Tess of the d’Urbervilles

Thomas Hardy
Summary

Chapters XLIX–LII

Summary Chapters XLIX–LII

In fact, Angel is in the process of changing as a result of his bad experiences in Brazil. He begins to alter his attitude toward Tess, slowly realizing that his way of thinking has been faulty. He undergoes an emotional and moral conversion that is much more real than Alec’s religious conversion a few chapters back. Angel is finally shedding his immaturity and growing to love Tess as a responsible adult. But the distance between Angel and Tess is still great, both physically and emotionally. Ironically, the distance may have led them closer together, as their loneliness and separation have shown Angel how much Tess means to him. Notably, Angel’s transformation comes when he is at a great distance from English society and its prevailing sentiments. Even though he remains the die-hard progressive of the Clares, the pressure of conforming to English propriety coupled with his troubled view of his marriage stifles Angel’s growth while in England.

As Alec’s courtship of Tess increases in intensity, so too does the string of misfortunes that plague Tess and her family. With her options narrowing, Tess becomes more desperate in her desire to reconcile with Angel: “Come to me!” she pleads, “Come to me and save me from what threatens me!” Throughout, Alec is portrayed as a sinister and threatening figure even when supposedly in the grip of religious conflict—at one point, the narrator notes that his face blackens “with something that was not Christianity.” Even when he appears most in love with Tess, he still seems the same old Alec, thinly disguised, hoping to seduce Tess by doing a good turn for her.

The supernatural, Gothic atmosphere of the old d’Urberville mansion reappears here at the d’Urberville Aisle in the churchyard. Here, Tess, a real d’Urberville, and Alec, an imposter, have one of their most solemn moments, as Alec asserts that he can do more for Tess than all her lofty dead ancestors. Tess begins to realize the futility of claiming such an aristocratic legacy, since her ancestors truly cannot help her at all. She begins to realize that Alec may be her only hope. In the yard, Alec’s legend of the d’Urberville Coach evokes the Gothic or supernatural yet again, providing an ill omen that foreshadows the deadly conclusion of their story.