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Tess Is Only Partly To Blame For Her Own Tragic Decline. Powerful External Pressures, Social, Environmental and Supernatural Drive Her Inexorably Towards Her Cruel Fate - Agree or disagree.

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Introduction

I definitely agree with the above comment. From the beginning of the novel 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles' by Thomas Hardy, it is clear that the main character, Tess, is not going to have an easy life. She is deliberately targeted by cruel "Immortals" as their sadistic plaything. This is symbolized during the club dance, where Tess is "one of the white company" but is the only one to have a bright "red ribbon" in her hair. The mark of blood is on her from the start. Whilst Tess is going to market she accidentally kills the family's horse. Her own guilt for this accidental death is the first stage in a long series of incidents leading to Tess's tragic death at the end of the novel. Social and environmental pressures rank high on the list of causes of Tess's tragedy. In the late 19th century there were many changes taking place in rural England. The advances achieved as a result of the Industrial Revolution meant that even in the countryside farming was becoming mechanized and there were fewer manual labour jobs for the simple peasant people to do. This meant many people had to leave their town where they had spent most of their lives to go and find work. So, for example, the Durbeyfields' departing from Marlott after the death of "Sir John", was only part of a greater rural upheaval. ...read more.

Middle

This is another clear example of how the environment plays a role in dictating Tess's course of life. In such a fruitful and picturesque Tess and Angel have no choice but to fall in love. At this point in the novel fate takes over. Tess feels she should confess all her past sins to Angel but she slips the note in whish she had written all her past history under his door and it goes beneath the carpet. At this time I think it is safe to say that Tess's decline is imminent. It almost seems as if she was born to be tortured. Anything in her life so far that could have gone wrong, has. The death of her horse, getting pregnant and now falling in love again with someone who is not as Angelic and perfect as he seems to be, proves this. It is not surprising then that she marries Angel and cannot keep the knowledge of her past inside her. Sexual double standards come into play again when Angel admits to experiencing a "48 hours dissipation with a stranger", an older woman. Is this not worse than what Tess did as she was taken advantage of and did not willingly partake in the sexual encounter with Alec? Nevertheless, Angel's social snobbery and Victorian prudery, which hadn't really been apparent before, stops him from being able to face up to the fact that everyone can make mistakes and that Tess is still the same person he fell in love with. ...read more.

Conclusion

Following the pattern of the rest of the book, Angel arrives "too late" to save Tess and in her na�ve way of looking at things the only way to secure her happiness with her husband Angel is to kill Alec. She seems to have no awareness of the sire consequences of her act. For a few days, during their doomed flight together, Angel and Tess enjoy some of the happiness that should have came earlier. But it is a doomed happiness, and Tess, with her streak of fatalism, realises it is too good to last. When they reach Stonehenge it is obvious that Tess's life of never ending pain and suffering will soon be over. Stonehenge is significant as it was a place for sacrifices in pagan times. The cruel "Immortals" have at last brought Tess to the place of sacrifice - they will soon end their sadistic "sport". I conclude that Hardy wrote this book to show that "individuals have no control over their lives, but are at the mercy of impersonal and inexorable forces", as stated in the resource notes to the Cambridge edition of the novel. From the beginning Tess's destiny was mapped out. She was born to suffer and eventually die. Tess was in the end a victim of the circumstances of late Victorian rural society, with all its cruel discrimination against erring females, but even more so of cruel supernatural forces who had marked her out as their victim from the beginning. ...read more.

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