Relationships Between Men and Women in Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Topics: Victorian era, Victoria of the United Kingdom, Woman Pages: 3 (1289 words) Published: December 3, 2012
Robyn Quigley
How does Hardy present relationships between men and
women in Tess of the d'Urbervilles?

In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Hardy’s overall presentation of Tess's relationships with men are portrayed as complex and difficult, often victim to many extraneous factors such as social class, religion, society and fate. An important emphasis on male domination is also evident throughout the novel, which demonstrates the way in which women were considered to be the possessions of their male spouses at that time in the Victorian era. It could be argued that Hardy presents various aspects of Tess's life with an almost inherent fate of failure, her romantic relationships suffering this in particular. Tess's first romantic experience is demonstrated by Hardy as the typical situation of a woman's purity which struggles in the face of temptation. Hardy makes sure that Alec’s intentions are clear from the moment he is introduced in the novel – he is described to have a "well-groomed black mustache”, which implies that he is considerably older than Tess. His complexion is said to be “swarthy”, much unlike Tess’s who is pale and pure. All these physical features immediately give the impression that these two people are completely incompatible, and Alec's subsequent behaviour confirms all of these suspicions. Hardy makes it evident as the first phase progresses that Alec is controlling – he has such desire to posses power over Tess, almost to the point of obsession. Despite his insistence, Tess makes herself clear when she says that she "was angered by his kissing her", and that she was "sometimes offended by his love-making", trying her hardest to suppress his advances. However, the latter quote is somewhat misleading, as it says that she is only "sometimes" offended, which makes the reader question whether or not there is an element of Tess which actually may have feelings towards Alec, or if she is leading him on. When Hardy describes the reason...
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