Tess of the d'Urbervilles : summary

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles is a notable literary work by Thomas Hardy. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of Tess of the d'Urbervilles.


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Tess’ Meeting with Angel Clare

Tess of the d’Urbervilles lives in the rural village of Marlott in southwest England. She first appears performing the May Day dance, exchanging a meaningful glance with a young man named Angel Clare. Tess’s family is very poor, but her father learns he is descended from the d’Urbervilles, one of England’s oldest, noblest families. Although the d’Urbervilles have no wealth or power anymore, the Durbeyfields feel that this will improve their fortunes. When Tess mistakenly causes the death of Prince, the family’s horse, she feels guilty enough to try and “claim kin” from some wealthy d’Urbervilles nearby, unaware they are unrelated.

Alec Rapes Tess

Alec, the libertine son of old, blind Mrs. d’Urberville, becomes infatuated with Tess and repeatedly tries to seduce her, but she rebuffs his advances. He gives her a job tending the fowls, and Tess feels she cannot refuse for her family’s sake. One night, Alec tricks Tess into accepting a ride home with him after a dance in the local town. He gets lost in the woods and leaves to find the path. When he returns, he finds Tess asleep, and he rapes her. Tess then returns to Marlott and later gives birth to Alec’s child. She avoids the other townspeople out of shame. Her baby soon gets sick, and Tess worries about his soul. She baptizes him herself and names him Sorrow before he dies.

The Unexpected Bonds and Complexities of Tess’s Life at Talbothays Dairy Farm

Tess gets worn down by her community’s judgment and decides to look for work elsewhere after a while. She becomes a milkmaid at Talbothays dairy farm and enjoys a time of contentment. She befriends three other girls, Izz, Retty, and Marian, and discovers that the man from the May Day dance, Angel Clare, is also working there. He is the son of a parson but is at Talbothays to learn about farming methods. All four women soon fall in love with him, but he chooses Tess, and they begin a period of courtship. Angel asks her to marry him, but Tess refuses, feeling that she is not worthy of marriage. She is afraid to tell him the details of her past.

Tess and Angel’s Heart-touching Journey

Angel returns home briefly and finds that his brothers, who are becoming parsons or deans, have grown more narrow-minded and disapproving. Strengthened in his convictions, he renews his proposal to Tess. She finally accepts but is in constant turmoil. On their wedding night, Angel admits that he had an affair with a woman in London, so Tess feels able to tell the truth about Alec. Angel is shocked and unforgiving and becomes distraught thinking of what his family and society would say if they found out. He gives Tess some money and leaves to clear his mind. He seeks his fortunes in Brazil and asks Tess not to follow him.

Financial Struggles and Unwanted Advances

Tess’s money soon runs out, and she feels ever more guilty and depressed. She works at a bleak starveacre farm with Marian, who has started drinking since Angel rejected her. Tess randomly meets Alec d’Urberville again, but now he has become an evangelical preacher converted by Angel’s father. When he sees Tess, he becomes enamoured again and quickly gives up Christianity to try and seduce her. Tess goes home to care for her mother, but her father soon dies. The family is then evicted, and Alec offers to help them if Tess will return to him.

The Murder of Alec and the Result

Meanwhile, Angel, who has grown sick in Brazil, returns and forgives Tess. When he finally finds her, she is in a fancy boardinghouse, and she says it is too late for her; she has relented to Alec. Angel leaves, stricken, and Tess argues with Alec, stabbing him to death. Tess and Angel then escape together, with Angel unsure if Tess committed murder.

They hide in an empty mansion and have a few happy days but then move on. One night, they stop at Stonehenge, and Tess falls asleep on a monolith. At dawn, the police arrest her. Later, Angel and Tess’s sister, Liza-Lu, hold hands and watch the black flag, the sign that Tess has been executed.