Tess of the d’Urbervilles is a Victorian novel. It is also a tragedy.


The novel has an anonymous omniscient narrator.

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.


The tone of Tess of the d’Urbervilles is both realistic and pessimistic.


The novel is told in the past tense.

Setting (Time & Place)

Tess of the d’Urbervilles, which was first published in 1891, is set in the 1880s and 1890s. The setting is Wessex, the southwest of England.


Tess Durbeyfield is the protagonist of the novel.

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.


Tess’s new husband discovers her earlier seduction by Alec and decides to leave her, going off to Brazil and not answering her letters, which brings 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.


Examples of foreshadowing in the novel include Tess’s killing of the pheasants foreshadowing her own death by hanging and Alec’s assertion that he will “master” Tess again foreshadowing his reemergence in her life.