Tess of the d’Urbervilles

Thomas Hardy
Summary

Chapters XXXII–XXXIV

Summary Chapters XXXII–XXXIV

Indeed, Angel’s decision to seek work at Talbothays is one of the most improbable circumstances in the novel. Although we see Angel as a progressive, new-thinking young man, his decision to give up a university education and an esteemed position in the clergy seems almost too idealistic to be true. While we see Tess as the responsible, patient, and persistent character that she is, Angel may appear rather spoiled—the youngest son in a privileged family who is not satisfied with his status quo and seeks adventure in murkier waters. In a sense, Angel is much more childish and naïve than the extremely responsible Tess. Angel may be angelic not in his morality, but in the sense that he is cherubic and childlike, indicating his need to grow and develop a truer love for Tess.

Talbothays Dairy is a kind of classless haven untroubled by social difference. Even Angel, the closest thing Talbothays has to an aristocrat, fits in quite seamlessly. Nevertheless, the themes of social prejudice and noble heritage continue to arise. Angel’s mother, who exhibits snobbery throughout the novel, wants Angel to marry a suitable girl—meaning highborn. Angel is pleased to discover Tess’s noble background in this section because he knows it will placate his mother, who will conclude that Tess must be worthwhile if she has such a remarkable pedigree. This situation can be interpreted in various ways. On the one hand, it is superficial and reprehensible of Mrs. Clare to place such a high stock in social class. On the other, Tess is nobly born, and she does possess all the stereotypical characteristics that are supposed to distinguish nobility, such as beauty, courage, and integrity.