The influence of Alec and Angel on the life of Tess

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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.


Discuss the influence of Alec and Angel on the life of Tess. Or, How far are Angel and Alec responsible for the tragedy of Tess?

In Thomas Hardy‘s novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles, published in 1891, the tragic fate of the protagonist, Tess, is influenced by various factors. Among them, Angel Clare and Alec d’Urberville play crucial roles. While it is essential to consider Tess’s agency and societal norms, analyzing the actions and behaviors of Angel and Alec reveals their responsibility in contributing to Tess’s tragedy.

Angel Clare’s Idealism and Lack of Understanding: Angel is depicted as an idealistic and morally principled individual. However, his naivety and lack of understanding of human nature lead to significant consequences for Tess. Angel falls in love with the idea of Tess being pure and innocent rather than the real person. This idealization sets the stage for later events, as Angel’s inability to accept Tess’s past eventually leads to their separation.

Angel’s Rejection of Tess: When Tess confesses her past relationship with Alec, Angel’s rigid sense of morality and double standards come to the fore. Despite having had affairs himself, he struggles to forgive Tess’s past. Angel says,

“Forgiveness does not apply to the case. You were one person; now you are another. My God—how can forgiveness meet such a grotesque—prestidigitation as that?”

This rejection devastates Tess emotionally. Angel’s inability to look past Tess’s past incidents ultimately leads to her downfall.

Alec d’Urberville’s Predatory Nature: Alec is portrayed as manipulative and predatory. He takes advantage of Tess’s vulnerability and uses his social status to entrap her. He represents the oppressive patriarchal society that exploits and objectifies women, leading to Tess’s victimization.

“Why didn’t you tell me there was danger in men-folk? Why didn’t you warn me?” – Tess to her mother after the encounter with Alec, Chapter 10.

Tess’s Vulnerability and Social Status: While Angel and Alec play significant roles, it is crucial to acknowledge Tess’s vulnerability and her position in society. She comes from a low-income family and faces economic hardships. It exposes her to manipulation and exploitation. The social norms of the time, where women were often at the mercy of men’s decisions, further limit Tess’s agency and choices.

Angel’s Abandonment: After Tess confesses her past, Angel abandons her and seeks a new life in Brazil. His decision to leave Tess in her time of need contributes to her tragic path. While his idealism and societal pressures may influence Angel’s intentions, his abandonment is significant in Tess’s further descent into despair.

Tess’s Desperation: Tess is left with little hope and support after Angel’s departure. Desperate, she reunites with Alec, believing she has no other options. Her return to Alec’s influence symbolizes her vulnerability and the limited choices available to her. She finds herself once again trapped in an abusive and exploitative relationship.

The Tragic Event: The novel culminates in a tragic event – the murder of Alec by Tess. While Tess is the one who commits the act, it is essential to understand the context that led her to this point. Alec’s prolonged emotional and physical abuse, societal pressures, and Angel’s rejection push Tess to a breaking point.

In conclusion, the tragedy of Tess in Tess of the d’Urbervilles is a result of multiple contributing factors. Angel’s idealism, rejection, abandonment, and Alec’s predatory nature and manipulation create a toxic environment that ultimately leads to Tess’s tragic fate.