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Archived Group Reads 2012 > Tess, Phase the 1st; Ch 1-11

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message 1: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments The Maiden


message 2: by SarahC (last edited Mar 03, 2012 07:43AM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments A fascinating beginning. I am into chapter 6, but am really impressed by the "prefigurative" events, to use Hardy's own words. Angel's slight of Tess at the dancing, the horse's death in a pool of blood, the thorn of the rose pricking her chin.

What do you think Hardy is actually saying of ancient custom, such as the May Dance, as he says now "in the guise of.. "club walking." The club walking was connected with the parish women's club, but what they were actually doing was a continuation of ancient Roman tradition, a "votive of sisterhood." Hardy said the local women hardly named it in its true form anymore, possibly due to the "sarcastic attitude on the part of the male relatives."


message 3: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments And wow, again I am only in Ch. 6, but the Derbeyfield/d'Urberville part of the story is so full of the symbolic. Will the Derbeyfields or the Stokes ever achieve what the d'Ubervilles represent, with both so far removed from them?

Tess is wise to this to some extent though, when approaching the house, with its newness and lack of ancient comfort or strength. The elder Mr. Stoke had earned his money, but everything else he had "annexed." He had borrowed the d'Urberville name and it seems he had attempted to borrow some ancient feel by building his house beside the Chase. Tess sees the Chase's "sylvan antiquity" (by definition a spiritual wood even) but it is beside and not a part of the Stoke-d'Uberville estate as she sees when she approaches.

And neither with true claim to ancient family name, but Alec d'Urberville takes the upper hand and tells Tess not to claim to the name -- for her lot is Derbeyfield only.


message 4: by Nina (new)

Nina (ninarg) | 106 comments I surprised myself and started reading Tess, though it wasn't on my radar at all and Wives and Daughters is very high on my to-read list. But I found a copy of Tess two days ago and read the first chapter. Then the second, and then I was hooked. I agree that it has a fascinating beginning, Sarah.

Anyway, a few thoughts. I like Tess a lot. She is a nice mixture of innocence, independence and obedience, and I think she is cleverer than her parents. Their focus on their ancient roots doesn't bode well, I think. Do Mr and Mrs Durbeyfield think that money will automatically fall from the sky just because they have ancient roots? I also found it interesting that while the Durbeyfields are proud of being D'urbervilles because it is such an old family, the Stokes just annexed the name because it had a nice ring to it.

I don't like Alec at all and I expect bad things from him. His behaviour, the thorn of the rose pricking Tess and the comment from Hardy in Ch. 5 about him potentially being "the "tragic mischief" of her drama - one who stood fair to be the blood-red ray in the spectrum of her young life" make Alec seem like a man you would rather lose than win.


message 5: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Both present families are probably seeing the opportunity in making a link with the ancient name. Tess's family does hope there will still be some money sitting around with someone than can be kindly disposed upon them - to help them over the rough patch of their horse-lessness (so sad about the poor horse, gee!) And Mr. Simon Stoke knew there was no money, but the prestige gained from resurrecting a family name no longer breathing, but still remembered in some of the great homes would make him some connections. It was good public relations (like Hyacinth does in the Britcom Keeping Up Appearances or Lady Grantham recently planned in Downton Abbey!)

Yes, I do think Tess has some inner resources. She has a lot to deal with -- a very rattling family to start with. I suspect Mr. D knew he wasn't going to deliver those bees to start with, so he just continued his drinking that night.

Have you read any Hardy previously, Nina? I have only read Far from the Madding Crowd and enjoyed it, but already Tess seems very distinct from that novel -- I can't describe really why yet, but it does to me. Good stuff.


message 6: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Nina wrote: "I like Tess a lot. She is a nice mixture of innocence, independence and obedience, and I think she is cleverer than her parents. "

She is very hard not to like, at least so far, I think, for anybody except perhaps modern feminists who might see her submissiveness as unacceptable. I agree that she is more intelligent than her parents -- or at least she had had the advantage of some schooling that they apparently hadn't had (and didn't seem to value), and she is certainly more responsible, as well as (perhaps a subset of the same thing) more guilt-ridden and understanding of the devastating effect of the loss of Prince.


message 7: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Do you remember the brief part of Tess's thoughts of school days? It seems she remembered herself walking to and from school -- remembering what she wore and all -- and thought of it with pride. Maybe even giving the impression that she thought of herself as a different person then?


message 8: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Already we see the theme of rustic vs. higher class, don't we? Tess represents the ultimate rustic girl/woman (not sure which I should consider her as); although she lives only a few hours travel from London, she has never been much of anywhere outside her vale. But already we can sense the influence of two higher class men, Angel Clare who is described as "of a superior class," and Alec D'Urberville.

Throughout the history of the world, when rustic meets more sophisticated, the rustic almost always loses, don't they?


message 9: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Literature puts a spin on the winner or loser in that case though, Everyman, doesn't it? Or maybe I would admit the rustic almost always gets sidetracked in literature at least. That is one thing that makes the class struggle plot so interesting.


message 10: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments What do you think that Hardy immediately shows us who Alec is? no bones about it? Or since I have not read the entire novel, he may develop into something else of course, but assuming he does not, why does Hardy so clearly define him in the beginning?


message 11: by Nina (new)

Nina (ninarg) | 106 comments SarahC wrote: "Have you read any Hardy previously, Nina?"

No, this is my first Hardy. I just finished the first phase and can't wait to see what happens next.

I was a bit surprised at Hardy's description of Alec. I don't yet know why he puts us on our guards so early but I bet there's a reason:)


message 12: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (elliearcher) | 85 comments Hardy doesn't really go for subtlety in his characterizations; he's almost allegorical.


message 13: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Mar 04, 2012 11:45AM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I finished the first four chapters and love that homey feeling that the characters seem to have. They seem to enjoy their life at least Mr and Mrs D do and I suspect that the drinking and partying is something the both of them enjoy. Tess seems to be the one with sense the one who is the rock support of her family, the person to rely on.

I, too, like her. I hope there will be a lot of bright happenings in her future. How funny it is to read that the family feels ennobled by a possible connection to their past! Bragging rights are in effect already!


message 14: by Denise (new)

Denise (dulcinea3) | 401 comments SarahC wrote: "What do you think that Hardy immediately shows us who Alec is? no bones about it? Or since I have not read the entire novel, he may develop into something else of course, but assuming he does not,..."

I think that Hardy believes in a sort of inevitability of fate, so there is no need to disguise it. Also, by giving the reader a hint of distrust towards Alec, Tess' innocent naivete will affect us more powerfully.


message 15: by Janie (new)

Janie (justjanie) | 57 comments Hardy had some socialist tendencies, I believe. (Can we call it that in the 1890s?) I think his characterization of both Mr. Durbeyfield and Alec are critical of wealth in general, no matter how it was obtained.

I never thought I would like all of Hardy's agricultural references and descriptions, but I really did. In the same way, I've always put down novels about the plight of the working class in fear of them being too Dickensian. I loved Hardy's use of both the agrarian culture and the working class. They enliven the setting and engage in a relevant way. (Unless the reader is rich, I guess.)


message 16: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Janie, I don't think I could agree completely that the message of either characters Mr. Durbeyfield or Alec is that of a criticism of wealth per se. Perhaps status or power, or even with Alec it could be the abuse of new money, could it not?

Ellie, I see what you mean, but we haven't even begun to know Tess yet, so she is building more subtly, to me. But maybe it is as Denise said -- Alec as Fate really.

Mrialyce, I wonder how long those "bragging rights" will stay in effect?!! What did you think when Alec dismissed Tess's thoughts of d'Urberville-ness?


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) SarahC wrote: "Janie, I don't think I could agree completely that the message of either characters Mr. Durbeyfield or Alec is that of a criticism of wealth per se. Perhaps status or power, or even with Alec it co..."

Right now I see Alec as seeing himself as something of a catch. He does not need a name to fill him with self importance. I think the term they would use today is "hot", and I think he believes the ladies should swoon over him. He is wealthy, arrogant, and sees or at least thinks Tess should fall at his feet. (I know it is early on, so most of this is just pure conjecture!) he does not need a "name" to be someone. I also think that he knows the name chosen was done so because it sounded good, nothing else so perhaps Alec is a realist and I have pegged him incorrectly. I guess time will tell.


message 18: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments This is a question about chapter 11, but it you haven't gotten that far yet it will be a major spoiler, so I'll include it as a spoiler even though it's technically not since this thread includes Chapter 11. But be warned, if you haven't read Chapter 11, this will include a plot element you might not want to know about until you get there.

(view spoiler)


message 19: by Everyman (last edited Mar 04, 2012 07:38PM) (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments This is a question about chapter 11, but it you haven't gotten that far yet it will be a major spoiler, so I'll include it as a spoiler even though it's technically not since this thread includes Chapter 11. But be warned, if you haven't read Chapter 11, this will include a plot element you might not want to know about until you get there.

(view spoiler)


message 20: by Janie (new)

Janie (justjanie) | 57 comments Everyman, to address your issue:

(view spoiler)


message 21: by Nina (new)

Nina (ninarg) | 106 comments I will also go in spoiler mode

(view spoiler)


message 22: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 497 comments Just started; I hope to arrive soon with my comments ...


message 23: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments I think it is fair for the discussions to be in regular text now that we have been into the discussion for several days now. Our general rule is that the threads are divided with the assumption that spoilers may be discussed for that section of the book. Thanks for your attention to it, that is very appreciated, especially since you were talking about an important plot point.


message 24: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments LauraT wrote: "Just started; I hope to arrive soon with my comments ..."
We're glad you are joining us.


message 25: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Mar 05, 2012 05:58AM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I think if Tess was truly asleep no matter what previous signals, ambiguous as the might have been does not mean implicit consent. What I think Tess was doing was flirting. She was responding to the little endearments, the attention being paid, as well as to the awakening of sexual feelings. I am not even sure if she really knew what Alec was doing or even understood in any way the game he was playing.

That being said, however, Tess had pushed Alec away on other occasions, so I have to think why not now? Why does she allow him his liberty with her? I think this is where Hardy's ambiguity happens. It is left to the reader to decide whether this was indeed rape or whether this was in Tess's allowance of Alec to continue, a definite form of consent? I, myself, am torn between the two, although I tend more to think it was not rape in the true sense of the word.


message 26: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments You know I think that the bigger picture is more that of abandonment. Tess's parents sent her into a completely unknown situation, where whatever she faced - temptation or actual violence -- was all up to her to deal with -- an innocent girl whether 16, 18 or what have you. If her parents had taken half the responsibility that was theirs, they would have at least taken her to Trantridge themselves -- probably some of their drinking buddies at least could have loaned them a horse to travel there to properly escort her.

More of her family's response comes in Phase 2 and we can discuss it there, (and a little more detail about that night in the Chase) but I think it is pretty clear in this section too.

So I think many people, of any age or sex, would be unprepared to face the environment she entered into upon arriving at Tantridge. It is a Gothic set up, is it not? The mother, not in the best judgement anyway perhaps, is also physically blind. Either she, the former head of household or Alec has turned the ancient cottage into a chicken house. These Stokes are not quite right, they are inadequate it seems. They seem to have as much of a run-down life (although a fine new home) as the Derbeyfields. We get the impression that they don't keep proper company, and that Alec keeps the company of farm girls.

So Tess has no proper employer, no surrogate family, no community after arriving here. So, it seems to me, that Tess had been degraded by her parents before even reaching Tantridge and this continues until the night in question. And Alex has entirely schemed in writing the letter requesting her to come. Plus he lurks about at night in the village, watching her. He had some problems.

At the moment in question, she may have submitted some, possibly, but she is in a lion's den, tired and alone. Marialyce, I agree this was probably sexual response, but remember it was 1 am, she was so tired she was falling asleep on the horse. Hardy details this pretty importantly I think. Her friends had tormented her and abandoned her on the miles walk home (like I said she had no "community.")

Without the same laws to protect and empower women in that era, we do look to our own judgement, you are right. Society would have had to do this too, and maybe Hardy was saying that society often fails to be completely fair at this.


message 27: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Did anyone have in thoughts in what I was pondering in message 2?


message 28: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Everyman wrote: "This is a question about chapter 11, but it you haven't gotten that far yet it will be a major spoiler, so I'll include it as a spoiler even though it's technically not since this thread includes C..."

Everyman I see your point, but none of these passages give permission for anything. They are not rebukes of Alec, but as women still face today -- an employer or husband upon whom the woman's livelihood depends is a tough person to go against. Alec's "sexual harrassment" (using the modern term) began the day she met him, did it not?


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Well, certainly the the thorn piercing Tess's chin was forshadowing the sexual act which we are discussing above. The horse's dying was pretty graphic and perhaps foreshadows an event in which blood will be shed. I don't think it had anything to do with the rape though.

Angel's not dancing with Tess.....well that was to me a lost opportunity, one that might have secured a type of future with Angel perhaps????

I do agree, Sarah, with the poor parenting of Tess's parents. They certainly were not thinkers were they? They seemed to live for the moment and were not forward thinkers at all. They probably did not even have a thought as to Tess's being on her own, in a strange place,totally out of her element, and of course her beginnings of sexuality. I think the phrase that fits them is " good time Charlies." or maybe "useless" is better....


message 30: by SarahC (last edited Mar 05, 2012 07:32AM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Do you remember as the parents went to bed that night or sometime during the first of her absence from Marlott, they both agreed that they shouldn't have sent her? They were people who thought of things but would not act on them. That is why I question that Hardy's writings revolved strongly around fate. In my definition, fate does not have the hand here -- defined actions by people make the impact here - mainly her parents and Alec, and maybe even his mama with the chickens in her lap. Alec was not some mystical agent of Fate, he was a bounder. (But maybe differing views on this are what keep the discussion of it alive!)

I may have a really crafted view, but would fate not be more the hand unseen working in less blatant ways?


message 31: by Janie (new)

Janie (justjanie) | 57 comments Nina wrote: "I will also go in spoiler mode

Here's my reply. :)

(view spoiler)


message 32: by Janie (new)

Janie (justjanie) | 57 comments Marialyce wrote: "Well, certainly the the thorn piercing Tess's chin was forshadowing the sexual act which we are discussing above. The horse's dying was pretty graphic and perhaps foreshadows an event in which bloo..."


My first reaction is that Tess's parents are simple and relishing in their lot in life as victims. They were the kind of people who go through life never taking advantage of opportunities to not be a victim because playing the victim role (poor, working-class, etc.) is easier. Its like they waiting on some mysterious salvation to which they are entitled instead of digging in and making the world better for themselves.

I wish I could know Hardy's thoughts on this, since I think my opinion is most likely a product of my Americanism (and also my socioeconomic and ethnic background). Was it possible for them to dig themselves out of that place in late Victorian England? Discussions of "new money" were quite relevant for the time (think even of the Stoke v. the D'Urberville family history), so I think it was possible. Still, though, I probably take for granted that its easy.


message 33: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Unless anyone objects, we can post without the spoiler html, since we set up the threads so that spoilers can be discussed within this reading section, but thank you for the concern very much.


message 34: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Janie,

I like that you referred to the "product of my Americanism." I think that brings all the elements to the table doesn't it? Like you said, along with the post-women's rights world view and everything we bring with us to our evaluation of this literature. Absolutely.

That is a good question about her family -- they may not have been able to elevate themselves to a higher position, but they also did not seem to be able to maintain even the position they were in. It isn't clear if it is truly alcoholism and simply lack of caring that made them seem to be sinking. It was said that Mr. Derbeyfield did good work, but only did it sporadically.

Do you think "the family" (Tess's family; I'm so found of them!haha) would have even taken the step to push her relationship with the Stokes if Alec hadn't written the letter? Do you think they would have even abandoned that scheme without his insistence?

Marialyce, what did you mean about the horse's being killed did not have to do with the rape?


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I thought that with the amount of blood lost from the horse that it might signify something bigger ( not that the rape was not a horrid act). I thought of the loss of life really, for someone or for many. I think the size of the animal makes me think that eventhough the rape was awful, its aftermath will only effect Tess and Alec. The death of the horse makes me think of something that will have huge consequences not only figuratively but in reality. It is this death that sets the wheels in motion for Tess to travel down the road to where she suffers the death of her innocence. To me it is much more momentous than the rape. (I sure hope I do not offend anyone by thinking this way.)


message 36: by Janie (new)

Janie (justjanie) | 57 comments Sarah, that's a good question about the family. Its really hard to say, but it does seem like they just allow things to happen to them rather than being proactive about anything (except perhaps alcohol). On the other hand, before I get to critical of Tess's parents, I'm not sure I wouldn't react the same way. When you're life is all about surviving, maybe the fellowship and community of the local watering hole is the only pleasure they had.

I want to draw parallels between Tess's family and some of the lower socioeconomic classes in my own contemporary Southern Appalachian culture, but I'm not sure I want to chase that rabbit. :)

Regardless, Tess's family system and background make me love her and sympathize with her that much more for her pure spirit, humble self-awareness, and determination.


message 37: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Marialyce wrote: "I thought that with the amount of blood lost from the horse that it might signify something bigger ( not that the rape was not a horrid act). I thought of the loss of life really, for someone or fo..."

You are saying that the death of the horse was a farther-reaching symbolism then? More encompassing maybe?


message 38: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Janie wrote: "Sarah, that's a good question about the family. Its really hard to say, but it does seem like they just allow things to happen to them rather than being proactive about anything (except perhaps alc..."

I agree the drinking establishment was a social center. There is another one in Far from the Madding -- what was it, the hopps house or something? The Derberfields seemed to be the back-room drinkers though due to the liquor license of the public house?

Yes, I guess it is about class, motivation, priorities, other aspects as well. As I mentioned earlier, I am not sure the Stoke-d'Urbervilles were much different. The chickens in the parlor were certainly a different priority.


message 39: by Anna (new)

Anna | 30 comments I've been meaning to read this for years and now I'm actually reading it I can't imagine why I didn't get on and do it sooner.

Tess is a lovely character and Hardy clearly intends for us to like her. In the same way it's clear from the beginning that Alex is cast as the bad guy so in a way we know early on what to expect in terms of their characters.

I felt very sorry for Tess when the horse was killed and thought she very unjustifiably took on the guilt. After all, if her father hadn't got so drunk the night before he would have been out with the horse himself. As it was Tess assumed the responsibility of going out with the bee hives as a result of his irresponsibility. Her mature attitude to everything exceeds that of both her parents.

Really enjoying this so far.


message 40: by Denise (new)

Denise (dulcinea3) | 401 comments LOL - when I saw that there were so many new posts on this thread, my first thought was whether Everyman had brought up his opinion on the rape vs. seduction issue! We have discussed this novel together on another forum in the past, so I aware of his views.

My own opinion is that there is no doubt in my mind that Alec raped Tess. Some here seem to be suggesting that Tess woke up and, only half-awake, gave in to him, but I don't see any indication of that, either. Alec wanted Tess, and he took her when she was asleep and most vulnerable. He had been trying to seduce her for some time, but her own innocence and naivete prevented her from being able to even understand what he was doing and respond to it, although she did have some vague idea that he was not being honorable with her. His own words shortly before they stopped in the wood show his frustration:

"I won't pardon you unless you show some confidence in me. Good God!" he burst out, "what am I, to be repulsed so by a mere chit like you? For near three mortal months have you trifled with my feelings, eluded me, and snubbed me; and I won't stand it!"

I also feel that in the context of the novel, rape makes more sense. Tess is a tragic heroine, and as such, tragic things happen to her. Rape is much more tragic than seduction.


message 41: by Denise (new)

Denise (dulcinea3) | 401 comments I see the death of the horse as being a spoke in the wheel of fate. As a result of finding out about the d'Urberville connection, her father gets drunk. As a result of his getting drunk, Tess has to take out the horse and has the accident. As a result of the death of the horse, Tess is sent to the d'Urbervilles. As a result of her being sent there, Alec rapes Tess. And on and on...


message 42: by Nina (new)

Nina (ninarg) | 106 comments Janie wrote: "Nina wrote: "I will also go in spoiler mode

Here's my reply. :)

I know that there was probably no law on the books about rape in Victorian England, but I was encouraging all of us to view the..."


But it is still possible to think that Alec took advantage of Tess without modern POV's, no? Hardy indicates enough in the text to justify that interpretation in and of itself. Statutory rape is not relevant here as it didn't exist then, even though it does today in America. Maybe it's my cultural studies that has formed me, but I think it is more relevant to dance with Hardy on his own terms, look at what his society looked like and at what he objected to in that and not include too much post-feminism etc.


message 43: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Denise wrote: "LOL - when I saw that there were so many new posts on this thread, my first thought was whether Everyman had brought up his opinion on the rape vs. seduction issue! We have discussed this novel to..."

That is funny, Denise. Everyman did bring this topic to the front! And message 42, thank you for helping me see the structure of the fate argument. I always fail to see parts of it when I am in this kind of discussion because I think I am foreign to it. That was a good description I thought.

But on your message 41 comment, your quote of Alec's also shows to me, either his controlling, manipulative, or even mentally unstable situation. We as readers don't really believe that Tess really did any of those things he said, do we? "show some confidence in me," -- did Alec have some kind of disturbing need for her to fulfill. He is calculating -- I know I mentioned above, but he WRITES the girl's parents to get her to come live there! And he does stalk her also in the village, coming out of the shadows twice.


message 44: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Maybe in my messages 27 and 29, I am reflecting some of what you are saying Nina in your #43. It is a more timeless issue, aside from modern legal statute. Especially when someone is unprepared to be put totally at the mercy of a person or situation with not even the knowledge or experience to defend him/herself.

What I was saying earlier though -- and we have discussed this before on GoodReads -- we also can't set aside what the last 100 years has allowed us in our worldview. We shouldn't judge from today's perspective, but we do have instilled in our thinking what progress has brought us -- in women's rights and protection, for example. We can't step away from it too far -- especially the lasting stuff --we are not property now, we own property, for example. That is what I meant when I said we DO bring some amount of it to the table in a modern day discussion.


message 45: by Janie (last edited Mar 05, 2012 04:58PM) (new)

Janie (justjanie) | 57 comments SarahC wrote: "Maybe in my messages 27 and 29, I am reflecting some of what you are saying Nina in your #43. It is a more timeless issue, aside from modern legal statute. Especially when someone is unprepared to..."

Yes, I think that's what I'm saying. I used statutory rape as an example because we as a society have named that wrong action. Victorian England hadn't. That doesn't make it any less right or wrong. So I'm using a word or term from my own era to describe something that existed in another.

Speaking for myself, I'm naming what Alec did to Tess as absolutely wrong regardless of when or where it took place. Maybe others won't, but I think its key to Hardy. He was a brave writer because he was giving name to issues that others didn't. With Tess, he screamed, "This is wrong!" and more importanly, "This WOMAN is just as entitled to the right to consent to or refuse sex as the man!" The truth is THAT was the issue that was so controversial here. People were disturbed that Hardy wrote Tess as equal to her parents, Alec, and (later) Angel in private matters in which the powerful still had so much control.

Its true that I'm reading with my American eyes, but works like Hardy's are what birthed some of the most profound ideas of our contemporary society. Of course we will have things in common.


message 46: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments SarahC wrote: "think many people, of any age or sex, would be unprepared to face the environment she entered into upon arriving at Tantridge. It is a Gothic set up, is it not? "

It is indeed. I have two thoughts. One, there was no sex education as such, presumably, in a Victorian young girl's schooling. Victoria's advise to her daughter is probably apocryphal but is perhaps representative of the age: "lie back and think of England."

OTOH, these were farm families who lived close to the land, who were intimately involved in the procreation of their sheep, pigs, cattle, horses. I'm sure that Tess would have seen more outright sexual activity than almost any modern woman of her age has seen (even animal husbandry today takes place largely by artificial insemination). Whether she makes the link between animal sexuality and human sexuality I have no idea. But certainly I think she must have been quite close to the basic facts of nature.


message 47: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments SarahC wrote: "Everyman I see your point, but none of these passages give permission for anything. "

As we understand sexual "permissions" today, absolutely not. (There are even colleges which require written agreement before intercourse between students may take place; no chance of such misunderstandings as Hardy offers.)

Clearly there was what we today would consider sexual harassment, especially given the employer/employee relationship, and sexual advances beyond the welcome.

But. But. Hardy was not writing in 21st Century America. Would it have been as clear-cut to his readers? Or did his readers think it was the woman's responsibility to protect her virginity at whatever cost, and consider that even if she weren't welcoming Alec with open arms, neither apparently did she try to fight him off. It wasn't that long ago in this country that it wasn't rape if the woman didn't fight the man. Would this have been the ethic that Hardy's readers would have brought to the scene?


message 48: by Nina (last edited Mar 06, 2012 03:29AM) (new)

Nina (ninarg) | 106 comments SarahC wrote: "Maybe in my messages 27 and 29, I am reflecting some of what you are saying Nina in your #43. It is a more timeless issue, aside from modern legal statute. Especially when someone is unprepared to..."

I'll answer you both here, Sarah and Janie

Yes, I agree that we can't ignore what society (whether the American, British or in my case the Danish) has instilled in us in the last 100 years, and I don't think it is wrong to bear it in mind. What I was objecting to was the statutory rape because I don't think it is fair to judge Alec by a law that didn't exist for him. Rape is rape and what Alec did was horrible, but he didn't rape a minor as the term didn't exist for him. Also, the age difference wouldn't have been a problem for the Victorians, I think. There are many examples of women marrying much older men (or vice versa) throughout Victorian literature, so that, IMHO, is a modern sensibility not shared by the Victorians. I don't disagree that we read and see to a large extent through our modern eyes, but as you said, Sarah, I think it is important not to pass judgement based on modern laws and norms. The past is another country and all that.

Janie, I agree with most of your message 45. This is my first Hardy so I can't be too sure what he was saying as of yet (though I am sure you are right!), but this is what I like about many Victorian writers. The Brontës, Gaskell, Gissing etc. questioned and objected to many things in their society and I love them for their courage to focus on that. I bet it will be just the same with Hardy for me, so I don't question his importance at all. I was only objecting to the statutory rape thing, because I found it out of place. YMMV, of course.


message 49: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Everyman wrote: "SarahC wrote: "Everyman I see your point, but none of these passages give permission for anything. "

As we understand sexual "permissions" today, absolutely not. (There are even colleges which req..."


There is a clue in the next section of the reading.


message 50: by SarahC (last edited Mar 06, 2012 04:37AM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments I don't remember if it is mentioned earlier in the book, but in a later section of the book that Tess was 17, possibly 16 at the time of the incident -- not to continue any point, just information purposes.

There is one thing I disagree with in your message 48 Nina, in discussing the significance of the age difference, you use the example of marriage of the two varied ages. Marriage is a different conversation -- a union entered into in which the man is expected from society, religion, and personal honor to protect his wife. I know the Victorian era was a different time, but even then this was the case. This is worlds apart from Alec's intentions - who likely committed an act of abuse and violence upon Tess, a much younger, vastly more innocent person. And I do think the enlightened in society saw this as an offense years before it was enacted into a law forbidding it -- sometimes it just takes that long for a social "wrong" to become a law. So using the term statutory rape would be out of place, but not the concept of that offense.

I think it is interesting even when Hardy includes the part that Tess's forefathers may have taken advantage of young maidens in the woods. He is certainly comparing Alec's actions to very archaic behavior in that statement.


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