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Compare and contrast the characters of Alec DUrberville and Angel Clare in Tess of the DUrbervilles (Phase the First Phase the Third)

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Introduction

Compare and contrast the characters of Alec D'Urberville and Angel Clare in Tess of the D'Urbervilles (Phase the First - Phase the Third) Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Hardy's iconic novel, centres around the eponymous tragic heroine, Tess. Yet the tragedies that befall her in the course of the novel would not have occurred without the two leading male characters whom Tess encounters. The first is Tess's 'cousin', Alec D'Urberville, whom she first meets in Chapter Five when she comes "to claim kin". Alec becomes infatuated with the sixteen-year-old Tess but after he is rebuffed several times, rapes her and leaves her pregnant with his child. The second of these characters is Angel Clare, a young man Tess is introduced to at Talbothays dairy farm where she works as a dairymaid at the age of twenty. Angel and Tess fall in love, but their romance is blighted by the shadow of Tess's past. On first reading, Angel and Alec may seem to be very different, but further analysis may prove that these men are more similar than previously seen. Alexander D'Urberville is written to be the complete antithesis of Angel Clare. Alec is rich, powerful and lazy, everything that Angel despises about the "old families". ...read more.

Middle

Angel's description is linked more to his personality and behaviour, and this vagueness of description also emphasises how Angel is "nebulous, preoccupied, vague...had no very definite aim or concern about his material future". In contrast to the plosives used when describing Alec, a lot of sibilance is used in the paragraph describing Angel ("past...distinct...as...appreciative voice...fixed, abstracted eyes...somewhat too small" and so on) which not only adds to the vague haziness surrounded his future prospects, or emphasises our and Tess's knowledge of him as a memory only, but hints at a gentle, placid, soft nature in keeping with his namesake. However, there are signs that perhaps Angel's nature is not as consistent as it seems: the juxtaposition of "fixed" and "abstracted" as well as the description of his mouth as both "delicate" and "firm" suggest contradiction, if not hypocrisy, in his nature. The masculinity of both characters comes under question: while Alec's apparent masculinity is undermined by his constant attention to aesthetics and his aversion to any form of manual work, Angel's is enhanced by his apparent firmness, a trait valued in Victorian husbands and fathers at the time. The attitude to country folk and manual work is something that divides the two men significantly. ...read more.

Conclusion

for the fourth quarter". Both men use Tess's predicament to be alone with her, but the key difference is that Alec goes ahead and forces himself upon the fragile and terrified Tess, while Angel remembers that "he was somewhat unfairly taking advantage of an accidental position; and he went no further with it." Angel treats Tess with reverence and respect, while Alec believes he has a right to Tess's maidenhood. Throughout the first part of the book, it is clear to see that Hardy makes very obvious differentiations between Alec and Angel. Both represent strong influences on Tess, even after they leave her life, but Alec corrupts and ruins her while Angel later on even takes the place of a deity in her eyes. However, both men are only human, and throughout the rest of the novel, Hardy goes on to show that despite their differences, both characters have an equally destructive impact on Tess's life. Both offer to protect and love her, but in the end, both abandon her, believing themselves superior in intellect and character. It could be argued, therefore, that Hardy's overall aim is not to show how dissimilar Angel and Alec are, but to show how neither of them truly cares for Tess when she needs them to, leading to her downfall. Chiara Giovanni 12Y ...read more.

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