full title Tess of the d’Urbervilles
author Thomas Hardy
type of work Novel
genre Victorian, tragic
time and place written 1880s, England
date of first publication 1891
publisher Random House, but also published serially in different periodicals
point of view The narrator speaks in the third person, and looks deep into the characters’ minds. The narrator is objective but has an omniscient understanding of future implications of characters’ actions as they happen.
tone Realistic, pessimistic
setting (time) The 1880s and 1890s
setting (place) Wessex, the southwest of England
protagonist Tess Durbeyfield
major conflict Tess is seduced, impregnated, and abandoned by the son of her upper-class patroness, making her unacceptable to her true love Angel later in life.
rising action Tess’s family’s discovery that they are ancient English aristocracy, giving them all fantasies of a higher station in life; Tess’s accidental killing of the family horse, which drives her to seek help from the d’Urbervilles, where she is seduced and dishonored.
climax Tess’s new husband discovers her earlier seduction by Alec and decides to leave her, going off to Brazil and not answering her letters, and bringing Tess to despair.
falling action Tess’s last-ditch decision to marry Alec, who claims to love her; Angel’s return from Brazil to discover Tess marriage to her former seducer, and his meeting with Tess; Tess’s murder of Alec and short-lived escape with Angel before being apprehended and executed
themes The injustice of existence; changing ideas of social class in Victorian England; men dominating women
motifs Birds; the Book of Genesis; variant names
symbols Prince; the d’Urberville family vault; Brazil
foreshadowing Tess’s killing of the pheasants foreshadows her own death by hanging; Alec’s assertion that he will “master” Tess again foreshadows his reemergence in her life