• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

To what extent is Tess a tragic heroine? Thomas Hardy - Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

To what extent is Tess a tragic heroine? 'I have not been able to put on paper all that she is, or was, to me,' wrote Thomas Hardy of Tess. 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles' was published in 1891, amid a whirlwind of controversy, under its subtitle 'A Pure Woman'. 'Tess' was Hardy's 14th novel and deals with the life of Tess Durbeyfield, a country-born girl and the ordeals she faces throughout her life. The novel deals with such issues as family status, morality, religion, illegitimacy and, eventually, justice. Earlier in his life, Thomas Hardy witnessed the public execution of a woman found guilty of murdering her husband. This event had a huge impact on Hardy for it made him realise just how unfair his society was in matters of gender and social status. Victorian society believed that women were 'inferior' and incapable of strong emotion and passion. Through Tess, Hardy shows women as rounded, 3-dimensional characters, giving us a perfect overview of their psyche, emotions and opinions. The works of Thomas Hardy are noted for their tragic content. Throughout the course of history, tragedy has infiltrated all areas of the arts and literature. Tragic theatre was popular in ancient Greece, which is where the word itself comes from (literally meaning 'goat-song'). ...read more.

Middle

However, as this was not given consent, the act is classed as rape. The fact that Tess is a righteous and pure young lady makes her appear more of a victim. We can tell that inevitably she will be with child and so shunned from society for the intolerable act of sex out of wedlock. Alec, however, walks away 'free' and with no lasting effects to him. Tess feels that, as the oldest child, she has a great responsibility for her family. When the horse dies in an accident, Tess feels duty-bound to go to Mrs d'Urberville's home to claim kin as she believes that she is to blame. When Jack Durbeyfield is taken ill, Tess returns home to care for him and work the field. Her devotion to her family and sense of responsibility for them are admirable qualities and not ones on which we can condemn her. Hardy presents Tess as a very moral person from the very beginning of the novel, and in displaying her as a genuinely good person so tragedy is also created. If the same events were to happen to a person of a nature that would 'welcome' them the same tragic effect would not be reached. ...read more.

Conclusion

Later in the novel when Alec and Tess meet, he proposes to her. When she rejects him, he shouts 'has not a sense of what is morally right any weight with you!' This is extremely ironic, as we know that Tess is a virtuous woman and that Alec is the one with no sense of morality. Throughout the novel, certain characters are used to reflect issues in 19th century society. For example, Sorrow, Tess's illegitimate son, is used to show the attitudes of society on illegitimacy and unmarried sex. Tess believes that Sorrow's illness is the result of being an illegitimate child and, knowing that he is dying, baptises the baby herself so that he may be 'fit' to go to heaven. The name itself is symbolic, as Sorrow is the physical entity 'born out of the cause of Tess's own sorrow'. The presentation of Alec as, to put it bluntly, an arrogant and immoral rapist reflects society's attitude towards women. Tess is condemned, although she is innocent, because of her gender while the immoral Alec walks free, regardless of his crime. This novel also emphasises the ideas of marriage in the 19th century. After her confession, Tess expects Angel to divorce her but at hearing her suggestion he replies 'How can you be so simple! How can I divorce you?' echoing the 19th century ideas that divorce was an unforgivable thing. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Tess of the d'Urbervilles section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Tess of the d'Urbervilles essays

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

    She is always ready to take the responsibility of anything related to the fortune of her family - whether it be the death of their horse, Prince - or the responsibility to ensure financial sufficiency for the family. Her mother has a special liking for music and she can memorize any tune after listening to it only once.

  2. Comparative Study - Jane Eyre and Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

    The certainty of loss and suffering becomes a key theme in the novel. The first chapter of 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' sees Thomas Hardy using detailed description and dialect that creates a feeling for the reader that the narrator is telling a real story about real people; a sense of verisimilitude.

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

    We first come across Alec D'Urberville in chapter five, Tess having been forced to claim kin with his family due to the death of her family's horse and her mother's determination to "put her into the way of wealthy men" and a "grand marriage".

  2. Symbolism in Tess of the D'urbervilles

    down her back, and she ended up rolling around in a field to try and get it off. All of the other workers were laughing at Car, but as soon as Tess started to join in laughing she cried "how darest th' laugh at me, hussy" Tess apologised, but Car

  1. In many respects Tess is a victim of society, but what other factors contribute ...

    He is constantly touching her and making suggestive comments. After a while Tess starts getting used to Alec and his character. But we know that she is still not completely comfortable with it all. "...took out her hankerchieft and wiped the spot on her cheek that had been touched by his lips."

  2. Compare how Shakespeare and Hardy present the role of their tragic heroines within society ...

    Women did not have equal rights and were seen as possessions of the men. Just as a girl's parents controlled her decisions and life, once she became a woman and was married, her husband controlled her. Husbands had expectations of their wife as much as parents had of their daughter; wives were expected to behave accordingly, obeying their husbands.

  1. "Compare George Eliot's treatment of religion in Middlemarch with Thomas Hardy's in Tess of ...

    thinkers who thought that Christianity no longer had such an influence or clear understanding of life. While political and economic change swept across England in the 19th century, most people remained steadfastly dedicated to the strict codes of behaviour dictated by the Church.

  2. Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891) by Thomas Hardy.

    Hardy's novel strongly suggests that such a family history is not only meaningless but also utterly undesirable. Hardy's views on the subject were appalling to conservative and status-conscious British readers, and Tess of the d'Urbervilles was met in England with widespread controversy.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work