Compare How the Authors Capture the Readers’ Sympathy for Their Eponymous Heroines in 'the French Lieutenant's Woman' and 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles'

Topics: The French Lieutenant's Woman, Lyme Regis, John Fowles Pages: 7 (2496 words) Published: April 14, 2008
Compare how the authors capture the readers’ sympathy for their eponymous heroines.

The two authors of the novels ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ and ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’; manage to evoke sympathy for their two eponymous characters to the reader through a variety of themes and characterization techniques. While both characters experience tragedy in their lives, the differences and similarities between the portrayals from the authors is what may or may not capture the readers sympathy.

The very nature of the name ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ where you learn the word ‘Whore’ replaces ‘Woman’ as a label for Sarah portrays her as a possession. Despite the way Varguennes treated her, she still waits for him at Lyme Regis. The appellation she gives herself is indicative of her own belief that she feels dominated by the lieutenant. “’I am the French Lieutenant’s Whore’” (Chpt 20/ Pg 171) The same can apply for ‘Tess’ through the nature of the title ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ in which Hardy implies that Tess is possessed by the D’Urberville name rather than being a Durbeyfield. “ . . What obscure stain in the D’Urberville blood had led to this aberration.” (Chpt 57/ Pg 492) The idea of both Sarah and Tess being possessions of a bloodline or of a man is something that would elicit sympathy from the reader, especially the contemporary reader whom will most likely find abhorrence from the eponymous title because of the modern day equality between men and woman. Furthermore, throughout the novels both Sarah and Tess’ lives are inclined by men. Sarah finds compassion from Charles who only meets her only in private. Sarah relies on Charles and makes him her confidant. “Because you have travelled. Because you are educated. Because you are a gentleman.” (Chpt 18/ Pg 139) This evokes sympathy from the reader because we gain a sense of Sarah’s jealousy towards some of Charles’ attributes. She also has a special relationship with him because he is the complete opposite to Varguennes and seems to understand her, so she relies on his understanding. As a result, Charles feels the need to help Sarah. “Yet there rose in him . . . a desire to protect . . . for her knew his instinct was to kneel beside her and comfort her.” (Chpt 31/ Pg 239) The reader watches as a blossoming relationship between Charles and Sarah emerges despite Charles’ engagement with Ernestina. Consequently the reader may sympathise with Sarah because of the wall coming between Sarah and Charles relationship, alternatively the reader may view Sarah as a ‘jezebel’ leading Charles astray of his duties to Ernestina. In ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ Tess is relied on by her family yet she often has to rely on Angel and Alec. ”I must cry to you in my trouble – I have no one else!” I am so exposed to temptation, Angel.” (Chpt 48/ Pg 428) This need for a man is something that was common in Victorian times, but is likely to loose sympathy from a modern reader who would be more akin to women being independent of men.

A contrasting theme between ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ and ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ is the way the two protagonists view their own mistakes in life. “It is not right that I should suffer so much.” (Chpt 18/ Pg 139) While Sarah, appearing to be the more strong minded character, expects forgiveness rather than the solitude forced upon her, Tess believes she deserves only punishment for her wrong-doings. ”This did not lessen the self-reproach which she continued to heap upon herself for her negligence.” (Chpt 4/ Pg 37) Tess’ sorrow to her actions is exaggerated through the use of hyperbole that Hardy uses for Jack’s reaction towards Tess’ involvement in Prince’s death. ”He worked harder the next day in digging a grave for Prince in the garden than he had worked for months to grow a crop for his family.” (Chpt 4/ Pg 37) Hardy is successful in provoking compassion towards Tess from the reader through her innocence of not being able to...
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