In the novel there are many factors that contribute to the position Tess finds herself in at the end. Clearly her relationship with Alec d’Urberville has a major impact.
Then later her relationship with Angel Clare is also influential. Things that her parents say and do, have a big effect; also Hardy’s fate and coincidence theme. Another factor is the views of people towards women at the time the novel was written, particularly the views of society towards poor people especially poor women like Tess. One last factor is the influence of her parents and her relationships with them.
Tess Of The d’Urbervilles was published in 1891 and was written by Thomas Hardy. At that time there was a social class into which people fell. Tess was very much a working class person, whereas the two people she had relationships with, Alec and Angel, were definitely upper class. At the time of the novel, this kind of thing would rarely happen, thus making it harder for Hardy to publish the book as people did not accept these things. This demonstrates the views of society at that time and the strict social hierarchy that existed. The fact that Tess has an illegitimate child, was heavily frowned upon in Victorian society.
Most people at the time were devout Christians and women who became pregnant outside of marriage became social outcasts. In those days being a woman was harder than being a man. For example, if a man had sex outside marriage, it was generally accepted. However if a woman did the same...
thing, it was not accepted and would be a “black mark” on her. So for Tess being raped and becoming pregnant when she was not married was very hard to cope with and surely influenced some of her decisions. Tess’s first relationship with Alec d’Urberville has a huge impact on some of the decisions she makes and therefore her final position.
As soon as Alec meets Tess he is extremely forward and is immediately attracted to her. “Well, my beauty, what can I do for you? ” This is the first thing Alec says to Tess, and shows what sort of character he is. Tess does not know how to deal with his extreme forwardness, and finds the whole situation very embarrassing. “And perceiving that she stood quite confounded…
” Alec is not behaving appropriately to a young woman he has only just met. Later on Tess and Alec go for a walk around Trantridge estate, where Tess is working, and they pick some strawberries.Alec offers Tess a strawberry by trying to feed them to her. “.
.. he stood up and held it by the stem to her mouth. ” Tess’s reply to this is “No-no! ” However Alec makes her take it from his hand.
For someone she has only just met he is extremely forward and outgoing. We can tell from the book that Tess is very uncomfortable with this. “… and in a slight distress she parted her lips and took it in.
” As Tess works at Trantridge Alec becomes more and more attracted to her. He is constantl
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. ” This is what Tess does after Alec kisses her. He gets angry. “You are mighty sensitive for a cottage girl! ” Alec doesn’t understand why Tess is like this, and he does not treat her with much respect.
It is almost as though she is just an object, not a human being. This is an indication of the attitude of upper class men to poor working class women at that time. He would not treat someone of his own class this way.He is taking advantage of his position as a man.
Throughout this time whilst Tess is working at Trantridge, Alec becomes more and more attracted to her; until one day when he is driving her home, he stops at a wood and rapes her. The way Hardy describes the rape is very clever, and easy to miss. “..
. immeasurable social chasm was to divide our heroine’s personality thereafter from that previous self of hers who stepped from her mother’s door to try her fortune at Trantridge poultry-farm. ” Hardy had to describe the rape very subtly, otherwise the book would not have been published.You have to really pay attention to this part of the book to understand exactly what has happened.
After the rape Tess’s whole life changes. She feels very guilty about the rape, and is extremely conscious of this. In addition to this, the rape results in her becoming pregnant, a shocking thing to happen to any girl outside marriage at the time. She tries not to look too nice, because she is afraid another man might take advantage of her.
She mistrusts men and does not feel comfortable in their company. Tess cannot cope working at Trantridge farm, and goes home to her family.At this stage Tess feels desperately guilty and is changed. The purity and innocence of youth have been taken from her. Tess has her baby, who is born illegitimate; the baby becomes ill and dies soon afterwards. A year passes, and Tess finds a new job at Talbothay’s Dairy.
Her optimism rises and things start to look up. However Tess still has the feelings of guilt and self consciousness, that haunt her. She meets Angel at Talbothay’s Dairy, and their relationship develops. This has a massive impact on both Tess’s and Angel’s lives and without a doubt has a huge influence on the situation Tess finds herself in later in the book.
As soon as Tess arrives Angle notices her, just like Alec did. “What a fresh and virginal daughter of nature that milkmaid is! ” is Angel’s first observation of Tess. He assumes she is a virgin, as she is so young and “innocent”, thus making it harder for Angel to believe she was raped. However this is the very beginning of their relationship, the truth about Tess comes out later, when things
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