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Social And Economic Classes In Tess’s Life

2033 words - 9 pages

In Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy explores the effect of social and economic classes on Tess’s life through generational poverty, Tess’ work efforts, and contrasts of classes. Tess’ life was predestined to be difficult because of her lower social and economic class. However, as the novel opens, Tess’ father, Jack Durbeyfield, is informed he is actually of the extinct royal lineage of the noble D’Urbervilles. The D’Urbervilles wealth is long gone however, and the name is negligible (Hardy 2). However, Jack takes this trivial piece of history and treats himself as if he were the richest man alive. This idea of wealth without working hurts Tess and her family throughout the novel. Her ...view middle of the document...

Instead, he finds value in the d’Urbervilles name. After he learns of his aristocratic ancestors, Jack takes to heart that he is of a high social class and economic standing. In spite of his d’Urberville name, Jack is still lowly and impoverished but is blinded by the idea of wealth that he believes he must have somehow by being connected to the extinct family name. Jack was told that the d’Urberville’s fortune and lands were no longer valid or existent, but Mr. and Mrs. Durbeyfield put their hope of supporting their family in the deceased name rather than in the one stable income of drudgery (Hardy 31). Mrs. Durbeyfield believed that their late relative’s name should allow her family to receive benefits without the effort of hard work (Ghosh, 6472). This idea was skewed, as a working class family could not live on a name from the past alone. Because of her parent’s skewed ideas, Tess’ life was more difficult. Her parents decided to send her to live and work with the self-acclaimed d’Urbervilles in hopes of wealth or a beneficial marriage. Tess’ life was sacrificed in order for her parents to have an easier, richer lifestyle. This decision showed the irresponsibility and immaturity of her parents, who saw no fault in spending hours wasted at bars rather than caring for their family, or sending their daughter to marry a man to gain wealth for her family. The family does not end up sending Tess against her will but drove her into the circumstance after she killed the family horse, which caused economic stress on the Family. Tess acknowledged her responsibility to repay the family and went to the d’Urbervilles mansion rather than her preference of simply finding work in town. This decision changed Tess’ life. Alec d’Urberville attempts to seduce Tess and later rapes her. This act of sexual immorality affects Tess and her emotions in later relationships. Tess would not have been placed in the unsafe situation of Alec’s company if her father had attempted to make a substantial living so that losing a horse would not have been such a burden on the Durbeyfield family. Tess struggles financially all of her life starting with her family’s generational poverty and her father's lack of work to better his monetary standing.
From an early age, Tess learned that to make her and her family’s life better, she must carry her own weight and make an effort to save her family. Tess was intelligent and she knew that she was responsible for her actions. That is why she went to make friends at the d’Urbervilles after she killed the family horse, Prince. Tess knew that without the horse, her family would suffer so she decided to befriend the wealthy family as her mother wished. Her decision to go and own up to her mistakes showed Tess’ maturity and sensibility. At the d’Urbervilles, Tess was very uncomfortable with Alec, who continually tried to seduce her. Although the situation got out of hand when Alec raped her, Tess demonstrated selflessness with her willingness...

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