Summary: Chapter 16

In good spirits, Tess sets out to begin work at the Talbothays Dairy, located in the Valley of the Great Dairies. On her way, the new scenery enchants her as she travels through the mists of Blackmoor. The beautiful day and the beautiful landscape put Tess in an optimistic mood. She passes the burial ground of her ancient ancestors, but decides to keep going.

Summary: Chapter 17

Tess finally arrives at the Talbothays Dairy. Richard Crick, the master dairyman, treats her kindly and offers to let her rest, but she prefers to begin work immediately. She quickly fits in and feels very much at home. One of the men at the dairy looks familiar to her, and she recognizes him as the highbrow man whom she noticed back at the May Day village dance in Marlott. That evening, Tess overhears the dairymaids talking about him and learns that he is Angel Clare, the son of a well-respected Wessex clergyman. Angel’s two brothers have also joined the church, but Angel himself prefers a life in agriculture and, thus, has come to the dairy to learn about its work. There is much talk about Angel among the other dairymaids, and many of them seem to have a crush on him.

Summary: Chapter 18

The narrator shifts away from Tess’s point of view to tell us Angel’s background story. Angel is the most gifted of the three brothers, but, because his father looked upon a university education solely as preparation for a clerical life, Angel decided not to go to Cambridge. He has doubts about the doctrines of the church and feels that it would be dishonest to join the clergy. He has spent time in London in an attempt to find a business profession and has been involved with an older woman. Finally, he decided that the life of the soil would enable him to preserve his intellectual liberty outside the stifling conditions of city life. Now twenty-six years old, he learns firsthand about farming by visiting sites devoted to the subject. He is gentlemanly and thoughtful and is treated as a superior by most of the workers at the dairy. Angel acts aloof and a bit shy at first, but he soon befriends the other workers and spends more time with them. He swiftly finds himself drawn to Tess’s beauty and thinks that she seems uncommonly virginal and pure. Tess, however, tries to stay away from him out of shame for her secret, woeful past.

Summary: Chapter 19

After a few weeks, Tess discovers that Angel is breaking the dairy’s rules by lining up her favorite cows for her. She tells him of her discovery and, later that night, walks alone in the garden, listening to him strum his harp. He comes down to join her, and they have an intimate conversation. Angel finds it compelling that a girl as young and beautiful as Tess would have such a dark view of life. She deflects his questions about her with general comments about life, and then she inquires about him. Tess is interested in Angel’s education and learning, and she also wonders why such a well-bred and well-schooled man would choose to become a farmer instead of joining his father and brothers in the clergy. He offers to tutor her, but she refuses, claiming that the answers she seeks are not to be found in books.

Analysis: Chapters 16–19

These chapters portray the beginning of the happiest period of Tess’s life. The narrator indicates that she “had never been in her recent life so happy as she was now, possibly never would be so happy again.” This turn in tone is matched by a healthier landscape, and she is perfectly suited to her surroundings. Tess’s simple, rustic beauty is matched by the country paradise of the dairy, and the ripening weather of summer matches the blossoming romance between Tess and Angel.

Tess is in control of her emotions and, it appears, of her life. The setting allows her to deal with her past melancholy, and these chapters serve as development, on a number of levels, of Tess’s newfound success: her return to normal life, her achievement as a worker, and her success as a more virtuous lover. This perspective is mirrored by the background of Talbothays, a quiet, slow-paced paradise where Tess can be calm and comfortable.

Tess’s assertion that the answers she seeks are not to be found in books indicates that she wants to learn directly from life experiences. Tess is ready to experience the world, and, of course, she has already made some mistakes as a result. Her assertion demonstrates that she wants to become knowledgeable and self-sufficient. In other words, she does not want to rely on anyone else. This independence contrasts with the way Tess’s mother used to consult the fortune-telling book for all her guidance. In the same way that Angel seeks to become independent from his family’s current legacy, Tess wants to become independent of hers.

These chapters fully introduce Angel into the novel. A great deal of narrative and an entire chapter are devoted to summarizing his recent accomplishments and family background. Given that Angel is introduced immediately after the saga between Tess and the ruthless Alec d’Urberville, the contrasts between these two men emerge vividly in these chapters. For instance, Angel has soothing, elegant conversations with Tess and gives her classical, idealistic nicknames like “Artemis” and “Demeter.” Alec, on the other hand, mocks her with demeaning words and low-society nicknames like “coz.” Through this juxtaposition, Angel appears an angel and a savior to the troubled but coping Tess.