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Archived Group Reads 2009-10 > Tess - Seventh Phase & Whole Book

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message 1: by Paula (new)

Paula | 1001 comments To discuss the seventh phase of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, chapters 53-59, and the whole book in general.

**Spoiler Alert!**


message 2: by Eliza (new)

Eliza (elizac) | 24 comments okay, I've stayed out of the discussion of Tess up until this point mainly because I didn't like it at all. Silver said in another post that at times there were elements that were too far over the top and I completely agree. That being said I am so glad that I stuck it out until the end. Wow! for the first time I felt the tragedy of the story instead of the melodrama. I probably won't reread Tess but I'm glad I finished it.


message 3: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 186 comments I know what you mean, Eliza. That Stonehenge scene seems to come out of a B movie. There are other novels by Hardy that I much prefer.


message 4: by Grace Tjan (new)

Grace Tjan I like the novel for the most part, but I can see why some people don't like it. It's fascinating for me because of all the disparate, sometimes incongruous elements in it: the realistic potrayal of agricultural life, the sensitive, poetic descriptions of nature, the anti-Christian polemics, the Gothic touches. It's not perfect, but somehow it works, at least for me.


message 5: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK That's a good summary Sandybanks! I particularly like the poetic descriptions of nature - these are a big plus in any Hardy novel.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Well said, Sandybanks. I feel that Tess is not a book that I'll revisit too often but I think it is a worthwhile read. Hardy's writing is superb and the story is very well crafted - if it were not for that I probably wouldn't have enjoyed the book. The subject matter is hard to take. It is a very unjust story. I'll admit by the end I was growing a little weary of all the endless toiling. However, I still consider it an important and worthwhile read.


message 7: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Sandybanks wrote: "I like the novel for the most part, but I can see why some people don't like it. It's fascinating for me because of all the disparate, sometimes incongruous elements in it: the realistic potrayal o..."

I agree. It doesn't have the depth that some other Hardy works do, but it keeps drawing me back -- I've probably read it half a dozen times, though now I tend to skim certain parts of it.

Personally I find the Stonehenge scene not over the top at all, but tremendously touching. The flight from a Christian world to the prime representative of Pagan belief and ritual. And as someone noted before, Tess always seems to fall asleep at critical moments, and here she does so again. Asleep in the bosom of the oldest Gods of Britain.

Perhaps it hits me because I have experienced Stonehenge in the moonlight. was in England in the early 1960s, I had performed in a wind quintet with some English friends and we were too wired after the concert to go to sleep, so they drove me out to show me the English countryside at night and after a trip through the New Forest we wound up at Stonehenge at about 2 in the morning. There was no fence then, as I recall, so we just walked in and wandered about and even lay down on some of the stones. It was creepy, mysterious, and awesome (in the original sense of the word) all at once. So that passage has special resonance for me.


message 8: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments The end of the novel has Angel and Liza-Lu, losing the one they both loved, leaving from the prison gate, climbing the hill, looking back, and then turning and walking hand in hand down the road. This image would have been instantly reminiscent to any educated English reader of the end of Paradise Lost:

They looking back, all th' Eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late thir happie seat,
Wav'd over by that flaming Brand, the Gate
With dreadful Faces throng'd and fierie Armes:
Som natural tears they drop'd, but wip'd them soon;
The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through EDEN took thir solitarie way.

But what lies before them? Many modern readers assume that they will get married. Liza-Lu would, if we work out the timeline of the story, have been not quite sixteen at the time of Tess's death -- reminiscent of Tess's plaint to Angel ""Why didn't you stay and love me when I--was sixteen; living with my little sisters and brothers, and you danced on the green? O, why
didn't you, why didn't you!" she said, impetuously clasping her hands. Liza-Lu is presumably the virgin Tess wasn't when Angel married her, and given her resemblance to Tess, he would get in her the wife he thought he was getting in Tess. Finally a perfect ending for at least some of the characters, right?

But as Sutherland points out, Hardy's readers would have read the situation differently. With the death of Tess, Liza-Lu has become Angel's deceased wife's sister. Ever since the act of 1835, he notes, marriage to a deceased wife's sister was considered incest, and of course unlawful. So Angel cannot legally marry Liza-Lu. And Hardy's original readers would certainly have known this; between 1835 and 1906, when this prohibition was finally removed from the law, there were twenty-six bills before the House of Commons to change the law, many passed by the House, but none approved by the Lords until 1906.

Sutherfield hypothesizes that the most likely outcome is not that Angel will live out of wedlock with Liza-Lu, which would seem very unlikely for one of his careful morality, nor will they emigrate to some place where they can legally marry, but that they will remain in a spiritual, sexless relationship, Liza-Lu forever a virginal version of her sister, Angel satisfying himself by worshiping her in a spiritual and intellectual version only. So not Adam and Eve after leaving Eden, but Adam and Eve living as their pre-fall state of innocence and purity.

Plausible? Or is Hardy suggesting some other outcome??


message 9: by Laura (last edited Mar 28, 2010 06:34PM) (new)

Laura (digifish_books) | 8 comments I don't think we can predict what Angel will do once the story closes. He seems entirely unpredictable - rejecting Tess at the beginning then trying to elope with Izz, and later, after reuniting with Tess he runs off with her to Stonehenge.

On another note, I found Alec's 'conversion' hard to believe... or was that the idea?!


message 10: by Eliza (new)

Eliza (elizac) | 24 comments Everyman wrote: "Sutherfield hypothesizes that the most likely outcome is not that Angel will live out of wedlock with Liza-Lu, which would seem very unlikely for one of his careful morality, nor will they emigrate to some place where they can legally marry, but that they will remain in a spiritual, sexless relationship, Liza-Lu forever a virginal version of her sister, Angel satisfying himself by worshiping her in a spiritual and intellectual version only. So not Adam and Eve after leaving Eden, but Adam and Eve living as their pre-fall state of innocence and purity.

Plausible? Or is Hardy suggesting some other outcome??
"


I would hope that, given the tragic outcome wih Tess, Angel would have learned his lesson and realized that marrying for an ideal instead of a real person is almost always a mistake.

I'm not sure what I think will happen to Liza-Lu and Angel after the book closes. The book ended, to my complete surprise, on such a perfect tragic note that I didn't think much further. I think it's too neat to have Angel and Liza-Lu live happily every after. As opposed to Sutherfield I see Angel punishing himself with Tess' absence for the rest of his life not replacing her with a truly pure substitue.


message 11: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK I found Alec's conversion hard to believe...or was that the idea...

I suspect that it was indeed the idea Laura and that Hardy was 'cocking a snook' at the clergy and religion, with which he became disillusioned in his later years. Many of Hardy's relatives were involved in the church, some were clergymen, and he once had aspirations himself to become a clergyman himself, so perhaps he is drawing from life.


message 12: by Karma (new)

Karma (karmaknits) | 5 comments I finished reading Tess yesterday. I initially wasn't sure I would since I found the beginning of it so depressing. I'm glad I read it through to the end though. I loved the poetic descriptions of nature and the feeling that the dairy was sort of outside the normal world, protected, safe, a golden time. The ending and what Tess did came as a total shock to me. Obviously, Hardy is brilliant at his craft. I don't see myself reading Tess again, once was quite enough, but I am glad that I read it.

I am now crossing my fingers that at least one of my next book group reads is a comedy or at least a less depressing tale. =)


message 13: by Laura (new)

Laura (digifish_books) | 8 comments It's strange, I went through a bit of a Hardy phase more than 20 years ago and was sure I'd read 'Tess' but reading it this time the ending did surprise me, so I must have confused it with some of his other books (or perhaps I sub-consciously blotted out all memory of it ;) I still rate 'Tess' highly but doubt I would re-read it again.

Nearly all of Hardy's novels are depressing but the writing is wonderful and I do love 'The Mayor of Casterbridge', 'Far From the Madding Crowd' and 'The Woodlanders'.

I'm cheering myself up with some PG Wodehouse this week!


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Though out the book I was drawn in by the wonderful depiction of rural life, its landscape & people. A beautiful picture was painted. The picture however was full of barb wire that I didn't notice initially.

I finished the book weeks ago but found myself so disturbed & distressed by the concluding chapters, I was unable to contribute to the discussions.

I also found myself searching for something light & fluffy to read once I finished reading Tess.


Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) Laura wrote: "I don't think we can predict what Angel will do once the story closes. He seems entirely unpredictable - rejecting Tess at the beginning then trying to elope with Izz, and later, after reuniting wi..."

I believe he will do what Tess asked him to, as it seems like he has trully regrettet his harsh treatment of her and has finally 'forgiven her sins'.

I too found it hard to take Alec's conversion serious, and it all fell apart towards the end when we hear of his hard words against Tess.


Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) I loved how Tess towards the end began to 'fight back' (she was a bit of a push-over throughout most of the novel), get angry with Angel and hit and finally murder Alec. I liked how she rebelled against the norms and the punishment of the fallen woman - even if it meant that she had to die.


message 17: by Silver (new)

Silver I have to say I find the believability of Tess killing Alec to really be a bit of a stretch, if you ask me, it seems as if she just went completely mad. I really did not find that to be a heroic moment and I have to say I think that her becoming a murderess really undermines the "pure woman" idea.

Alec may have been a cad and well if Tess had killed him after their first encounter when he did take advantage of her, be it through genuine rape or seduction it would have been deserved, but I think Alec was genuinely trying to make up for his past mistakes and did feel guilt about what he had done and what became of Tess.

Tess on the other hand tries to hold Alec responsible for her own actions, she blames Alec for the fact that she allowed herself to be talked out of her own convictions.

While Alec may have tried to persuade Tess, I really don't think he did anything to force her to agree to marry her. But she as usual caved under the pressure and than blames him for that?

When ironically Alec was in fact doing more for her and her family than Angel ever did, but Angel just shows up feeling repentive and for that he is supposed to look like some kind of saint?


message 18: by Vicki (new)

Vicki Silver wrote: "I have to say I find the believability of Tess killing Alec to really be a bit of a stretch, if you ask me, it seems as if she just went completely mad. I really did not find that to be a heroic mo..."

I think that Tess really did go mad for a brief moment. I will admit that this is not her shining moment, but I can understand it.

To a certain extent, she has every right to blame Alec for her current position. Yes, she gave way, and that was bad, but he used her family's wellfare against her to get what he wanted. If it had merely been herself that she had to consider, I don't think that she would have become his mistress, but she couldn't see her family starve. He was the only way that she could see of providing for her family, and he knew it and used it against her.

I think though, her temporary moment of insanity came more from something that Angel had said when he first found out about her than from what Alec had later done. Angel had said that Alec was Tess' husband in nature and that he (Angel) could never be her true husband while Alec lived. When Angel came back and actually wanted to be her husband, Tess could only think about those words and about how she was more Alec's wife in nature than ever. For Tess to truly be with Angel, Alec had to die. So it isn't even what he had done to her, necessarily, that caused her to crack, but what he stood in the way of merely by living.


message 19: by Silver (new)

Silver Vicki wrote: "Silver wrote: "I have to say I find the believability of Tess killing Alec to really be a bit of a stretch, if you ask me, it seems as if she just went completely mad. I really did not find that to..."

But Alec was at least willing to look after her and her entire family while Angel left them high and dry without a 2nd thought, when it should have been his responsibility and his duty to look after them.

Though Alec was trying to use that as a way to persuade Tess into getting what he wanted, Alec did not deceive her as he lived up to his word to take care of her family and in retrospect acted more selflessly toward Tess than Angel did who could only think of how he felt like he had been wounded and wanted to throw a tantrum about it by running away to another country.


message 20: by Vicki (new)

Vicki Silver wrote: "Vicki wrote: "Silver wrote: "I have to say I find the believability of Tess killing Alec to really be a bit of a stretch, if you ask me, it seems as if she just went completely mad. I really did no..."

I will give Alec credit for the fact that he did keep his word and look after her family (though at the same time he knew that she would never stay with him if he did not). I will give him that. I would, though, like to say something in defense of Angel. His conduct on the whole was bad, I know, but as far as looking after her family, I truly think that he had no idea what was happening. He deserted her, but he did leave her with money, and an expectation that if she needed more she would apply to his parents to get it. Yes, he should have understood her enough to know that she had too much pride to go asking them for help, but obviously he didn't understand her character very well since he left her.

Besides, he was ill when he was in another country, and Tess rarely wrote to him of her troubles. How was he supposed to know that her family was suffering? He thought that he had provided for her. He should have asked his parents in a letter if they had heard from her, but that is just adding to a long list of things that he should have done. By the time he got home, Alec had already taken care of their wants, so there was little he could do.

I still think that his conduct on the whole wasn't what it should have been, but I just wanted to put in a little defense for the one thing that he did think to do for Tess before he left her.


message 21: by Silver (new)

Silver Vicki wrote: "Silver wrote: "Vicki wrote: "Silver wrote: "I have to say I find the believability of Tess killing Alec to really be a bit of a stretch, if you ask me, it seems as if she just went completely mad. ..."

Personally thought I think that reguardless of what moral scruples he may have had when he found out the truth of her past (particuarly considering her did the same thing she had, and even worse since he willfully enganged in sexual acts opposed to Tess who was taken advantage of) he should have stayed by her even if he felt like he could not have loved her, or if he was mad or felt some injustice. As her husband he never should have left to start with. So the fact that he didn't know what was going on, is not much of a defence becasue he should not have left without her to begin with.


message 22: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments I find the descriptions of Tess's experiences in the dairy and her various labors after she leaves the dairy to be very interesting. I'm not sure how realistic the descriptions are -- Hardy wasn't, after all, a farmer, and I don't know how intimately he understood the lives of farm workers, but the descriptions of the way Tess is treated by her various employers and the labors involved in feeding Victorian England to be a compelling aspect of the novel. I hope they were fairly realistic!


message 23: by Silver (new)

Silver One of the things which struck me as interesting in the story was that among the various religious illusions and references to Biblical passages there were also throughout the book allusions to various different painters. The use of art in literature is something that tends to be of interest to me, and usually whenever an artist or painting is mentioned in a work of art, I have to go and look it up. So it struck out at me, the artistic allusions which Hardy used within the novel.


message 24: by MadgeUK (last edited Apr 02, 2010 03:06AM) (new)

MadgeUK ...The use of art in literature is some that tends to be of interest to me...

I think I have mentioned elsewhere that the Victorians were great philanthropists and one of their major acts of philanthropy was the building of public museums and art galleries. This enabled authors like Hardy and Eliot to have the opportunity of seeing collections of great works of art (and artefacts) from all over the world for the first time. Additionally, both Hardy and Eliot travelled widely in Italy where they saw many of the great Renaissance paintings. Whilst visiting the Vatican galleries in 1887 Hardy seems to have been bewildered by the many works of art he saw:-

'I sat in the Muses' Hall at the mid of the day,
And it seemed to grow still, and the people to pass away,
And the chiselled shapes to combine in a haze of sun,
Till beside a Carrara column there gleamed forth One.

She was nor this nor that of those beings divine,
But each and the whole--an essence of all the Nine;
With tentative foot she neared to my halting-place,
A pensive smile on her sweet, small, marvellous face.

"Regarded so long, we render thee sad?" said she.
"Not you," sighed I, "but my own inconstancy!
I worship each and each; in the morning one,
And then, alas! another at sink of sun.....'

(Rome : The Vatican - Sala Del Muse.)

I felt just the same way when I visited Florence last year!!

And, of course, Hardy trained as an architect and studied and wrote about Gothic architecture and other architectural styles. He also studied both British and European art and there are numerous references to artists and works of art in his notebooks and novels, so he is a rich source for you Silver!


message 25: by Silver (new)

Silver MadgeUK wrote: "...The use of art in literature is some that tends to be of interest to me...

I think I have mentioned elsewhere that the Victorians were great philanthropists and one of their major acts of phila..."


That is interesting about Hardy traveling to Italy, as I do beleive if memory serves me, that many of the painters that he refered to in Tess were in fact Italian painters, which did strike me as a bit currious at the time of reading.


message 26: by Ben (new)

Ben Lovegrove I am fascinated by the scene at the end of the book, I was intrigued and very convinced by the possibility that Tess is meant to be a nature goddess and perhaps by ending up at Stonehenge - which in Hardy's time was thought to be a place of sacrifice - they were retreating to pagan values?

It would be very interesting to analyze pagan mythology in the novel such as the myth of Persephone.

I heard that Hardy was challenging the values of the Victorian church with this novel as well, I think the scene where Tess's baby is refused a church burial is very significant. The whole novel seems a very strong indightment of Victorian Values and represents a longing for a better era, perhaps before industrialization.


message 27: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Well observed Ben. Yes, Hardy was challenging the Victorian church (I have posted about this elsewhere) and post Darwin a number of Victorians looked back with nostalgia to Pagan customs. The Stonehenge scene is meant to represent this with Tess, not so much as a Nature goddess, but as a sacrifice. A critic has written that the novel:-

'...reflects his disappointing views of urbanism through his protagonist, Tess. He characterizes Tess as a daughter of nature who endures the brutality of industrialism through the people and circumstances in her life. Using specific language, character depiction, and story development, Hardy provides a strong argument against the urban movement by showing the reader its harsh effects on the agrarian lifestyle. The overpowering and eventual destruction of Tess parallels the industrial movement's negative results on the rural landscape of England.'

and in his General Preface to the first edition he wrote:-

'...if these country customs and vocations, obsolete and obsolescent, had been detailed wrongly, nobody would have discovered such errors to the end of Time. Yet I have instituted inquiries to correct tricks of memory, and striven against temptations to exaggerate, in order to preserve for my own satisfaction a fairly true record of a vanishing life.'

http://articles.famouswhy.com/the_sym...

http://articles.famouswhy.com/the_sym...


message 28: by Ben (new)

Ben Lovegrove Thanks for that, some good links. I have not read the General Preface. I did see a quote which I think was in the book where he expressed concerns about the lies that historians were perpetrating, about how workers were gravitating towards urban areas naturally when the reality was that they were being herded into industrial areas against their will by the mill and factory owners of the Industrial Revolution.


message 29: by MadgeUK (last edited Apr 05, 2010 09:20AM) (new)

MadgeUK I am not sure where the idea that workers were 'herded into industrial areas against their will' came from? Agricultural workers gravitated towards the factories because there was less work on the land and more money was paid in the factories. The bleakness of life on the land is well illustrated at the beginning of Chapter 43 when winter work in the turnip fields is described, which reminds me of the peasants in Holland which Van Gogh so well illustrated. Who would not want to escape to a dry, warm factory when faced with 'these two upper and nether visages [confronting:] each other all day long, the white face looking down on the brown face and the brown face looking up at the white face, without anything standing between them but the two girls crawling over the face of the former like flies...[feeling:] the creep of rainwater, first in the legs and shoulders, then on the hips and head, then at back front and sides, and yet [worked on:] till the leaden light diminishes and marks that the sun is down, demands a distinct modicum of stoicism, even of valour.'

http://www.online-literature.com/view...

http://www.barber.org.uk/pomvangogh.html


message 30: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Here are some notes about the difficulties Hardy had with his publisher regarding Tess:-

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


message 31: by Ben (last edited Apr 05, 2010 12:34PM) (new)

Ben Lovegrove I am not sure which part of the book I thought I saw this quote, I think one thing we agree on though is that Hardy did not like the industrial revolution - I think he was influenced by Romanticism.


message 32: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Ben wrote: "I am fascinated by the scene at the end of the book, I was intrigued and very convinced by the possibility that Tess is meant to be a nature goddess and perhaps by ending up at Stonehenge - which i..."

One of the values it was challenging was the class structure. Tess's father falls into the trap of believing that class matters, that if he is "Sir John" and has blue blood he should somehow be better and more important than he has been up to that point as "plain Jack Durbeyfield, the haggler."


message 33: by Andreea (last edited Apr 06, 2010 11:00AM) (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 58 comments Silver wrote: "I really did not find that to be a heroic moment and I have to say I think that her becoming a murderess really undermines the "pure woman" idea."
I'm more and more inclined to believe that "pure woman" has little to do with chastity or morality, but rather that it refers to true femininity unbounded by social/religious/etc norms. Towards the end of the novel, Tess is finally able to follow her instincts, instead of trying to be a virtuous martyr. In that sense, I didn't think that the story was depressing, sad indeed, but I felt that the ending was happy in an awkward way.


message 34: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK I think the idea is that it is the society in which she lives which is impure and which drives her to sheer desperation. And in British law a murder as a result of a 'crime of passion' is judged differently to an ordinary murder, although that law is about to be changed.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/20...


message 35: by Silver (new)

Silver Andreea wrote: "Silver wrote: "I really did not find that to be a heroic moment and I have to say I think that her becoming a murderess really undermines the "pure woman" idea."
I'm more and more inclined to beli..."


In reading some of the comments made by others in regards to Tess it does seem that there is something almost Pagan in Hardy's idea of the "pure woman" and that it is mean to show Tess as being this sort of daughter of the Earth, or child of nature. The way in which she does come from the land, so to speak, considering her humble upbringings, and the way she works with animals.

She does start out as being "innocent" in her naivety of the world, but than it is coming into contact with society, and the "civilized" world which corrupts her so to speak. It ultimately because of the influence that society has upon her and the Victorian ideology which causes her to kill Alec in the end.

The ending of the book, and that moment at Stonehenge, is like a return for Tess to that "natural" or pure state once again.

I do agree that the ending can be seen as being happy, in a non-traditional way, because in spite of what is about to happen to Tess, Tess herself has made peace with it. Tess herself is in fact happy and willing to surrender. She does achieve in her own way what she always wanted .


message 36: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Silver wrote: "I do agree that the ending can be seen as being happy, in a non-traditional way, because in spite of what is about to happen to Tess, Tess herself has made peace with it. Tess herself is in fact happy and willing to surrender. She does achieve in her own way what she always wanted . "

Well, she is at least released. From the time of her event with Alec in the wood, whatever one considers it, it seems she shifted from living a poor but basically happy life into, as Thoreau said, a life of quiet desperation. The end was more a release than anything else.

Though I do worry about one thing. When we talk of her pagan elements, we forget how vital it was to her to get her child baptized. Clearly this was very important to her. The implication is that she was a sincere Christian believer, which means, doesn't it, that she has to recognize that she will be going to Hell?


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Everyman wrote: "Silver wrote: "I do agree that the ending can be seen as being happy, in a non-traditional way, because in spite of what is about to happen to Tess, Tess herself has made peace with it. Tess hersel..."

Such a 'Happy thought,' non? Vintage Hardy though; and one primary reason that I have moved passed him of late. I think your assessment is spot-on, Everyman. Cheers! Chris


message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

My impression was that she had had a mental breakdown. It was the only way I could explain her behaviour at the end of the book.


message 39: by MadgeUK (last edited Apr 06, 2010 10:50PM) (new)

MadgeUK I think that Hardy makes it clear that Tess was tormented by the moral values of society and wished to do the 'right thing' with regard to the baby's baptism and burial, not because she was a Christian but because she was conventional. Although those around her did not condemn her transgression, she condemned herself: 'Most of the misery had been generated by her conventional aspect, and not by her innate sensations.' Her mind is tormented by 'a crowd of moral hobgoblins' which have been put there by her exposure to Christianity and which pervert her natural inclinations.'She looked upon herself as a figure of Guilt intruding into the haunts of innocence.' But it was the hobgoblins 'which were out of harmony with the actual [natural:] world, not she.'

Hardy repeatedly describes Tess in terms of natural simplicity and beauty and asks:

'Why it was that upon this beautiful feminine tissue, sensitive as gossamer, and practically blank as snow as yet, there should have been traced such a coarse pattern as it was doomed to receive; why so often the coarse appropriates the finer thus, the wrong man the woman, the wrong woman the man, many thousands of years of analytical philosophy have failed to explain to our sense of order. '

However, 'Between the mother, with her fast-perishing lumber of superstitions, folklore, dialect, and orally transmitted ballads, and the daughter, with her trained National teachings and Standard knowledge under an infinitely revised code, there was a gap of two hundred years as ordinarily understood.'

Not only was Tess corrupted by Alec, she had been corrupted by the Christian teachings of the time which, in turn, had corrupted her purity.

Her end is a physical release from those corruptions so I do not think she believes she will go to hell because that belief is not part of the natural order of things. Tess is finally sacrificed to a 'saner religion', as a virgin, on the ancient altar of Stonehenge. 'It is as it should be,' she murmured....' That is her real ending, not the hanging.

(Perhaps some readers here agree with the Quarterly Review whose editor wrote at the time that Hardy was 'a novelist who, in his own interests, has gratuitously chosen to tell a coarse and disagreeable story in a coarse and disagreeable way'. Hardy was forced by his publishers to omit both the seduction and the baptism scene from the serialisation and they were published separately in isolated sketches in other magazines until finally being reinstated in the 1891 hard cover edition of the novel.)


message 40: by Silver (new)

Silver Everyman wrote: "Silver wrote: "I do agree that the ending can be seen as being happy, in a non-traditional way, because in spite of what is about to happen to Tess, Tess herself has made peace with it. Tess hersel..."

Hardy is attempting to challenge those conventional ideals, while Christianity still plays an important role if it was accepted that Tess was going to hell, that would be contrary to Hardy's "pure woman" idea which is central to the story.

Even if the idea of purity is not linked explicitly to ideas of morality, Tess going to hell would confirm the conventional ideas which is just the opposite of what Hardy sought to achieve with the novel.

If Tess believed by the end that she was going to hell, than she would not have felt the same since of peace and acceptance of her fate. By the end of the novel Tess was truly happy even while she waited for death.

As a conventional and sincere Christian woman, that simply would not have been possible if she was destined for hell.


message 41: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Everyman wrote: "One of the values it was challenging was the class structure...'

Yes, and I think a line in the final paragraph, following the hanging, is meant to sum this up: '"Justice" was done, and the President of the Immortals' in Aeschylean phrase, had ended his sport with Tess. And the d'Urbeville knights and dames slept on in their tombs unknowing.'


message 42: by Patricia (new)

Patricia | 57 comments Paula wrote: "To discuss the seventh phase of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, chapters 53-59, and the whole book in general.

**Spoiler Alert!**"


Stonehenge is the most recognized place of sacrifice in England. In Polanski's film, I think Tess lies down on the sacrificial stone.


message 43: by MadgeUK (last edited Apr 15, 2010 04:01AM) (new)

MadgeUK There is no proof that Stonehenge was a place of sacrifice although there are myths to that effect and there is a so-called 'slaughter-stone' but outside of the horseshoe (see aerial view):

A good aerial view of Stonehenge, possibly showing the 'altar' upon which Tess lay in the films:-

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/his...

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/st...

The Druids were associated with blood sacrifice but Stonehenge was there long before the Druids.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLfiP6...

Some think that Stonehenge was an ancient astronomical observatory:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJo59i...

Hardy writes (end Chap LVIII):-

'But Tess, really tired by this time, flung herself upon an oblong slab that lay close at hand, and was sheltered from the wind by a pillar'

Angel said: 'Sleepy are you dear? I think you are lying on an altar...'

Later: 'The eastwards pillars and their architraves stood up blackly against the light, and the great flame shaped Sun-stone beyond them' and the Stone of Sacrifice [where Tess lay?:] midway.' As the constables came for her Tess still lay asleep on the 'altar, "Soon the light was strong, and a ray shone upon her unconscious form, peering under her eyelids and waking her....."Have they come for me".....She stood up "I am ready" she said quietly.' This is the BBC version:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5JGGu...

Here is Polanski. I think the blood red of Tess' costume is much better but the BBC scene is more moving:-

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


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