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Tess of the D'Urbervilles- A Pure Woman.' Who or what does Hardy blame for Tess's downfall?

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Introduction

'Tess of the D'Urbervilles- A Pure Woman.' Who or what does Hardy blame for Tess's downfall? One of Thomas Hardy's greatest works: 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' was first published in 1891, a novel set in the fictional county of Wessex, Britain. By the time of its appearance, Hardy was considered to be on of England's leading writers and had already published several well known novels including 'Far from the Madding Crowd' and 'The Woodlanders' as well as numerous other short stories. However in spite of his reputation and fame, Hardy had immense difficulty finding a publication prepared to publish Tess when he offered it for serialization to London reviewers. The subject matter and content was considered to be- in the eyes of Victorian society, unfit for publications in which young people may read. A storyline depicting a young girl seduced and raped by a man, then married and rejected by another and then eventually murders the first man was considered to be exceptionally scandalous and inappropriate. Finally in order to pacify potential publishers, Hardy took the book apart and rewrote and edited several of the scenes before any of the weekly journals would take it as a serial. When the time came to publish the novel in book form, Hardy reassembled it was it was originally written. The novel's subtitle- 'A Pure Woman' came also under a great deal of attack. Victorian critics argued that Tess could not possibly be termed of as 'pure' after a downfall such as hers and should instead be labeled as a 'Fallen' woman. Hardy's frank (at least for the time) depictions of sex, his criticism and questioning of religion and his doubt within the narrative were too denounced to such an extent that though the story did in the end bring him immense fame and fortune, its reception at the start caused Hardy to lose confidence and the novel was one of his last. ...read more.

Middle

Alec does not appear in Chapters 12-43. Nevertheless, we cannot say that he doesn't impact the story during these chapters. First, his earlier actions (specifically the rape) impact everything that follows. But his impact is not simply confined to the readers' understanding of the part he has played in Tess' current situation. Hardy brings Alec back to the story through Reverend Clare, who shares with his son (who later shares with Tess) Alec's conversion and ministry. Alec returns physically to the book in Chapter 44 as a street minister and by a twist of fate again meets Tess- married yet due to her confession, abandoned by Angel her husband and in bad straits. Alec is a "sunshine convert," renouncing his newfound faith almost as soon as he sees Tess again. Using twisted logic, Alec accuses Tess of causing him to stray from his ministry, "But you have been the means- the innocent means- of my backsliding, as they call it." He soon cannot suppress his passion for Tess, calling her a "temptress." Hardy notes that "The corpses of those old fitful passions which had lain inanimate amid the lines of his face ever since his reformation seemed to wake and come together as in a resurrection." Tess feels guilty for Alec's plight, and he uses the situation to his advantage again, making her swear to leave him alone at a place called "Cross-in-Hand," the scene not of religious conversion, but of conversion to the ways of the dark side, with Satan. Cross-in-Hand is a symbol of evil, not good, ''Tis a thing of ill-omen," Tess is warned. Alec further lures the unsuspecting Tess by talking her out of remaining true to her marriage to Angel. He will not accept her rejection of him. Alec, who has already been perceived as the social evil, literally haunts her until she agrees to live with him. Her seduction by Alec is slow and methodical, much like his seduction of her early in the novel. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is her mother also who forbids Tess to tell Angel of her past- the disastrous consequences we later see. Had Tess not taken notice of her mother's advice and had told him, Angel may well have forgiven her and loved Tess for herself. In fact it is almost certain that he would have for he himself says "O Tess! If only you had told me sooner, I would have forgiven you!" Not only does her mother use Tess for her own schemes, but afterwards when her advice and schemes fail, blames Tess as being the one at fault and is unsupportive and disappointed with her daughter. As the novel continues Tess is further burdened with the responsibility of her family when her father dies and the family is evicted from their home. In order to save her family, she is forced to take up Alec's offer and become once again his possession. Her own happiness is sacrificed for that of her family's. Another factor which Hardy definitely holds as being influential in Tess's demise is Fate. Hardy's characters are greatly influenced by the religious and social environments in which they live. Religious and mythological allusions enable Hardy to convey these aspects of his society to his readers. In the opening of the novel, the first character the readers are introduced to is Parson Tringham. No physical description is given and his dialogue is limited, creating an alluding and mysterious figure. The parson represents the religiosity of Hardy's society and communicates to the readers that this is a religious society, whilst also setting the scene for Tess's introduction to the readers and for the events to come. At the start of the second phase of the novel "maiden no more", Tess is seen burdened with a heavy basket and a large bundle. This can be regarded as the metaphysical symbol of oppression and hardship. Some time later as Tess and Angel depart from the dairy after their wedding ceremony, a cock is heard crowing. ...read more.

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