The novel tells the story of Tess Durbeyfield, whose father discovers that their family is related to the noble Norman family of the d'Urbervilles. This knowledge, instead of helping the family, brings only doom upon it. Tess is sent by her mother to find work with the d'Urbervilles where she is raped by the son of the family, Alec d’Urberville. Years later, beginning her life anew, she falls in love with Angel Clare. When she tells Clare, now her husband, of her past, it starts off an unstoppable chain of events beyond Tess's control. Angel leaves her and goes to Brazil only to return years later to lose his wife a second time. The novel depicts Tess as the victim of a patriarchal and hypocritical society which measures men and women by two different standards of morality.
Hardy lived and wrote at a time of difficult social change in England. This novel demonstrates one such change, where the aristocracy is fading into oblivion and the businessmen are rising in social class. Tess’s father is desirous of bettering his social standing and this leads to her tragedy. Many people during that time had started moving to the New World countries to find better opportunities to earn a living, which is what Angel Clare does. He moves to Brazil to make himself a fortune through hard work, but comes back destitute and mortally sick. Hardy also notes the sexual double standards prevalent in the rigid and puritanical 19th century English society.
Hardy's writing style cannot be essentially called simple. The complexity in his work arises from his extensive use of imagery and symbolism. For example, in the novel, the seasons are in direct accord with Tess's life. She is raped when it is autumn, the season when everything withers and dies and she falls in love with Angel in summer, the season of rebirth and happiness. Also, the color red is associated throughout with doom and bad luck. When Tess meets Alec for the first time, he is standing in the light of the crimson evening sun.
This is one of the best works of Hardy. The hardships that Tess faces in her life and the double standards of society by which she is measured find resonance even today. The story will touch a deep chord in all who read it. We are drawn to the plot and the characters in such a way that we sympathize with Tess, are angered by Angel and abhor Alec and feel their tribulations like our own.
Book Reviewed by Prerna Gupta
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Definitely! Not rated yet
Tess tried to so hard to do the right thing. She way outlasted what other women in her situation would have. Her honesty struck me, too. She was honest …
One of the best novels in World Literature. Not rated yet
When I was in college, I happened to be a great fan of Thomas Hardy, The Pessimist! In fact, Hardy was the first truly great writer whom I met during my …