An Analysis of the Causes of Tess’s Tragedies in Tess of the D’urbervilles

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Guo Yanping
Professor Shen Fuying
English Novel
5 February 2013
An Analysis of the Causes of Tess’s Tragedies in Tess of the D’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy is one of the most prominent novelists during the Victorian era in Britain. Trapped in the middle ground between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Hardy not only inherited Victorian tradition but also initiated the modern innovation in literature. Tess of the D'urbervilles is a masterpiece representing his reputation of a full-blown writer and it is also unanimously considered to be a masterpiece in the world literary history. The novel has aroused a substantial amount of controversy notwithstanding its wide popularity. In this novel, the heroin Tess has undergone a series of tragedies which appear to be both unexpected and predestinated. The causes of her tragedy scatter on a relatively large scale ranging from the internal factor (her heroism) to the inevitable external factors including society, law and religion. In this paper, the varied causes of Tess's tragedy will be analyzed at length so as to present to the readers her predestinated tragic fate in this story. Introduction

The Victorian era of British history refers to the period of Queen Victoria's reign from June 22 of 1837 until her death on January 22 in 1901. Victorian England saw great expansion of wealth and power along with the emergence of peace and prosperity. Culturally there was a transition away from the rationalism of the Georgian period and toward romanticism and mysticism with regard to religion, social values, and the arts (Dixon 34). The era is characterized by the values of social and sexual restraint, which in a large part gives rise to the literary tradition of refined sensibilities. Born in the early period of Victorian era, Thomas Hardy lived his life in a time of rapid social changes due to Britain’s transition from an old-fashioned agricultural nation to a modern industrial one. Although Hardy viewed himself first and foremost a poet, he is mostly remembered by the world for his reputation as a successful novelist. Despite the fact that Hardy resembles his Victorian contemporaries in many essential respects, he can hardly be categorized exclusively as a Victorian novelist. He did not seek for models from his predecessors and often deliberately abandoned the works of the nineteenth century. Hardy initiated things in his works that the Victorians were unwilling to reveal. His subject matters, along with his writing style and techniques meet the demand of the modernists. Likewise, he cannot be labeled a modernist either notwithstanding the traits of modern innovation as is clearly shown in his major works. Reflected in Hardy’s literary works is the transitional trend from traditional to modern literature, and the inspiration from both inheriting and challenging conventions of nineteenth-century at the same time.

Among all his most known novels, Tess of the D’urbervilles is Hardy’s representative masterpiece which serves as a strong demonstration of his perspectives as a thinker and techniques as a writer. The heroin Tess, who is from a humble rural family, is persuaded by her parents to “make kin” with a local noble family the d’Urberville as her father learns earlier that they are relations. She procures a job there tending fowls at their family estate where she is seduced and raped by Alec, the dandy son of Mrs. d’Urberville. Tess gives birth to Alec’s child after she returns to her family but the baby named Sorrow dies soon afterwards. Determined to start everything all over again, she accepts a job as a milkmaid at the Talbothays Dairy where she finds the love of her life Angel Clare, the son of a clergyman. Their love for each other grows stronger each day and they get engaged soon afterwards. With their wedding day coming near, Tess starts to get tortured more and more by her own conscience. Eventually she makes a confession of her impure past to Angel and is...
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