "Silver wrote: 1430273 One of the things that is really intriguing to me just now, which is in subtle ways hinted at in the first and second phase, but than starts to appear much m..."

I was wondering about something related - class. If you look at it one way, grief comes to those who try to climb above their class.

Alec is not really a D'Uberville, he is a Stoke, and it sounds like his family got its money from trade.

Tess Durbeyfield falls into ruin when she tries to connect to the D'Ubervilles.

Angel Clare stays middle-class and is the last one standing.

I wonder if Hardy realized that or if this was subconscious in his worldview?


message 23: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Mayakda wrote: "Silver wrote: "Everyman wrote: "Silver wrote: 1430273 One of the things that is really intriguing to me just now, which is in subtle ways hinted at in the first and second phase, but than starts t..."

(SPOILER) Yes,and Angel too is 'ruined' because he loses Tess.

I think it was probably deliberate, so much of Victorian literature hinges around class and people keeping to their station in life.


message 24: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Mayakda wrote: "I was wondering about something related - class. If you look at it one way, grief comes to those who try to climb above their class."

Who besides Tess do you see trying to climb above their class and coming to grief? One case does not necessarily a trend make, does it?


message 25: by Silver (new)

Silver Everyman wrote: "Mayakda wrote: "I was wondering about something related - class. If you look at it one way, grief comes to those who try to climb above their class."

Who besides Tess do you see trying to climb ab..."


There is the other three maids who were in love with Angel along with Tess, they were all village girls as Tess and would have raised above their class if Angel had chosen any one of them, and they all end up falling a part and into despair.


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