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"In her relations with both Alec and Angel, Tess is the victim of her own conscience rather than of male cruelty and censure". Comment on this view of Hardy's portrayal of Tess and her fate in Tess Of The D'Urbervilles.

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Introduction

Tess Of The D'Urbervilles - Question 10. " In her relations with both Alec and Angel, Tess is the victim of her own conscience rather than of male cruelty and censure". Comment on this view of Hardy's portrayal of Tess and her fate in Tess Of The D'Urbervilles. This essay is written in response to the quote above. Since the statement is from the author, Thomas Hardy, I believe that it is necessary to look at his past and outlook on life in general first. By doing this I hope to understand where Hardy's controversy has originated, and then move on to form my own argument, based on my personal belief, and proceed to deliver evidence from the book. Thomas Hardy was born in 1840, and died in 1928. Hardy was encouraged to write by two female figures in his life, his mother, and then later his wife. Despite his talent in the portrayal of characters in perhaps a realistic sense, his works were found to be 'pessimistic'. The book ''Tess of the D'Urbervilles'' was first released as a serialised edition in 1891, a time when 'realism became the dominant form of the 19th century'. I think that as this was the realist era, we must ask ourselves if Hardy was indeed being pessimistic, or if he was falling victim to the fashion of realism, and speaking the truth. ...read more.

Middle

I feel that he does not stand by his statement that "Tess is a victim to her own conscience rather than of male cruelty and censure". I am quite adamant in protesting that he is undecided as I discovered another quote given by Hardy which is certainly contradictory. Hardy quotes about Tess's fate "I regarded her then as being in the hands of circumstances, not morally responsible, a mere corpse drifting with the current". This statement promotes the thinking that if she is not morally responsible, then neither should she be, or is she, victim to her own conscience. I turn now to the novel to gain support, for either side of the battle, in hope of finding key factors to obtain evidence. I believe that the whole tragedy was sparked by the anomaly of Tess's social position. Had she not had the D'Urberville blood the whole situation would not have proceeded. The social status of women of the 19th century was somewhat different to that of women nowadays. We learn that it is not proper to have sexual relationships before marriage, through the persistent encouragement of Tess's mother to keep quiet about Tess's incident with Alec. We are still uncertain as to whether Tess was seduced or if indeed it was rape. Even though it was against Tess's will, it was still frowned upon. Even more taboo of the times was having a child illegitimately. ...read more.

Conclusion

Firstly, had she not been a D'Urberville she would not have felt the need to go to Alec in the first place. It was her family's hope of finding money from a relative that pushed her into going (and her guilt of course from killing their horse and only source of income). Here Tess becomes a symbol of falling English peasantry, believing herself responsible for the fall, Secondly, she fled with Alec away from her fellow villagers on the night of her rape/seduction, even though Alec's heretic personality was made clear to her when she first met him. When Tess finally decides to flee from Alec she is faced with a man who writes religious messages, these hit her conscience and she feels guilt. We see that Tess is guilt ridden throughout Chapter 15. The lines " If before going to the D'Urbervilles' she had vigorously moved under the guidance of sundry gnomic texts and phrases known to her and the world in general, no doubt she would never have been imposed on" support this theory. Her baby Sorrow falls ill and dies. Tess feels guilty for not baptising him. She is forced to bury the baby herself as the parson refuses to bury a child out of wedlock. Tess can only blame herself for letting herself fall pregnant. Also had she married Alec and told him that she was pregnant (as he later condemns her for), there might have been a chance of the baby being buried in a church properly. ...read more.

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