Lauren Roberts AS English Literature Mr Wilkins
How does Hardy unfold the idea that 'a woman pays' in Tess of the d'Urbervilles and how is
this illuminated by your partner text?
Hardy unfolds the idea that 'a woman pays' through the constraints of Victorian moral
values, male superiority and the influence of aristocracy. This is further illuminated by Du
Maurier's Rebecca where male dominance and misogyny mean only the woman will pay. As
a woman in the midst of an undeniably patriarchal society, Tess is unable to escape the social
structure. Tess epitomizes the case that the innocent pay for the guilty. Similarly, Rebecca
faces a fight against the pressure of the Victorian society to maintain a perfect marriage, but
fails to succeed. Both women pay for the mistakes they have made as well as other's mistakes
and 'justice was done.'
Tess pays in many ways throughout the novel and often Tess' misfortune is related to male
superiority within the society. She is the embodiment of the tragic figure and when Hardy
writes 'President of Immortals' saw the protagonists life as a 'sport' showing Tess' life was
always determined by an omnipresent force. The diction 'sport' reflects the fleeting interest
that these Gods had with Tess, and that her struggle was merely a pastime. Moreover, the
contrast in significance between "Gods" and "Tess" demonstrates her vulnerability. It is clear
that Tess's tragic journey was something she was 'doomed to receive'; but the bildungsroman
is written in such a way that the reader is left wondering whether the course of Tess's life
would have changed had she not been treated 'so monstrously' by the 'cruel, cruel' men she
met along the way. Alec, the archetypal seducer in Victorian melodrama, after his violation
of Tess' virginity, doesn't realise his sin. The fact he doesn't realise his sin shows how Hardy
presents the idea of sin of males to females and how they differ under this society. What's
more he blames Tess for tempting him with her beauty and she, as a consequence, is paying
for his tragic crime and is shunned from the Christian church for no longer being a 'pure
woman' and the social consensus does not punish Alec. He lives as he used to, later
becoming a preacher publicizing God's edict, but Tess is surrounded by discrimination and
rebuke from society shown when "He who had wrought her undoing was now on the side of
the spirit, while she remained unregenerate". Tess is presented as a young woman who is
helpless to this higher authority, a woman who pays at the hands of injustice. Indeed, a
critical review by the Speaker in 1891 drew ideas of Fate and an unjust society from the
novel, arguing that it was 'a grievous fall', 'misfortunes' and 'society' that 'would have made
her an outcast'.
Hardy's use of imagery represents the sinister aspects of Victorian society. The 'Charcoals'
and 'Deep reds' when associated with Alec show a domineering presence. The colors are
royal colors and even though he committed crimes...