Analysis of Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
The depth of artistic unity found in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the
D'Urbervilles pervades every chapter of the novel. No one chapter is
less important than another because each is essential in order to tell
the tragic tale of Tess Durbeyfield. There is never an instance in
Hardy's prose that suggests frill or excess. Themes of the Industrial
Revolution in England, the status of women during Victorian England,
Christianity vs. Paganism, matters of nobility, and the role that
fatalism plays in life weave together with various symbols to create
an amazing flow to his novel.
At the beginning of chapter thirty-one, Joan Durbeyfield has just sent
a letter with her advice to Tess. She tells Tess to keep her past from
Angel a secret. Tess' mother is a practical woman who knows that Angel
will be like most men and will reject Tess once he discovers the
truth. It is important that Joan makes an appearance in this chapter
because Tess' parents' influence on their daughter is integral to the
plot of the novel from the beginning. In fact, a line can be traced
from Tess to her parents to the effect of the Industrial Revolution on
the peasantry of England.
At the beginning of the novel, Tess offers to go Casterbridge to
deliver the beehives that her father was supposed to deliver. John
Durbeyfield is unable to make this delivery because he has yet again
inebriated after having made a visit to Rolliver's Inn. Tess' father
is just one example of the many victims of the Industrial Revolution.
He and Joan are "representatives of the disaffected and drunken
villagers whose houses will soon fall to larger farms mass-producing
crops for mass consumption."The villagers of Wessex and other
similar areas in England, as a result of the Industrial Revolution,
have turned to drinking because of their economic deprivation. Because
John Durbeyfield is drunk, Tess takes it upon herself to go to
Casterbridge with their horse Prince (the transportation for making
the means of their living) who is impaled in his breast by a mail-cart
coming from the opposite direction. Now that Prince is dead Tess is
persuaded by her mother to go claim her kin from the Chase, which of
course sets everything in motion for Tess' troubles.
But to be more exact, it is the combination of Tess' obligation to her
parents and Tess' pride that are her undoing. In the letter that Joan
has just sent her daughter, she makes note of Tess' "Childish Nature."
Her "Childish Nature" being her simpleness to tell "all that's in
[her] heart," her inability to keep quiet what should be kept quiet.
Because Tess is not only 'higher' in blood than her peers, but also
more true in her purity and her morals (as Hardy implies by the full
title of the novel) it is an innate sense in her to feel pride. Tess
of the D'Urbervilles is a tragic novel and its tragic hero is Tess.
Her flaw, like Oedipus, is pride - the pride...