Tess of the d’Urbervilles

by: Thomas Hardy

Gender

1

Let the truth be told—women do as a rule live through such humiliations, and regain their spirits, and again look about them with an interested eye.

The narrator describes Tess’s resilience in the face of abuse and loss. Tess leaves home to go to work for the Talbothays Dairy after the death of the child conceived by Alec’s rape. This casual treatment of such traumatic experiences shows that, at the time, women had no choice but to accept what happened to them and move on. As a matter of practicality, Tess could not hide away forever, and she puts the past behind her to live in the present.

2

She was no longer the milkmaid, but a visionary essence of woman—a whole sex condensed into one typical form.

As Angel and Tess get to know each other while working at the dairy, Angel becomes infatuated with her and sees her as the epitome of womanhood. Readers learn the various qualities he admires about her, which include his perception of her innocence and modesty. Although Angel does not disrespect women as explicitly as Alec does, here readers note how easily even a decent man can reduce a woman to the sum of his expectations.

3

Her refusal, though unexpected, did not permanently daunt Clare. His experience of women was great enough for him to be aware that the negative often meant nothing more than the preface to the affirmative; and it was little enough for him not to know that in the manner of the present negative there lay a great exception to the dallyings of coyness.

The narrator observes Angel’s reaction to Tess’s declining his offer of marriage. Although she gives the reason that she has never planned to marry anyone, he sees her refusal as coy encouragement to propose again. His belief that a no represents a female stratagem sounds eerily reminiscent of Alec’s treatment of Tess, showing the disregard all men seem to have for what women truly want.