Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Tess of the d’Urbervilles is subtitled ‘A pure woman’ and this is how Thomas Hardy sees and portrays her throughout his novel. As the novel progresses the reader is introduced to many aspects of Tess as she grows from being a child on the verge of adulthood to a mature and experienced woman. In some parts of the book Hardy describes Tess as very passive but in other parts of the novel she is shown as a powerful and even godly sort of woman.
The character of Tess is first shown near the beginning of the book as a proud and shy young girl. She is very loving of her family and holds them in high regard especially her parents even though they sometimes do feckless, irresponsible things such as when her father went to Rolliver’s (a pub) before going on an important delivery to “get up his strength for his journey”.
At the club-walking at the beginning of the book Tess is shown to be just an ordinary, innocent country girl “not handsomer than some others” but it is also indicated that she is very attractive. The white dress she wears symbolises purity and virginity and Hardy suggests that this purity comes from lack of experience as he describes her as “untinctured” by it. She is also shown to be very protective of her father and when she is teased by her friends about him it appears that she is quite sensitive and not resilient to embarrassment. At this point Tess is a “mere vessel of emotion” and she still has a local dialect but with some educated speech.
Tess is more responsible than her parents as she takes the beehive delivery herself when her father is too hung-over to do it. She is, however, contrary to her ordinariness marked out from the rest of her friends and fellow country girls from the very start of the book by a red ribbon in her hair. This doesn’t seem very significant at first but as the story progresses the colour red is mentioned several times to describe her and single her out from the rest. Some other examples of this are the blood of Prince (the family horse) which splashes on her white dress after he dies, her red mouth which is described as a flower a couple of times throughout the novel and Alec when he is described as “the blood-red ray in the spectrum of her young life”. The colour red, in general, is also frequently used to symbolise danger, passion, death and anger. Tess at this point in the novel is pictured as extremely passive and subject to the wishes of her family and their evident irresponsibility.
Hardy is very intent on mentioning the cruelty of ‘fate’ which appears especially in chapter 4 with the discussion between Tess and her brother Abraham concerning the stars, the two children decide that the misfortunes they suffer are all because they live on a ‘blighted star’ instead of the normal Victorian belief that all misfortunes are due to God punishing someone. This shows Tess as an intelligent and educated young woman. These ideas though technically written in the...