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Tess

Themes
Men Dominating Women One of the recurrent themes of the novel is the way in which men can dominate women, exerting a power over them linked primarily to their maleness. Sometimes this command is purposeful, in the mans full knowledge of his exploitation, as when Alec acknowledges how bad he is for seducing Tess for his own momentary pleasure. Alecs act of abuse, the most life altering event that Tess experiences in the novel, is clearly the most serious instance of male domination over a female. !ut there are other, less blatant examples of womens passivity toward dominant men. "hen, after Angel reveals that he prefers Tess, Tesss friend #etty attempts suicide and her friend $arian becomes an alcoholic, which makes their earlier schoolgirl type crushes on Angel seem disturbing. This devotion is not merely fanciful love, but unhealthy obsession. These girls appear utterly dominated by a desire for a man who, we are told explicitly, does not even reali%e that they are interested in him. This sort of unconscious male domination of women is perhaps even more unsettling than Alecs outward and self conscious cruelty. &ven Angels love for Tess, as pure and gentle as it seems, dominates her in an unhealthy way. Angel substitutes an ideali%ed picture of Tesss country purity for the real life woman that he continually refuses to get to know. "hen Angel calls Tess names like '(aughter of )ature* and 'Artemis,* we feel that he may be denying her true self in favor of a mental image that he prefers. Thus, her identity and experiences are suppressed, albeit unknowingly. This pattern of male domination is finally reversed with Tesss murder of Alec, in which, for the first time in the novel, a woman takes active steps against a man. Of course, this act only leads to even greater suppression of a woman by men, when the crowd of male police officers arrest Tess at Stonehenge. )evertheless, for +ust a moment, the accepted pattern of submissive women bowing to dominant men is interrupted, and Tesss act seems heroic.

Love ,ove is a prominent theme in Tess of the (-rbervilles, whether it is a persistent suitor, unre.uited love, pitied love, or family love. There is also, at a few times, the theme of pure love which one can see from Angels thoughts when he goes to tell his parents about Tess. "hat is odd about the .uotation is that he completely turns his back on Tess when he finds out about her past. '/t was for herself that he loved Tess0 her soul, her heart, her substance 1 not for her skill in the dairy, her aptness as his scholar and certainly not for her simple, formal faith professions.* 23ardy, phase the fourth, 4567 8rom this passage we see that Angel loves Tess for her innocence and then can understand why he turns his back on her when she tells him about her past. ,ove comes in many different forms in this novel0 friends love, family love and intimate love. /n the end, it is the intimate love that prevails and is shown in this passage.

Man/Woman vs Natural world 3ardy9s very interested in the relationship of women to nature, in particular. /n Tess of the D'Urbervilles, women are more in touch with the earth than men are, and are able to melt into the landscape and become one with the land in a way that men cannot. !eing able to stay in touch with the natural rhythms of the earth is obviously something that 3ardy values in this novel. :art of the tragedy of this novel is that Angel ideali%es Tess, and thinks of her as a kind of ;every woman,; instead of as a uni.ue, individual woman. /n his mind, she represents some kind of eternal, universal 8emininity. /n the world of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, women have a uni.ue relationship to nature, and to the land, that men cannot share. "omen are more in touch with the outdoors, and men are more in tune with modernity and industriali%ation. Changing Ideas of Social Class in Victorian England Tess of the d-rbervilles presents complex pictures of both the importance of social class in nineteenth century &ngland and the difficulty of defining class in any simple way. <ertainly the (urbeyfields are a powerful emblem of the way in which class is no longer evaluated in =ictorian times as it would have been in the $iddle Ages>that is, by blood alone, with no attention paid to fortune or worldly success. /ndubitably the (urbeyfields have purity of blood, yet for the parson and nearly everyone else in the novel, this fact amounts to nothing more than a piece of genealogical trivia. /n the =ictorian context, cash matters more than lineage, which explains how Simon Stokes, Alecs father, was smoothly able to use his large fortune to purchase a lustrous family name and transform his clan into the Stoke d-rbervilles. The d-rbervilles pass for what the (urbeyfields truly are>authentic nobility >simply because definitions of class have changed. The issue of class confusion even affects the <lare clan, whose most promising son, Angel, is intent on becoming a farmer and marrying a milkmaid, thus bypassing the traditional privileges of a <ambridge education and a parsonage. 3is willingness to work side by side with the farm laborers helps endear him to Tess, and their ac.uaintance would not have been possible if he were a more traditional and elitist aristocrat. Thus, the three main characters in the Angel Tess Alec triangle are all strongly marked by confusion regarding their respective social classes, an issue that is one of the main concerns of the novel.

Variant Names The transformation of the d-rbervilles into the (urbeyfields is one example of the common phenomenon of renaming, or variant naming, in the novel. )ames matter in this novel. Tess knows and accepts that she is a lowly (urbeyfield, but part of her still believes, as her parents also believe, that her aristocratic original name should be restored. ?ohn (urbeyfield goes a step further than Tess, and actually renames himself Sir ?ohn, as his tombstone epitaph shows. Another character who renames himself is Simon Stokes, Alecs father, who purchased a family tree and made himself Simon Stoke d-rberville. The .uestion raised by all these cases of name changing, whether successful or merely imagined, is the extent to which an altered name brings with it an altered identity. Alec acts notoriously ungentlemanly throughout the novel, but by the end, when he appears at the d-rberville family vault, his lordly and commanding bearing make him seem almost deserving of the name his father has bought, like a spoiled medieval nobleman. 3ardys interest in name changes makes reality

itself seem changeable according to whims of human perspective. The village of !lakemore, as we are reminded twice in <hapters / and //, is also known as !lackmoor, and indeed 3ardy famously renames the southern &nglish countryside as '"essex.* 3e imposes a fictional map on a real place, with names altered correspondingly. #eality may not be as solid as the names people confer upon it. irds /mages of birds recur throughout the novel, evoking or contradicting their traditional spiritual association with a higher realm of transcendence. !oth the <hristian dove of peace and the #omantic songbirds of @eats and Shelley, which symboli%e sublime heights, lead us to expect that birds will have positive meaning in this novel. Tess occasionally hears birdcalls on her fre.uent hikes across the countryside0 their free expressiveness stands in stark contrast to Tesss silent and constrained existence as a wronged and disgraced girl. "hen Tess goes to work for $rs. d-rberville, she is surprised to find that the old womans pet finches are fre.uently released to fly free throughout the room. These birds offer images of hope and liberation. Aet there is irony attached to birds as well, making us doubt whether these images of hope and freedom are illusory. $rs. d-rbervilles birds leave little white spots on the upholstery, which presumably some servant>perhaps Tess herself>will have to clean. /t may be that freedom for one creature entails hardship for another, +ust as Alecs free en+oyment of Tesss body leads her to a lifetime of suffering. /n the end, when Tess encounters the pheasants maimed by hunters and lying in agony, birds no longer seem free, but rather oppressed and submissive. These pheasants are no #omantic songbirds hovering far above the &arth>they are victims of earthly violence, condemned to suffer down below and never fly again.

Time and s!ace


Tess of the (9-rbervilles takes place in the late 4Bth century 2a.k.a., the =ictorian period, or during the reign of Cueen =ictorian, 456D 4BE47, in an area of &ngland to the southwest of ,ondon. Almost all of 3ardy9s novels take place in this same general area. The towns he mentions in Tess might appear in other novels, but they9re all fictionali%ed versions of that real region of &ngland. 3ardy called his fictionali%ed version of this area ;"essex,; so his novels that take place there are sometimes referred to as the ;"essex novels.; Tess9s childhood home of $arlott 2also in the county of "essex7 is in the ;=ale of !lakemore or !lackmoor; 2F.47 1 3ardy repeatedly refers to it by both versions of its name. "hy might that beG /t9s a fictional valley, anyway 1 why does he make up two versions of its name, and continually remind us that there are two accepted pronunciationsG "ell, ;!lakemore; is the older version of ;!lackmoor; 2;!lake; is $iddle &nglish for ;!lack,; and ;$ore; is the old spelling of ;$oor;7. /t could be like the ;(9-rberville;H ;(urbeyfield; connection. $aybe 3ardy wants to remind us how much history there is in this place 1 it was a beautiful valley long before the =ictorian period or Tess9s time. So giving us the two names for the valley could +ust be a subtle way of reminding us that the valley, like individual families, has its own history and its own origins.

Characteristics of Victorian Literature


The literature of the Victorian age (1837 1901, named for the reign of Queen Victoria) entered in a new period after the romantic re i al! The literature of thi" era e#pre""ed the fu"ion of pure romance to gro"" reali"m! Though, the Victorian $ge produced great poet", the age i" al"o remar%a&le for the e#cellence of it" pro"e! The di"co erie" of "cience ha e particular effect" upon the literature of the age! 'f (ou "tud( all the great writer" of thi" period, (ou will mar% four general characteri"tic") 1! *iterature of thi" age tend" to come clo"er to dail( life which reflect" it" practical pro&lem" and intere"t"! 't &ecome" a powerful in"trument for human progre""! +ociall( , economicall(, 'ndu"triali"m wa" on the ri"e and ariou" reform mo ement" li%e emancipation, child la&or, women-" right", and e olutioni"! one in which social reform tended to contribute more to the incorporation of the merchant
class into the governance of the country than to the improvement of the quality of life of the working class Many groups in society were confused by this change, notably those ones which did not benefit ostensibly from the rewards of the new economy, those who were not what Gaskell called the "masters" of the merchant class. Those among the less inclined t o deal easily with the transition included the working class, who suffered immensely in the factories, and the old aristocratic ruling class. There was, at least in this context, a source of rapport between the old ruling class and the working class, much of the latter group being one generation descended from the farm labor stock of before 1800. This common area became factor in the relationships that would evolve between the old guard and their servants, as both struggled to define their roles while resisting the undermining impulse to cling to each other as familiar comforts of a yearned for era of safety and comprehension of the environment.

.! /oral 0urpo"e) The Victorian literature "eem" to de iate from 1art for art2" "a%e1 and a""ert" it" moral purpo"e! Tenn("on, 3rowning, 4arl(le, 5u"%in 6 all were the teacher" of 7ngland with the faith in their moral me""age to in"truct the world! 3! 'deali"m) 't i" often con"idered a" an age of dou&t and pe""imi"m! The influence of "cience i" felt here! The whole age "eem" to &e caught in the conception of man in relation to the uni er"e with the idea of e olution! 8! Though, the age i" characteri9ed a" practical and materiali"tic, mo"t of the writer" e#alt a purel( ideal life! 't i" an ideali"tic age where the great ideal" li%e truth, :u"tice, lo e, &rotherhood are empha"i9ed &( poet", e""a(i"t" and no eli"t" of the age!