Discuss The Role Of Tragedy In Thomas Hardy's 'tess Of The D'urbervilles'.

2203 words - 9 pages

From the beginning of the novel it is clear that tragedy will taint the life of Hardy's protagonist. As Hardy equates Hamlet and Tess from the start, we learn that he sees Tess as a virtuous victim and therefore as a tragic heroine. This is no surprise as a view often assimilated with the Victorian novel genre is fatalism and Hardy was known for his fatalistic outlook on life; this becomes apparent through Tess's own fate - undelivered letters, misunderstanding, and a string of unfortunate coincidences all lead to her tragic end. Each situation is a catalyst for the next, with episodes and characters carefully woven into a complex pattern and as part of this many events are explicitly prefigured. Hardy's extensive use of foreshadowing builds tension as well as making the family's decline seem inevitable, suggesting that Tess's fate is already sealed. She is dubbed the 'plaything' of the 'immortals' and it is obvious that the mark of the blood is upon her from the start. This is symbolised at the club dance where Tess 'one of the white company' is the only one to have a 'red ribbon' in her hair. The certainty of loss and suffering become a key theme in the novel. However there are many factors that contribute to the tragic heroines downfall. Tess is only partly to blame for her own tragic decline. Powerful external pressures, such as social, biological, environmental and the supernatural, all drive her inexorably towards her cruel fate. Time and chance are also against Tess.Social and biological pressures rank high on the tragic outcome of Hardy's heroine. In chapter one the Durbeyfields' discovery that they are scions of a once proud aristocratic family cause them to behave above their station, with Tess's father Jack (a drunkard and idle spendthrift) frittering away the large family's money and Tess's mother Joan conspiring against her daughter, in the hope of acquiring social, or at least financial advancement. This, coupled with Tess's guilt for accidentally killing the family horse lead the unemployed Tess to the sinister and blatantly predatory Alec D'Urberville, before she has a chance to a meet her real love Angel Clare. The unfortunate despair of which is paralleled later in the book; 'Had she perceived this meetings import she might have asked why she was doomed to be seen and marked and coveted by the wrong man, and not by a certain other man'. However Tess seems to seal her own fate by giving herself up to both Alec and to her mother's artful ministrations. She allows Joan to enhance her womanly features to lure the devilish D'Urberville (as seen in chapter 20 when he appears by firelight brandishing a pitchfork) whilst she was still 'a mere vessel of emotion untinctured by experience' and she permits Alec to master her as he does his horse. Alec (resembling a moustache twirling villain from melodrama) is aware that Tess is trapped by social convention and his understanding of her morality is based upon her class, her obligation to her...

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