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'to What Extent Are The Female Characters Represented In 'tess Of The D'urbervilles ' Stereotypical To Women Living In Rural England In The Mid 19th Century?'

4617 words - 18 pages

In the famous Thomas Hardy novel 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' I will explore the representation of female charactors and to what extent they are perceived as stereotypes. Thomas Hardy lived during the Victorian period his experience in Victorian England shaped the novel. Tess, which was first serialised in magazines was highly successful due to the fact that it criticised practices at the time and focused on important and topical issues of the period especially the dramatic changes in rural England due to the enclosure act and decline in rural jobs. Many of the peasantry had to leave the familiar safety of the country and move to the harsh reality that was the city to work in dismal and dangerous factories.If you do not look deeply in to each character you will simply see the female stereotypes that were commonly used in that period of time. In Victorian England women were seen to be the 'angel in the home'. Women would have the duty of bringing up the children and looking after the home. But as well as these duties the poorer women had to work the land and on farms. The thing that all women had in common whether high or low class was the need to be pure, a virgin before marriage. This issue of purity was very important at the time and highlighted in 'Tess'.The controversy surrounding that subject was one of the factors why 'Tess' was so successful.I have selected Tess, Marian, Mrs Durbeyfield and Mrs D'Urberville as the subjects for my essay because they provide a contrast between each other. Tess is a country girl as Marian is but Tess is educated and has something special about her. She is also a higher class of peasantry in contrast to Marian who is a very stereotypical, simple country girl. Mrs Durbeyfield is also a contrast to Mrs D'Urberville who is middle class, well spoken and well off whereas Mrs Durbeyfield is an uneducated, lower class mother of many children. She is a very stereotypical character when just read at the surface.Tess is the main subject of the novel, which shows how she develops and learns about the world. When we first encounter Tess she is described in detail:"Mobile peony mouth and innocent eyes". This is to give the reader a vivid mental picture of her. She and the other girls are wearing white dresses: "White company". This is to emphasise the purity of the young girls. This is a typical stereotype of the time. It was essential for girls to be 'pure' (virgins) before marriage. However, Tess is the only one wearing a red ribbon: "She wore a red ribbon in her hair". This makes her stand out from the crowd; it makes her seem special, perhaps higher above the other girls. It also taints the white purity of the dress. Hardy is perhaps suggesting a sign of things to come. Tess' personality also appears in this first encounter. She embarrasses easily and when her father appears loud and drunk, instead of making fun, she gets emotional and makes excuses. This also shows her pride. Tess is described as: "A mere vessel of...

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