Victorians! discussion

61 views
Archived Group Reads 2009-10 > Tess - Fifth & Sixth Phases

Comments Showing 1-26 of 26 (26 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Paula (new)

Paula | 1006 comments To discuss the fifth and sixth phases of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, chapters 35-52.

**Spoiler Alert!**


message 2: by Silver (new)

Silver Ok between the two of them I have to say that I think Angel is the worse villain over Alex, because at least Alec was not truly a hypocrite nor did he outwardly deceive Tess, he simply was what he was, and it was only because Tess was so naive that she was mislead by Alec.

Angel is a hypocrite, as well as false. Of course that double standard between men and women, and what men were allowed to get away with and what was "forgivable" in men, vs women was very much a part of the Victorian mind set, and Hardy deliberately is drawing attention to this double standard.

But though it me be understandable and even acceptable (if hypocritical) for Angel to have been angry with Tess for her lying and deception of him (even though he did the same thing)I do not see, how, if he ever did truly love her, he could so easily simply completely reject all his feelings of love for her and in the blink of an eye cease any feelings of caring for her, even if he believed what she did was morally wrong, I don't see how he could not have been to some feelings of compassion when faced with her despair and misery considering this so called devotion and love he claimed to have had for her.

Of course he tries to justify to himself by saying that the person he loved was a "different person." But to me that seems to indicate that he was not in love with Tess as a person at all, but rather instead only in love with his ideal of Tess.

And I have to say that the scene between Angel and Tess after they both make their confessions to each other, and Tess than tries to plead mercy and Forgiveness before Angel reminded me very acutely of the scene in Milton's Paradise Lost, after the temptation of Adam and Eve, when Adam first forsakes all women and curses Eve, but than Eve throws herself at Adams feet and take the blame onto herself and just like Tess, Eve also suggests that she sacrifices herself.


message 3: by Silver (new)

Silver I am curious just what does anyone else think of that whole strange sleep walking incident with Angel and Tess?

To me it seemed to really stretch the bonds of realism within the story, granted, it is possible, and people really do sleep walk and do strange things in their sleep, but it was just so bizzare and sort of random but there must have been a reason Hardy included that scene in there.

Was it just another device to keep the interest of the readers in the serialization of the story? Is there something deeper we are suppose to take away from it?

Reading that I just couldn't help but to think to myself, ok those two have some serious issues and they might have benefited if they had some sort of marriage counseling available to them to work out some of their messed up subconscious feelings and desires.

The whole thing was just comical with Tess being completely unfazed by the fact that her estranged husband, comes into her room completely oblivious to his actions, and is fantasising about her death, and she is just like oh, well I will just lie here and see what he decides to do with me.

And her own fantasies of her idea of perfect heavenly bliss would be if in his attempts to kill her, he ends up ultimately killing himself too.

Then when he eventually ends up placing her in some old coffin, her thoughts are oh dear, if he stays out here he might catch an illness.

But all joking aside, is this meant to be an indication that Angel still has feelings of love for Tess, but his rational conscious mind has suppressed the feelings? Or is it that he can only regain his love for her though her death?

Does he simply literally wish she would simply die in some "convenient" way that would not cause a scandal? Or does it reflect his belief that the Tess he fell in love truly had died with the revelation of her confession?


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

this section, to me, is the most poignant part of the book, when Tess is in the crypt and wondering why she "is on the wrong side of this door." Angel is awful! The double-standard, the religious doubts (which I sympathize with) but which also prevent him from doing anything remotely useful within the novel. He is so invested in seeing her as "pure" and "natural" according to HIS intellectual theories that he can't see how pure she really is. Poor Tess--according to Victorian morality, she, like her child, would be better off dead. What Hardy totally nails and what is so searingly sad about this novel, is that Angel, through his subconscious sleep-walking actions, and Tess herself, subscribe to this idea. The pain, for me as a reader, comes from the narrator's (and the reader's) realization that EVERYONE is wrong. If only everyone (and that includes Tess herself) could see her real value! But that is the tragedy of the novel . . . Truly, one of the saddest books ever written.


message 5: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Silver wrote: "I am curious just what does anyone else think of that whole strange sleep walking incident with Angel and Tess?

To me it seemed to really stretch the bonds of realism within the story, granted,..."


The sleepwalking scene is very gothic isn't it? One can't help wondering if Hardy inserted it to pander to the mass readership of the time, who were lapping up the gothic novels of female novelists like Ann Radcliffe.

It is also as if Hardy suddenly realises that Tess' marriage to Angel is in danger of compromising the tragic theme of the novel and he has to get it back on track. But perhaps it was a deliberate artifice to do just that? n the serialisation of the novel whether or not the marriage was happily consummated would be a cliffhanger....will he, won't he...and the sleepwalking scene heightens this suspense.


message 6: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Silver wrote: "I am curious just what does anyone else think of that whole strange sleep walking incident with Angel and Tess?

To me it seemed to really stretch the bonds of realism within the story, granted,..."


The sleepwalking scene is very gothic isn't it? One can't help wondering if Hardy inserted it to pander to the mass readership of the time, who were lapping up the gothic novels of female novelists like Ann Radcliffe.

It is also as if Hardy suddenly realises that Tess' marriage to Angel is in danger of compromising the tragic theme of the novel and he has to get it back on track. Perhaps it was a deliberate artifice to do just that? In the serialisation of the novel whether or not the marriage was happily consummated would be a cliffhanger....will he, won't he...and the sleepwalking scene heightens this suspense.


message 7: by Silver (new)

Silver MadgeUK wrote: "Silver wrote: "I am curious just what does anyone else think of that whole strange sleep walking incident with Angel and Tess?

To me it seemed to really stretch the bonds of realism within the st..."


Yes it does capture certain elements of the gothic within and I also thought with some of the other occurrence, being the carriage at the weeding with the suggested ghostly legend, and the grotesque portraits of the women within the house, it may also act as another foreshadowing device in the lying her upon the coffin.

Maybe it is also another working hand of fate in guiding Tess along the path of her destiny and a glimpse of what may await her or perhaps it is just a reflection of the death of her marriage.


message 8: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 21, 2010 11:37PM) (new)

MadgeUK Lstruve wrote: "this section, to me, is the most poignant part of the book, when Tess is in the crypt and wondering why she "is on the wrong side of this door." Angel is awful! The double-standard, the religious ..."

Yes, I think Hardy correctly points out that Angel is no Angel and is as bad as Alec in his own way. Both subscribe to the morality and double standards of the day. And as both of these men are religious, Hardy is also drawing attention to the part that religion (and yes, Fate) play in Tess' unfolding tragedy.

(I like Silver's comparison to Milton's Paradise Lost. I commented earlier on Tess' likeness to the archetypal fallen woman, Eve.)


message 9: by Silver (new)

Silver MadgeUK wrote: "Lstruve wrote: "this section, to me, is the most poignant part of the book, when Tess is in the crypt and wondering why she "is on the wrong side of this door." Angel is awful! The double-standard..."

I thought I recalled someone else bringing up an Eve refrecne in realtion to Tess


message 10: by Silver (new)

Silver I am currious as to why Angel and Tess could not divorce? Angel alludes vaguely to the fact that it had something to do with the law, yet for Tess to have even considered the idea as a possibilitly than divorce must have been something that occured within the time period.


message 11: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 22, 2010 05:27PM) (new)

MadgeUK The only grounds for divorce a this time, under the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857, was adultery. In order to divorce her husband a woman had to further prove gross cruelty, bigamy, incest, bestiality or desertion. None of these grounds would apply to Tess or Angel. Additionally, the Church of England did not recognise divorce and the process left both people unable to remarry. Divorce for non-consummation, or annulment, could only be granted by the Church on the grounds that the marriage was not valid in the first place or if the person was already married to someone else. To end a valid marriage with the right of remarrying required a special Act of Parliament and was extremely expensive. In 50 years only 3 such divorces were granted.


message 12: by VMom (last edited Mar 23, 2010 09:35AM) (new)

VMom (votermom) | 11 comments Silver wrote: "Ok between the two of them I have to say that I think Angel is the worse villain over Alex, because at least Alec was not truly a hypocrite nor did he outwardly deceive Tess, he simply was what he ..."

I completely agree with that. I don't like Alec but I think Angel is so much worse.

Alec is a pig, but he does try to give Tess material things and I don't think he is ever deliberately sadistic ti her.

Angel's sleepwalking actually creeps me out because I know that it is not uncommon in abusive marriages for a man to first start hurting his wife while he is not fully conscious -- drunk / half asleep /etc, and I am reminded of one abused wife relating how her husband would hit her while he was asleep and wake up not remembering. I could suspect Angel of being a controlling, domineering husband, if their marriage had lasted.


message 13: by Silver (new)

Silver Mayakda wrote: "Silver wrote: "Ok between the two of them I have to say that I think Angel is the worse villain over Alex, because at least Alec was not truly a hypocrite nor did he outwardly deceive Tess, he simp..."

Angel's abandonment of Tess after he discovers the truth, in spite of his own personal indiscretions which he also intentionally kept from Tess until after they were married, is proof I think that it is true that he does want some ideal of Tess rather than the flesh and blood human being.

Though as the story progresses at times I cannot quite make up my mind about Angel. There are times when I think that he still does genuinely love Tess and yet is being held back by the Victorian ethic and mind set, as well as by the religious ideology of the day.

In spite of his efforts to be an impendent thinker and his "breaking free" when he rejects the church and stands up against his families wishes for him and actually goes out to work in the fields regardless of his social status and refuses to marry Mercy a woman on equal social class and the choice of his family, he still is bond by the restrictions of Victorian sensibilities.

At times it feels almost like an animal in a cage, where it seems as if he wants to truly be free and yet he feels completely powerless to do so. He is acting as his own worse enemy because he is too much a product of his age, for in his own way I think he is suffering from the separation with Tess.

Some part of him acknowledges that Tess truly is a virtuous and pure woman, but he cannot bring himself to reconcile that against that judgements of society and the church which had been bread into him.


message 14: by Vicki (new)

Vicki I don't think that the whole sleepwalking thing shows that Angel wants to hurt Tess, though I would agree that in many respects he is a terrible person. It shows that, to him, she already is dead. He had this idealized vision of her as a pure child of nature, a vision that had nothing to do with Tess herself. The fact that she was of an old family only expanded this vision (hence choosing an old house of the D'Urbervilles as their lodging place when it was obvious that she found the idea of her old family rather distasteful.) He had built up this image of her, and her revelation shattered it. So his dreaming mind gave her idealized image a proper funeral because it truly had died. Nothing really indicates that he actually wanted her to die physically, but his subconscious thought that she already had. Though this scene was odd, this was one of the few times when I actually liked him because it was the only time that he truly allowed his heart to lead instead of his head. His mind killed his image of Tess, but his heart grieved for her.


message 15: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Silver wrote: "I am curious just what does anyone else think of that whole strange sleep walking incident with Angel and Tess? "

One way to look at it is that it is intended to show how deeply conflicted Angel's mind is that it takes over his sleeping and deprives him of the balm of sleep.


message 16: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments MadgeUK wrote: "The sleepwalking scene is very gothic isn't it? One can't help wondering if Hardy inserted it to pander to the mass readership of the time, who were lapping up the gothic novels of female novelists like Ann Radcliffe. "

Were they still reading Radcliffe in 1891? Most of her stuff was written in the 1790s; I sort of had the impression that she wasn't read that much by the later Victorians, who had moved on to Dickens, Collins, and others, but I could easily be wrong.


message 17: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Silver wrote: "Ok between the two of them I have to say that I think Angel is the worse villain over Alex, because at least Alec was not truly a hypocrite nor did he outwardly deceive Tess, he simply was what he was, and it was only because Tess was so naive that she was mislead by Alec. "

I don't see Angel so much as a villain as I see both Tess and Angel as victims of the fate laid on them mostly by their parents and their circumstances. Tess is the victim of her father's and mother's expectations and pressures. But Angel is also a victim of the standard of conduct which had been drilled into him by his parents and the society in which he was raised. He had tried to break out of it, maybe he believed he could have, but in the end, when it came to a crisis, he was unable to break free of his upbringing.

He wasn't, to me, a villain but a co-victim with Tess.


message 18: by Silver (new)

Silver Everyman wrote: "Silver wrote: "Ok between the two of them I have to say that I think Angel is the worse villain over Alex, because at least Alec was not truly a hypocrite nor did he outwardly deceive Tess, he simp..."

And yet his inability to break free seems not to apply to himself only to Tess, he does not see anything the least bit immoral about his own diversions from the standard of contact. He was not being held back by his upbringing when he sought the company of a loose woman, and his guilt can be seen as greater than Tess's for her was acting in full knowledge and in full command of his will.

As well he had not problem stepping outside the expected behavior and the pressures of his father's religion when he attempted to invite Izz to run away as his mistress with him to Brazil.

Of course ultimately he did not go through with it, but it was because of no guilt of his consciousness or any realization of the immorality of doing such a thing, but the revelation about Tess's love for him which stops him, and yet even in that moment, it is not enough for him to make a reconciliation.

He is making the conscious effort and choice to suppress his love for Tess and to cast her away from him. He does not even make a true effort to try to get through the crisis he just runs from it and tries to hide even from himself.


message 19: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Everyman wrote: "Were they still reading Radcliffe in 1891..."

Maybe not Radcliffe, although her husband published some of her work in 1833, after her death, which became popular. Both Radcliffe and Walpole created a gothic trend which continued. Le Fanu's Uncle Silas, Shelley's Frankenstein, RLS' Jekyll and Hyde, Wilde's Dorian Gray were all in the gothic genre. 'Penny dreadfuls' were extremely popular and contained serialised rewrites of Udolpho and Otranto. Although I don't suppose that the middle-class Dorothea read penny dreadfuls:).

http://www.bl.uk/collections/early/vi...

I agree that Angel is not cast as a villain but more as a victim of his religious upbringing. Perhaps Hardy was trying to show how difficult it was to break away from the mores of a society with which he had problems himself, both in his personal life and with his writing. Angel is a good example of the double standards of the time as they applied to men and I think this is another point Hardy is trying to make.

Alec is the stereotypical Victorian villain and seems to have been lifted straight out of a Victorian theatrical melodrama even appearing as a devil with pitchfork in hand and saying 'You are Eve, and I am the old Other One come up to tempt you in the guise of an inferior animal'! Hardy has been criticised for his melodramatic casting of Alec in a tragic novel. Some critics think that melodrama and tragedy do not go together and that he pandered too much to the demands of the publisher of the serialised form of Tess.


message 20: by Silver (new)

Silver MadgeUK wrote: "Everyman wrote: "Were they still reading Radcliffe in 1891..."

Maybe not Radcliffe, although her husband published some of her work in 1833, after her death, which became popular. Both Radcliffe a..."


I would have to agree with the sentiment of melodrama and tragedy not going very well together. It is just because of the nature of the melodrama that I myself fail to truly find the novel as being genuinely tragic it does not move me in a tragic way. Because of the sensationalism which was used as a way to keep readers in suspense for the serialization, reading the book as a novel, well for me it almost reads more like a black comedy, because I have found certain aspects so over the top that I have laughed out loud and I fail to truly find the realism in the story because the attempt at tragedy is laid on so thick it presses the boundaries believability.


message 21: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Alec is the stereotypical Victorian villain and seems to have been lifted straight out of a Victorian theatrical melodrama even appearing as a devil with pitchfork in hand and saying 'You are Eve, and I am the old Other One come up to tempt you in the guise of an inferior animal'! Hardy has been criticised for his melodramatic casting of Alec in a tragic novel. Some critics think that melodrama and tragedy do not go together and that he pandered too much to the demands of the publisher of the serialised form of Tess. "

Yes, Alec is the typical Victorian rake, except that he did say he would take care of Tess, and it was she who refused his assistance. So he isn't quite 100% bad.


message 22: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Silver wrote: "I would have to agree with the sentiment of melodrama and tragedy not going very well together. It is just because of the nature of the melodrama that I myself fail to truly find the novel as being genuinely tragic it does not move me in a tragic way. "

And yet, if it were pure, unadulterated tragedy, would we be able to read it? Much of the book is painful enough to read as it is; the melodrama (and the very occasional moments of humor) offer a bit of respite from the otherwise almost unrelenting misery of the book.


message 23: by Silver (new)

Silver Everyman wrote: "Silver wrote: "I would have to agree with the sentiment of melodrama and tragedy not going very well together. It is just because of the nature of the melodrama that I myself fail to truly find the..."

It is the very fact that the misery is so unrelenting that makes it impossible for me to take it seriously as a tragedy. I just do not have an emotional connection with the book and the characters because they in fact do not come off as "real" to me in the very fact that the tragedy is piled on so thick on top of each other that the moments that are intended to be tragic are nearly laughable because it is so overdone.


message 24: by Silver (new)

Silver Everyman wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "Alec is the stereotypical Victorian villain and seems to have been lifted straight out of a Victorian theatrical melodrama even appearing as a devil with pitchfork in hand and sayin..."

I think the primary different between Alec and Angel is, while I do not believe either one of them truly love Tess.

Alec in his own way I think does care about Tess, and he cares for the flesh and blood Tess, he cares for Tess as a person, for her own sake and self, the tangible Tess.

Angel on the other hand was in love with an ideal Tess that he created around her image and when he discovered the truth he had his ideal shattered and could not recover from that. But what Angel wants can never truly be found in any living woman.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) Silver wrote: "Everyman wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "Alec is the stereotypical Victorian villain and seems to have been lifted straight out of a Victorian theatrical melodrama even appearing as a devil with pitchfork ..."

Couldn't agree more with that understanding of these two characters. Is that the way that hardy sees it however?


message 26: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Hardy was accused by his contemporaries of making Alec into a stereotypical 'handsome horsey young buck' with a 'bold rolling eye' just like the 'mashers' or ladykillers of the time. It was thought that he did it so that the main emphasis of the story fell elsewhere - onto Angel.


back to top