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"It is too easy to assume that Angel and Alec are moral opposites; each is in fact as bad as the other" - discuss.

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Introduction

"It is too easy to assume that Angel and Alec are moral opposites; each is in fact as bad as the other." Thomas Hardy's novel titled "Tess of the D'Urberville" was first published complete, in three volumes, in November 1891. I will be using a Wordsworth edition of the novel printed in 1993; to evaluate both Angel and Alec's character. I will then compare and contrast them, using quotes from the book to prove my points. By the end of this essay I hope to have given enough information to determine whether Alec and Angel are moral opposites or are both as bad as each other. Thomas Hardy first gives us the impression that Alec and Angel are moral opposites, but this impression changes once Angel discovers Tess's past relationship with Alec. After this event Angel becomes cold and distant towards Tess whereas, with Alec, there is a lot of attention and lust. Both men are hypocritical towards Tess; Angel admits to Tess that he has had past relationships with other women, but when Tess reveals her story of her encounters with Alec to Angel he loses his respect and infatuation for Tess: "Tess you were one person and now you are another. My god how can forgiveness meet such a grotesque - prestidigitation as that?" ...read more.

Middle

He is the main reason behind Tess wishing to have a life without men as she thinks they can do nothing but hurt her. Alec has a genuine attraction to Tess which we see when he reappears later on in the book, unlike Angel who is attracted to her innocence and purity more than herself. In the second half of the book we meet Alec for a second time, in which we see that Alec still cares for Tess still as he is willing to marry her. Angel only pretends to like Tess, even though he only likes her because he thinks she is a 'pure woman'. Because of this falseness Alec is a better man than Angel, as it was Alec's obsession with her that drove him to take advantage of her in the woods. Alec rapes Tess at the end of Phase the First. He is made angry by Tess refusing to be seduced by him and his anger drives him to attack Tess when he knows she is vulnerable and helpless. In Tess's eyes how Angel treated Tess was far worse than anything Alec could have done to her as she loved Angel and didn't think he would ever treat her badly. She thought that Angel loved her and was completely destroyed by his actions. ...read more.

Conclusion

Alec sees Tess as an innocent toy with which he can tease and play with as much as he would like; but Angel sees Tess as an perfect image of virginity, untouchable to man, in this way Angel worships this falseness about Tess. The double standards of the 1800's means that Tess is blamed for what we would now think of as Alec's wrong doing. The title of Phrase the Fifth "the woman pays" is an excellent example of this, as we know from reading this novel that Alec forced himself upon Tess and that she did nothing to provoke it; and yet she is having to pay for his cruelty and misjudgement. Angel and Alec do not have opposite personalities, but they do choose to act in different ways. Angel is kind, intellectual and treats Tess like a goddess. Alec treats Tess like an object that he can claim as his own, nor is he very kind towards her and does not show many signs of having an intellectual side to him. Alec and Angel both end up treating her unfairly. Also both Alec and Angel ruin Tess's hopes and dreams and leave her feeling vulnerable and alone. Alec and Angel both seem to care for Tess but then disregard her feelings and emotionally scar her. In these ways both characters are in fact as bad as each other. ...read more.

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