Hardy’s art of characterisation of his heroine
in Tess Of The D’Urbervilles
could be considered as one of the major authors of the 19
Century.This was a time when issues regarding double-standards, social rigidity, and
movements for the upheaval of women’s positions in society were
quite prominent insociety as well as literature
. The tragedy of “Tess”, a beautiful young woman with the
misfortune of belonging to a poor family in the wake of a recently-discoveredaristocratic lineage, was composed in the year 1891.
Hardy’s characterisation of Tess makes her a beautiful heroine, with
various aspectsto her nature, displaying her as more than just a two-dimensional protagonist.In Har
dy’s defence, he was not just the sadist that critics claimed, but a sympathetic
author who used his authorial voice to sympathise with Tess in every way possible. It ispossible, that this sympathy showed most prominently in his selection of the title, his
treatment of the topic, as well as his narrator’s untiring support for Tess.
From a technical point of view, Hardy employed the use of Chapters, segmenting
the book into seven phases: every phase being a phase in Tess’ life that pushed her
further towards her sad end. What is interesting is the blank page left, between
“Phase the First: The Maiden” and “Phase the Second: Maiden no More”. This allows
for not only a pause in the pace of the novel, but more importantly, the blank pagebecomes a curtain of silence representing Victorian hesitation in dealing with such
topics, an art employed by the Classicist writers, and also Hardy’s sensitive treatment
of the matter.Moreover, of the several arts employed by him, his wording of the sub-title wasperhaps one of the most important features of not just the novel but his own feelingstowards Tess too.
“Tess of the D’Urbervilles”
was subtitled “A Pure woman Faithfully Presented”
has been read by different critics in different ways. Professor Dutta comments that Hardy might have simply mea
nt “pure” in a way as casual as,
“a pure coincidence”, or as
a woman of moral, physical purity: redeeming her thus from her apparent stature of a Fallen Woman. For Hardy, Tess was a womanwho had sinned in body but her mind had remained untouched by this incidence,
which might be the reason behind the word “pure”.
But as Angel portrayed Tess to his family
, she was “more sinned against than sinningherself”
. A view which he, ironically, could not endorse till much later, that is after a