Explore the role of nature in the first three sections of the novel "Tess of the d'Urbervilles"

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Explore the role of nature in the first three opening sections of the novel “Tess of the d’Urbevilles”

In the first three opening sections of “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”, nature plays many a significant role. It acts as a storytelling device, helping the plot of the story to move and develop; it acts as a mirror for Tess’ feelings and the feelings of others; it adds atmosphere to the plot itself. Most importantly, it plays a major role in Tess’ wellbeing, but this role is often thwarted by the actions of man and the actions of man’s Church – the two are often in conflict, and these sections often explore this.

We first see Tess taking part in an activity, “clubwalking”, with many of her friends and surrounding neighbours. All the people taking part are women, and it is a very simple activity; it is only them and the surrounding nature. This suggests that they share a harmony with their surroundings, and also that it is very feminine and pure, much like Tess at the beginning of the novel. As Tess emerges from this, we associate nature with her almost immediately. Angel also appears from this setting, with his two brothers, and he seems more connected with nature than he does with their religion. His brothers seem uptight and stuffy – “dancing with a troop of country hoydens!” being an indication of this – whilst he seems more carefree and willing to interact. In this way, Tess and Angel are instantly connected for the reader, and nature appears to shelter and protect them. However, Angel chooses another girl to dance with, marring the experience and implying that there is more to the situation; perhaps they are not so perfect. It implys that where nature creates a situation, man can often disrupt it, through their actions and religion. It therefore acts as a device for dramatic irony and foreshadows further events in the book.

The death of the family horse, one of the more important contributors to Tess’ decision to work for the d’Urbervilles, is caused by both nature and man. Tess falls asleep during her coach ride, and nature fails to keep her awake. It could be argued that it was enticing her to go to sleep, and therefore was a main conspirator against her. However, a man kills her horse (“the morning mailcart…had driven into her slow and unlighted equipage”). The death of her horse is a combination of the two, and it seems as though nature is working with man to contribute to her ruin, although it may also be looked on as nature trying to protect her and, again, man disrupting it – the two forces work against each other. Tess’ family had already raised the idea of her going to work for an old family (although Tess was against this – when her younger brother questioned her on it she burst out “never mind that now!”) but this new factor makes Tess think that she is responsible and must therefore help her family in their time of need. She has no choice in the matter; nature and fate, it seems has decided it for her – “she had hoped to become a teacher at the school, but the fates seemed to decide otherwise.” It suggests that nature has carved out its own path for Tess.

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Due to the death of the horse, and at the persuasion of her family, Tess leaves for Trantridge. She plans to gain work from the D’Urbervilles that live there. As readers, we are informed that they are not real D’Urbervilles like Tess and her family; the father in the family, Simon Stoke, bought the name once he had made his money from being a merchant, in order to appear more grand to the rest of society – they are not natural D’Urbervilles, and Tess has been tricked. This is an example of man meddling with nature – nature did ...

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Spelling and grammar is generally good. Sentences are often complex and there is a range of vocabulary used. The writer makes links to other Hardy novels, such as Far From The Madding Crowd; such intertextuality meets expectations for written work at A Level and shows a degree of wider reading. There is very little technical vocabulary and no reference to form or structure. For example, the title specifies the first three sections – in a conclusion they could have considered how important the opening sections are in shaping the rest of the novel and how they project on the rest of the text.

The writer methodically and seemingly chronologically works through the first three sections, which is good as it makes the essay structurally clear, and throughout makes some discerning points and analyses them effectively. Where they quote, these quotes are fairly well analysed, such as “the descriptions of wood are dark and unforgiving, with “webs of vapour” forming “veils against the trees” ”. The writer ascribes the adjectives “dark and unforgiving” to the quotes, thereby showing a reader's response to the setting Hardy lays out. However, there are few quotes within the essay and these rarely lead on to evaluation. Quoting is vital for higher band marks as the writer must show that points aren't just plucked from thin air, but driven and supported by evidence from the text – points should be quote-driven to enhance this. An example of where analysis and evaluation could have been significantly extended is where they quote the word “assimilated”. The distinct semantic field here of machinery and capital in the context of writing about women could lead on to considerations of the role of women and feminist readings, or increased technology in farming, and thus nature, and discuss this in terms of the historical context (ie the Industrial Revolution). Alternative interpretations are essential for a higher band mark – they show the examiner that you have considered a range meanings as what you think it means. Paragraph 5 is a good example of where the writer has evaluated the dual role of nature, considering it as both an assistance and a hindrance. This does not come out in other sections of the essay, where the writer focuses too much on retelling the story. This will score few or no marks in an exam or coursework as it doesn't display any level of understanding of the text, just that the writer knows what occurs.

A sustained focus on nature, with topic questions clearly directing the reader through the essay. The writer never strays from the question at hand, which shows a clear level of understanding as to what the question was asking. The introduction explicitly shows the direction of the essay, though this is not backed up by the conclusion, of which there is none. It is vital to include a conclusion to round up, summarise and interpret points as a whole. Throughout, however, the role of nature is explored with little deviation from the set question.