Comparative Study - Jane Eyre and Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Comparison of Thomas Hardy's 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' and 'Jane
Eyre' by Charlotte Brontë is possible as both authors were writing in
the same time period; therefore both books contain certain aspects
attributed to one genre: the Victorian Novel. However its is also
important to realise the differences between the books as well as the
similarities; the diversities are what give each novel its
individuality and make it distinct from other books by the same author
or included in the same genre.
The first chapter of a novel is always vital as it is essential in
capturing the reader and enticing them to read on. In addition, the
opening section plays a part in setting the tone of the novel; it is
the reader's first experience of the characters, location, background
and author's style. For this reason the first chapter is paramount in
alluring the reader to continue with the story. A view often
assimilated with the Victorian Novel genre is that of fatalism; in
both books being considered it is used to further the plot. 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 Tess becoming a victim of
cruel fate: 'Tess had never before known a time in which the thread of
her life was so distinctly twisted of two strands, positive pleasure
and positive pain'.
This theme of coincidence and idea of fate; that there is a greater
power over humans that cannot be controlled, is echoed in 'Jane Eyre'.
Jane is subject to ill-fated situations through no fault of her own.
From the very beginning of the novel the reader discovers Jane's
unfortunate circumstance of being orphaned, and having no choice but
to live with her 'hard-hearted' aunt and vindictive cousins. They
torture her, referring to her as and 'animal' and a 'madcat'.
Subsequently her living situations change, only for Jane to endure
more harsh conditions at Lowood school: 'we had scarcely sufficient to
keep alive a delicate invalid'. Jane addresses the reader, clearly
intoning that she is aware of this higher power 'fate has
out-manoeuvred me' yet later on rebuking it 'God has given us, in a
measure, the power to make our own fate'. This contrast highlights for
both the characters and the reader the unpredictability and unsure
feelings associated with fate.
In the first chapter of both novels the reader sees how social status
affects the way in which an individual is treated: Jane is thought of
as a lesser being not worthy of treatment as a human: '-bad animal!'
This is emphasised through the use of the animal insults, and because
the reader sees them entirely from Jane's point of view, it is hard to
see any good in the Reeds. For Tess, her believed change in status is
just one of the many...