Tess of the d’Urbervilles

by: Thomas Hardy

Phase the Sixth: The Convert, Chapters XLV–XLVIII

Summary Phase the Sixth: The Convert, Chapters XLV–XLVIII

Alec’s reintroduction into the novel comes at Tess’s lowest moment, but his new pitch still does not work on her. She has not seen Alec for a long time, but she has clearly thought about him and what he did to her. Tess is observant and distrusting of Alec, and she views his conversion as a plot to win her back. The converted Alec appears to her as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, intending to prey on her, or like a devil in disguise, come to tempt her a final time. Indeed, we might well view the relationship between Tess and Alec as an allegory of good struggling with the temptation offered by evil.

Alec continues to tempt Tess with money and security, the two things that would help her family the most, and in doing so he tests her ability to resist evil. His promise of financial security is attractive, but not quite attractive enough. Tess has learned her lesson about risking herself and her happiness for the sake of money. She is a much stronger woman now and is more knowledgeable about conniving men, especially Alec. This strength deters Alec and makes him feel weaker and more vulnerable because his plot is not working. Alec is successful, however, in making Tess doubt herself.

As Tess struggles with Alec’s temptation, her need for Angel becomes more and more desperate. If Angel were to return to her and do his duty as her husband, her problems would greatly diminish. She writes to Angel and pleads that he not judge her on her irretrievable past. Ironically, Alec asks Tess to do the same thing for him, claiming that he has changed, that Tess tempted him, and that he must not be judged based on his past mistakes. Tess’s situation thus makes her very vulnerable to Alec’s persuasions. She is obviously heartbroken and needs to be loved more than ever. She is also distraught by her family’s ever-worsening financial situation. Alec’s reasoning seems more valid to Tess than it has in the past. In a way, Tess and Alec are similar in that they have both fallen and ask for forgiveness for their indiscretions.