Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. Discuss the character of Tess. To what extent is she a helpless victim? When is she strong and when is she weak?
2. Discuss the role of landscape in the novel. How do descriptions of place match the development of the story? Does the passing of the seasons play any symbolic role?
3. Hardy rarely questions public morality openly in Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Nevertheless, the novel has been taken as a powerful critique of the social principles that were dominant in Tess’s time. How does Hardy achieve this effect? Why might we infer a level of social criticism beneath Tess’s story?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. What is the role of fate in Tess of the d’Urbervilles? What does Hardy mean by “fate”? To what extent does Tess’s tragedy hinge on improbable coincidence?
2. Throughout Tess’s story, a number of sources are presented as possible moral authorities and possible guides on which characters might base their moral choices. What are some of these sources? Which of them, if any, prevails?
3. Discuss the character of Alec. Is he the villain of the novel? Does he really love Tess? In what ways does he exemplify the novel’s critique of the upper class?
4. Tess’s story is full of omens, and her tragedy is largely prefigured by all the bad omens that occur throughout her story. What are some of these omens? Are they an effective device? Do they build suspense, or are they simply a kind of heavy-handed foreshadowing?
5. Social class and lineage are powerful forces for determining character in the novel. What role does Tess’s noble lineage play in the depiction of her character? With regard to noble blood, is it possible that the novel’s portrayal of Tess advances some of the very social stereotypes it otherwise criticizes?
6. Hardy’s style has been praised as rhythmic and imaginative, and also criticized as clunky and rough-edged. How is Hardy’s style best characterized? What are some of its other characteristics?
by DanMitchell23, January 01, 2013
Really like this novel, here is what I thought!
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