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Discuss "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" as a Tragedy

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Discuss "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" as a Tragedy Although there is a tendency in 20th century writers, and literary critics, to approach tragedy as a high and daunting ideal, to attempt a tragedy in the 19th century was a frequent undertaking, and it is not surprising that, given Hardy's brooding and unflinching intellect, the genre has a powerful presence in his stories. If his success is finest and most subtle n tragedy, he had attempted and succeeded before, and his experiments continued after "Tess of the d'Urbervilles". Hardy came to the writing of "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" with a full head of steam after deciding about six years earlier that Wessex was his subject and tragedy his genre, and in the midst of a reading and thinking program that made him aware of the latest developments in late-Victorian intellectual cogitation. Some of the events associated with the cogitations of that age are social and monetary exploitation of down-and-out peasantry by "nouveau riche gentry", terrorism by arrogance, intellectual adventures without a clear sense of purpose or of social obligation; larger social, industrial and agricultural movements that proceed without concern for those persons most materially and physically viscerally affected (threshers, Swede diggers); the vacuity and haplessness of social agencies such as the Church presumably set up to help those in need, but which instead work doctrinally and careeristically, and neo-complexity of all, relativism and subjectivity. ...read more.


The author himself - Hardy - seems to be interested in the historical perspective of "Tess of the d'Urbervilles". Tess is a daughter of the once influential D'Urbervilles. Violence was a part of the life of the D'Urbervilles and when they were extremely powerful they used to abuse young women. But history repeats itself, and there is also a bitter irony of it. Today, Tess, the descendent of the ancient D'Urbervilles is abused by others. History is repeating itself but only the role has been reversed. How eloquent the irony of history is! In chapter - 59, it is mentioned that ".......the d'Urbervilles knights and dames slept on in their tombs unknowing." This famous statement, added in revision, underscores the centrality to the novel of the ancient D'Urbervilles. Hardy has a serious use for the ancient family - a reminder both of time and of cyclic occurrence - but also f the irrelevance of the D'Urbervilles in the modern world. The individual and intellectual aspects interpenetrate and overlap with each other. Tess's tragedy has both its individual and intellectual aspects. The foundation of Hardy's idea of tragedy of the individual pervades the novel. Although now Tess is simply a maiden and perhaps his D'Urberville background is also of little importance. ...read more.


But Angel cannot realize it. He cannot discover the depth of Tess' love, nor its honesty. So he also suffers. She kills Alec because he was an obstacle - a man between Angel and herself - in the way to achieving her identity. This killing is a heroic deed, no doubt, if we consider the reason behind it. Tess assumes a heroic grandeur when she utters in Chapter - 58, "What must come will come". Upon awakening at Stonehenge to find police there, she echoes Aeschylus in saying, "It is as it should be" (Chapter - 59) and also in her last words in the novel, "I am ready." (Chapter - 59) Towards the end Hardy provides a context for Tess's climactic suffering and tragedy obviously, directly associating his rural, quotidian sufferer with the mythological Ixion being punished in "hell" by being tied to a revolving wheel. (It is interesting that the Ixonean wheel is one of Schopenhauer's favorite classical images.) Society has contributed much to Tess's tragedy. It is always hostile to "aristocrats" of Tess's like. Hardy, Tess's creator, and perhaps only a few sensitive readers will realize the degree of cruelty and harshness committed against Tess, who is held with high esteem in their hearts, "Poor wounded name! My bosom as a bed shall lodge thee." [W. Shakespeare: The Two Gentlemen of Verona] ...read more.

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