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Archived Group Reads 2012 > Tess, Phase the 7th; Ch 53-59

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message 1: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Fulfilment


message 2: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Well, I was certainly not expecting that kind of ending! I was only expecting one death, not two.


message 3: by Becky (new)

Becky | 170 comments I am simply overpowered by this work.

At the end of this book I have to ask myself, Alec vs. Angel?

Alec- I don’t blame him for his sudden dash into piety. I think that’s a normal response to loss. I don’t think his quitting the brotherhood necessarily speaks against him. If I could forget that he raped a young women, I would actually find him a very sympathetic character towards the end. The news of the young baby Sorrow seemed to really throw him off, the idea that his actions could have such long-lasting consequences. I think he honestly meant it when he asked Tess to marry him. There were times that he seemed he was being convincingly charitable, but then Hardy would throw in a line like “you’ll be civil yet” that make him seem more ominous. When Tess confronts Angel she says that Alec has been good to her and her family, (certainly better than Angel was). She says that she didn’t love Alec as she loved Angel, but that doesn’t imply a lack of feeling, just the lack of ardour she felt for Angel. She says that she hates Alec for lying to her, but really, how long had Angel been gone without a single word of correspondence? Was Alec lying, I’m actually inclined to believe that he really never thought Angel was coming back. Alec didn’t think much of Angel, because Alec saw the squalor that Tess was living in, he probably that Angel was a no-good bastard. It’s also interesting to note, that by the standards of Leviticus, Alec was Tess’ husband.

Angel- I think Hardy was being ironic when he named him. Angels are protectors of men, guardians, etc. Yet what does Angel do to Tess, judges her as a zealously dogmatic society would judge her, despite his own failures. Angel fell, he fell like other angels, he lost his faith in God, and then he lost his faith in Tess. It was only through Tess’s neopagan love and devotion, that Angel could be redeemed in the end. He was not that won that killed Alec, it was Tess. He abandons his wife, faithlessly asks another woman along, and in the end, is redeemed by Tess’ continual ability to forgive. In the end, Angel rejects the dogmatism of society (that he so ironically thought he was no longer a part of, purposely trying to make himself a farmer, rejecting his vocation in the clergy, etc), receives Tess as he should have done. Together they are found at Stonehenge, Angel finally willing to fight for her, and Tess having given up the fight.

An interesting note, in the Greek the 3 main characters names mean:
Alec/Alexander – protector of men
Angel- messenger of God
Tess- harvester

There is something sociopathic in Tess’ revelation that killing Alec would surely bring Angel back to her. And what do you think of Tess offering her sister’s hand in marriage to Angel?


message 4: by Kelly (new)

Kelly In the end I could not stand either man, but I wouldn't characterize either of them as wholly villianous. Or maybe I would characterize them as equally villianous. I was somewhat moved when Angel finally went back to find Tess. Definitely a case of way too little, way too late.

Alec, along with having the big rape strike against him, I also disliked him blaming Tess for his fall from his new found grace. I do appreciate that he tried to help Tess, but wonder if any of it came from selflessness.

The amazing thing is Tess killing Alec did bring Angel back to her.

I did not think anything about Tess telling Angel to marry her sister. What meaning do you think it could have?


message 5: by LauraT (last edited Mar 15, 2012 04:46AM) (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 497 comments Kelly wrote: "In the end I could not stand either man, but I wouldn't characterize either of them as wholly villianous. Or maybe I would characterize them as equally villianous. I was somewhat moved when Angel..."

I do agree: they are typical male character of their (?) times. Incredible that such an analisys was done by a male author ...
About Tess telling Angel to marry her sister, I think that a lot of her trouble were caused by her feelings toward her family, but her wanting to help them despite her weelfare. She knew that without Alec they'd loose any mean of sustain ...


message 6: by Becky (new)

Becky | 170 comments I don't know. I just kind of felt like Tess was perhaps perpetuating the cycle of handing women over, like her parents had done to her. I'm sure that it was more of a wish-fulfillment thing, she loved Angel and wanted to make sure he was taken care of. Its just that, shouldnt Liza-Lou choose that person for herself? Tess basically tried to marry her off to some man that now is ugly, drained physically by what seems to have been malaria, who has a LOT of emotional baggagge, and that may or may not have any source of income to support a family. There was no danger from Alec, because he was dead, and her family would have no claim on his money regardless.

I just haven't decided to myself if I felt that Hardy was saying "here is a nice ending, where everyone is taken care of" or "watch how the cycle continues"


message 7: by Sera (new)

Sera I finished this book last night and loved it!

I think that Tess married off her sister because she could help her to have a better life with Angel. Liza- Lu wasn't "tainted", and Tess and Angel had never consumated their relationship so things aren't so "icky" by bringing the sister into the mix. Plus, Angel has a chance to redeem himself. I think that the point of this relationship is really about Tess' ability to let go, happily, and to give the one last thing that she has to someone else more than about Liza-Lu.


message 8: by Sera (new)

Sera I was so happy that Tess killed Alec, and I really liked the way in which Hardy showed the reader what had happened with the blood dripping through the ceiling. It reminded me of a good horror movie, while realizing that the book was written in the mid-1800s!

I can't wait to read more Hardy.


message 9: by Becky (last edited Mar 16, 2012 12:40PM) (new)

Becky | 170 comments You don't think that they consummated their marriage when they were sleeping in the same bed while hiding in that deserted mansion? I just kind of assumed...

You may be right, especially since she had such conflicting ideas about the afterlife.

I loved the horror of finding Alec's body. I knew that Hardy had a reputation as being brutal, but I was surprised by the violence of it. I hadn't thought of it being a horror scene, but it does seem reminiscient of Poe or Stoker now that you point it out.


message 10: by Sera (new)

Sera Becky wrote: "You don't think that they consummated their marriage when they were sleeping in the same bed while hiding in that deserted mansion? I just kind of assumed...

You may be right, especially since s..."


You may be right, Becky. I assumed otherwise because Hardy failed to mention it, but he didn't reference that they didn't either, so I'm not sure now :)


message 11: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Sera wrote: "I was so happy that Tess killed Alec, and I really liked the way in which Hardy showed the reader what had happened with the blood dripping through the ceiling. It reminded me of a good horror mov..."

I was shocked and loved it too. I first thought that Tess had killed herself and was really upset. I am going to seek out more Hardy too, I really love his style.


message 12: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Mar 19, 2012 11:26AM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I finished as well with lots of mixed feelings. I loved the writing and the tyle of Hardy, but in the characters (even Tess) that he created, I found not a one that I totally liked.

As for Alec, he was a very difficult character to understand. His complexity made him an anamoly. Was he as bad as we are often led to believe or was he truly in love with Tess and did have her and and famiy's welfare at heart? I tended to think so and felt he was much maligned in the story. He went through cycles of poor behaviours and choices, but did seem to be seeking forgiveness on many levels. I have to say I cut him a lot of slack and felt bad when Tess murdered him.

Angel, I really disliked intensely. He never came through in any way for the woman he loved. Even at the end, he goes off with her sister and seems to land on his feet while Tess loses her life. He was a coward, a man who wanted his cake but certainly did not want anyone else to have slice. I would have liked to see him to have succumbed to his illness. He was a spineless man.

As for our heroine, I must say I was pretty fed up by her self sacrificing all the time. There was not a single time that she did a single thing for herself. How real was this character, I had to keep asking myself? She bothered me which might be exactly what Hardy wanted her to do. She was too good, too "pure", too unselfish for me to make a connection to her. Perhaps it is because I could never be her!

This was an excellent story, one that makes each reader see things in different ways and I have to think always that this is what makes for a classic tale.


message 13: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 497 comments Marialyce wrote: "As for our heroine, I must say I was pretty fed up by her self sacrificing all the time. There was not a single time that she did a single thing for herself. How real was this character, I had to keep asking myself? She bothered me which might be exactly what Hardy wanted her to do"

I was wondering the same: how could she ALWAYS give her up, for the man she loves, for her parents, for her whole family ... Too much.


message 14: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Marialyce wrote: "I finished as well with lots of mixed feelings. I loved the writing and the tyle of Hardy, but in the characters (even Tess) that he created, I found not a one that I totally liked.

As for Alec, h..."


I agree, I didn't really like anyone in the book, except maybe the other milkmaids. They were the only ones I could connect with on any level.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Kelly wrote: "Marialyce wrote: "I finished as well with lots of mixed feelings. I loved the writing and the tyle of Hardy, but in the characters (even Tess) that he created, I found not a one that I totally like..."

I forgot those ladies.....I did like them. :)


message 16: by Sera (new)

Sera I could see how Tess could get on a reader's nerves, but she really didn't bother me. Her killing of Alec also freed her from her fears so that she ultimately died happily and peacefully, which made me satisfied as a reader.


message 17: by Daga (new)

Daga | 11 comments To my great surprise I couldn't put away the book before actually finishing it. I remember my struggling through Far from tha madding crowd and I sort of expected the same situation here but ... nowhere near. In the end I simply couldn't stop reading.

I really enjoyed this book. As much as I was expecting turbulent course of actions, I must admit that I was convinced that she was not strong (if) enough to kill Alec. I was sort of expecting that it would turn out that he committed a suicide - how naive heheheehe. Though I must admit that the scene when the landlady discovers the body was most brilliant, however tragical.

When it comes to the characters, I, too, have mixed feelings about them. I didn't like Alec from the very beginning and I find it very hard to believe in decency of his feelings and actions. I cannot deny that in the end he helped Tess and her family way more than Angel, yet whether it was genuine or only a way of satisfying his needs or ego, it's hard to tell. Then, on the other hand, I was bitterly disappointed with Angel. I hoped that he would take her with him, far away and try to start a new life in a completely remote place where nobody would knew them. Nevertheless, when he came back and went to look for Tess I felt sorry for him and I kind of wanted them to be together eventually, however unimaginable it would be. But considering the circumstances I thought that he might actually remain consistent - though he experienced this change and realised that he still loved Tess - but Hardy was more cruel... to us, readers, and he let them live through those happy moments in the abandonded house, only intensifying the tension.

Tess, poor Tess. However contradictory and unreal she may seem I sympathised with her and cheered her in her actions. I believe that the rape, loss of her child, and then the struggle of revealing her secret to a man whom she loved above all, was such a traumatic experience that considering the events that would follow, she must have had some mental problems, and I mean it in non pejorative way. I am deeply convinced that she was so disturbed by her situation that she tried to compensate for it in the best possible way she could. It was an awkward and at moments ludicruos way but in the end she was a simple person, very young, with little education and even less help from her family or friends. She was on her own, tackling with situations beyond her capacity. I find it hard to believe that a reasonable person who be convinced that killing a man would help to win the heart of other. Yet she does it, and she doesn't express any remorse in killing a person. And the "last journey" of Tess and Angel was so surreal, dream-like, so beautifully epic that I almost wished it had a happy ending.

And then the biggest disappointment - Stonehenge. However metaphorical it could be, I found it somewhat disturbing. I know that the book was written in 1800s when it still might have been a curiosity.

When it comes to Tess "marrying" her sister to Angel, I didn't like this idea at all. Why would she do that? And how could this "changed" Angel agree on that? But it is clear that they would actually get married or holding hands was just a sign of sharing this tragedy, of being together in this hard moment?


message 18: by Daga (new)

Daga | 11 comments Sera wrote: "I could see how Tess could get on a reader's nerves, but she really didn't bother me. Her killing of Alec also freed her from her fears so that she ultimately died happily and peacefully..."

I agree, I thinnk it was the fact that there was no longer an obstacle to her love for Angel and knowing that he loved her gave her happiness and long awaited peace. She finally could rest.


message 19: by Janie (new)

Janie (justjanie) | 57 comments I also felt disappointed by the Stonehenge segment. I knew it was coming and kept waiting, but that's all it was. It seemed a bit over the top and perhaps in afterthought from Hardy.

This is still one of my favorite books. Hardy's style is so nice and engrossing. His cultural/societal critique is engaging as well. Even though I finished this book a few weeks ago, I still find my mind wandering to it, thinking about Tess and wondering how Hardy was so wise to observe the world the way he did. At times throughout reading, I had to remind myself that the writer was a man, because Tess was written so well and the observations were so feminine.

I did always hope that a strong male character would emerge and redeem the story, but that would have made this an entirely different (and probably not as profound) novel.


message 20: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Becky wrote: "You don't think that they consummated their marriage when they were sleeping in the same bed while hiding in that deserted mansion? I just kind of assumed..."

I admit that I assumed that, too, though now I'll have to consider the alternative.


message 21: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Daga wrote: "To my great surprise I couldn't put away the book before actually finishing it. I remember my struggling through Far from tha madding crowd and I sort of expected the same situation here but ... no..."

Marialyce wrote: "I finished as well with lots of mixed feelings. I loved the writing and the tyle of Hardy, but in the characters (even Tess) that he created, I found not a one that I totally liked.
As for Alec, h..."


But are there any people in real life that you know this well that you totally like? If find that in real life people are more complex than that, and that Hardy reflects this wonderfully in his writing. There are really, for me, no complete heroes (heroines) or villains. There are just people struggling to do the best they can with their lives in the contexts that they find themselves in and with the confusion of conflicting beliefs, views, opinions, approaches, that to me are a basic element of human life.

I agree completely with the comments about how powerful a book this is.


message 22: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Daga wrote: "And then the biggest disappointment - Stonehenge. However metaphorical it could be, I found it somewhat disturbing. I know that the book was written in 1800s when it still might have been a curiosity."

I'm curious why you consider this a disappointment. I found it, for one thing, a reflection that the emotions, response to life, challenges which Tess and Angel lived were eternal, were the same core challenges that the builders of Stonehenge had known, that at their core, humans haven't changed in these thousands of years. I really liked that touch.

(When I was in England, at a music camp, the night the camp ended I was with some English friends and after a bit of celebration in our local pub they decided to show me Stonehenge. We got there about midnight, and it was an awesome, in the ancient meaning of that term, experience to wander among those stones (we climbed the fence, which I can now admit since the statue of limitations for the offense has long passed!) on a half-cloudy, half-moonlit night with no indication anywhere of anything later than 3,000 BC. It was very easy to believe in the Druids and the ancient gods. I laid down on what may well have been the very stone Tess laid on, and looked up at the immense sky, and it was one of the most profound moments of my life.

I took that experience into my reading of the ending of Tess.


message 23: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Re Angel and Liza-Lu, as John Sutherland has commented in a brief essay on Tess, the ending is reminiscent of the ending of Paradise Lost:
"They hand in hand with wandering stes and slow
Though Eden too their solitary way."

Will Angel and Liza-Lu marry, as presumably Adam and Eve were? Hardy carefully notes that Liza-Lu is not just the image of the younger Tess, but is also Angel's sister in law. Sutherland contends that no Victorian would have missed the cue: ever since the Act of 1835, marriage with a deceased wife's sister was determined to be within the degrees of incest, and their marriage in England would be forbidden (unless they waited until 1906, when the Act was changed to allow such marriages). Would Angel enter into a sexual relationship with her outside of marriage? That seems contrary to his character, and he could be prosecuted for incest.

Sutherland suggests that their relationship will be "spiritualized": "Angel will love, but not violatle, Liza-Lu as teh disincarnate relic of Tess. Liza-Lu will remain and etheral and virginal version of her sister: the Pure Woman's purer essence."

Given that Victorian readers would have understood that Angel and Liza-Lu could not legally marry (unless they went abroad to a country where such marriage would not be illegal), what do readers think Hardy intended us to believe about their futures?


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) How interesting is that! I definitely believed they would have married since it seemed to be what Tess desired. This information certainly brings a different perspective to the ending.

Since Angel went away before, perhaps he again would embark on another destination, this time taking the woman he "loves." I guess Sutherland thinks that Angel and Tess's relationship never was physical in nature as well.

I think how you feel about the intensity of the characters is how you would determine their fate. Perhaps Angel learned a lesson, one of not letting life and more importantly love pass you by.


message 25: by Denise (last edited Apr 15, 2012 01:16PM) (new)

Denise (dulcinea3) | 401 comments Everyman wrote: "Becky wrote: "You don't think that they consummated their marriage when they were sleeping in the same bed while hiding in that deserted mansion? I just kind of assumed..."

I admit that I assumed ..."


I also assumed that. During this period, I believe that Angel and Tess finally lived together as man and wife.

As for Stonehenge, it may be another instance of Hardy bringing the primeval into the story. Although made by man, and therefore not as primeval as nature, it is certainly ancient and speaks to other, older beliefs. Both of the most climactic moments of the story take place in such settings - the primeval wood, where the rape took place, and now Stonehenge, where the primeval Tess is sacrificed to modern civilization, in the form of the law.

If Tess knew about the law preventing Angel and Liza-Lu from marrying, perhaps after all the various permutations of relationships she had experienced with both Alec and Angel had brought her to believe that formal marriage was not important, again, reverting to the primeval.


message 26: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Denise wrote: "As for Stonehenge, it may be another instance of Hardy bringing the primeval into the story. Although made by man, and therefore not as primeval as nature, it is certainly ancient and speaks to other, older beliefs. Both of the most climactic moments of the story take place in such settings - the primeval wood, where the rape took place, and now Stonehenge, where the primeval Tess is sacrificed to modern civilization, in the form of the law."

Really nice comment. We perhaps haven't commented enough during the course of the discussion about how closely Hardy ties his books to nature and the rural society, but almost everything of importance takes place in settings very close to nature and away from civilization. And when he does take Tess into civilization, as when the Durbyfields go to Kingsbere, or Alec takes Tess to Sandbourne, that's when really bad things happen.


message 27: by Sera (new)

Sera Denise wrote: "Everyman wrote: "Becky wrote: "You don't think that they consummated their marriage when they were sleeping in the same bed while hiding in that deserted mansion? I just kind of assumed..."

I ad..."


I like this insight, Denise.


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