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Was Tess Of The D’urbervilles Blameless Or Partially Responsible For Her Fate?

735 words - 3 pages

Tess of the D’urbervilles was a wildly controversial novel in its time. The novel’s questioning of religious belief and social hierarchy are still discussed today. Critics disagree on Tess’ role in her own life’s course: whether she made decisions or whether her fate was decided for her, and to what extent she is to blame for her rape, her marriage failure, and the death of Alec D’Urberville? In my view, Tess can only be held partially responsible for the events which befall her. She can be considered unlucky since the events are often spoken of as being out of her control. Often her faults seem to come only as a result of her own innocence and good nature. These are traits which present her as an admirable and a just heroine.

“Where was Tess’ Guardian Angel?” Hardy repeats this line several times in the novel. It is clear what he wanted us to think, despite often appearing to leave room for ambiguity. For example, in the scene where Alec and Tess are lost in the forest he never uses the term rape; he merely, talks of it as the “end of innocence.” We as readers are unsure whether Tess is the victim of violence or whether she has been seduced. It is through lines such as ‘Where was Tess’ Guardian Angel?’ that we tend to make the decision to side with Tess in such instances of ambiguity. If, however, you were to consider for a moment that Tess had willingly allowed herself to be seduced, then it becomes possible to apportion some of the blame to her, to see it not as a tragic flaw, but as a flaw in her character and, possibly, in terms of the morals of the day one which should not be forgiven in the eyes of the church. In this reading Tess might be held responsible for what follows...

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