The theme of tragedy is often discussed in terms of this book. Fascinated by Greek tragedy, Hardy uses tragic circumstances to enhance the Wessex countryside and its inhabitants. By doing so he not only develops his story, but attains a certain grandeur for his novel. His first attempts at tragedy were The Return of the Native and The Mayor of Casterbridge, but Tess of the d'Urbervilles is the culmination of his efforts. In this work, Hardy projects ancient drama into modern novel form. To accomplish this, he models his book after Aristotle's formula for tragedy, although he focuses on a young country girl instead of a tragic hero. His many classical and Shakespearian allusions add strength to his modern tragedy.
Sprechman, Ellen Lew. "Tess of the dUrbervilles." DISCovering Authors. Online ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Student Resource Center - Gold. Gale. EAST CHAMBERS HIGH SCHOOL. 3 May. 2010
In Phase the Second: A Maiden No More, (12–15) Tess must now live with the consequences of Alec's violation. It is now October, four months after her arrival, when Tess sets out to return home. "[I]t was terribly beautiful to Tess to-day, for since her eyes last fell upon it she had learnt that the serpent hisses where the sweet birds sing. . . ." Alec makes an unsuccessful bid for her forgiveness, stating that he is "ready to pay to the uttermost farthing." Tess deserts Alec along the road and soon encounters a sign painter, "an artizan of some sort," whose signs preach against vice and sin. "Thy, Damnation, Slumbereth, Not. 2 Pet. ii 3," which message, "against the peaceful landscape . . . [in] vermillion words shone forth." When Tess finally confronts her mother with the rape and asks why she did not warn Tess about the dangers of "men-folk," Mrs. Durbeyfield clings to the same ignorant and misguided belief that Tess should have compelled Alec to marry her for her own good and the benefit of the impoverished Durbeyfields. By now, Tess has fallen into abject misery and become the focal point of village gossip, finding no consolation in either her friends or attendance at church services. "The bedroom she shared with some of the children formed her retreat more continually than ever. . . . So close kept she that at length almost everybody thought she had gone away." The following August finds Tess working in the fields while taking breaks to feed her unbaptized baby. When the baby falls ill, she baptizes the child herself, appropriately naming him Sorrow, and shortly thereafter she must bury her infant son in a nearly forgotten part of a graveyard. "So the baby was carried in a small deal box . . . and buried by lantern-light . . . in that shabby corner of God's allotment where He lets the nettles grow. . . ." By the end of this second phase, Tess resolves to re-enter the world and seek employment suitable to her social status. "She would be dairymaid Tess, and nothing more." In Phase the Third: The Rally, a few months following this tragedy, Tess begins working at the Talbothays Dairy, owned by the kindly Richard Crick. Her spirits now being lifted by the beautiful countryside, Tess is very happy to be in new surroundings. "Either the change in the quality of the air from heavy to light, or the sense of being amid new scenes where there were no invidious eyes upon her, sent up her spirits wonderfully." It is here that Tess meets Angel Clare, a young man of twenty-six years and the son of a local parson, who aspires to own a farm in either England or one of the colonies, rather than be a minister as his father expects. Though he is working as a novice dairy-farmer at Talbothays, there is that about him which suggests "something educated, reserved, subtle, sad, differing." Furthermore, he is remotely familiar to Tess. A loving relationship between Angel and Tess begins to evolve. "Every day, every hour brought to him one more little stroke of her nature, and to her one more of his. Tess was trying to lead a...
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