Blaming External Pressure for the Tragic Decline of Tess in Tess of the D'Urbervilles
From the beginning of the novel 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles' by Thomas Hardy, it is clear that the main character, Tess, is not going to have an easy life. She is
deliberately targeted by cruel "Immortals" as their sadistic
plaything. This is symbolized during the club dance, where Tess is
"one of the white company" but is the only one to have a bright "red
ribbon" in her hair. The mark of blood is on her from the start.
Whilst Tess is going to market she accidentally kills the family's
horse. Her own guilt for this accidental death is the first stage in a
long series of incidents leading to Tess's tragic death at the end of
Social and environmental pressures rank high on the list of causes of
Tess's tragedy. In the late 19th century there were many changes
taking place in rural England. The advances achieved as a result of
the Industrial Revolution meant that even in the countryside farming
was becoming mechanized and there were fewer manual labour jobs for
the simple peasant people to do. This meant many people had to leave
their town where they had spent most of their lives to go and find
work. So, for example, the Durbeyfields' departing from Marlott after
the death of "Sir John", was only part of a greater rural upheaval.
Tess's search for work to make up for the loss of her family's horse
led her to the sinister and blatantly predatory Alec d'Urberville who
she initially thought was a relative. The sexual double standards
typical of late Victorian society were also clear at this point.
Females who sinned paid a much higher social price for their mistakes.
But Tess did not want to sin - she was pressurised into it by the evil
d'Urberville and also by her own mother. Joan Durbeyfield, Tess's
mother, deliberately dressed her up to emphasise her womanly features
and therefore make her sexually attractive to Alec. Tess at this stage
was "a mere of vessel of emotion untinctured by experience" and she
did not know how evil men could sometimes be. She was almost like an
attractive piece of bait, used to lure a wealthy young to marry into
the Durbeyfield Family and restore them to their previous aristocratic
status. Joan Durbeyfield did not care about her daughter's morals -
she felt that if d'Urberville "didn't marry her afore, he would
Tess is seduced by Alec and taken advantage of, and as a result she is
seen as a social outcast. At the time of her seduction or rape, Tess
had been rescued from the aggressive Car D'arch and was emotionally
and physically tired after the persistent chase by Alec. The sad
result that she became pregnant as a consequence of this sexual
liaison with d'Urberville is a further suggestion that her cruel fate
is all planned in advance by merciless gods.
The institutionalised Christianity during the reign of Queen Victoria,
meant that Tess was seen as an outcast....