Tess of the D'Urbervilles

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I. Narrative technique in Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Thomas Hardy uses a number of narrative techniques in his novel which enable the reader to get more deeply involved into the plot and emphasize with the characters. Among the techniques he employs are the third person omniscient narrator, dialogues between the characters, letter writing, songs and poetry, religious and mythological allusions as well as extensive descriptions of the settings. All these techniques are applied in such a way that they underline the message Hardy has woven into his novel, while allowing the reader to make up his own mind about the events.

The third person omniscient narrator is all-knowing and thereby adds to the vulnerability of Tess. This is because the reader knows certain facts which Tess is unaware of. For example, the reader is aware of Alec D'Urberville's intentions from the first moment this character enters the plot while Tess stumbles into her predicaments. The reader feels uneasy each moment both characters are left alone with themselves because he can guess what is going to happen. Another example is Tess's abandonment by her husband. All the while Tess is suffering and hoping for Angel to return quickly, the reader knows that he won't. But he also knows that Angel is unwell and has actually forgotten half the things he said to Tess during their quarrel. Tess is kept in the dark about the changes her husband has undergone, which increases the tension of the reader.

Another consequence of applying the third person omniscient narrator is the objectivity it renders to the story. Hardy can distance himself from Tess's destiny while allowing the reader to judge things on his own. If Tess was narrating the events, everything would be coloured by her experience and thought. Furthermore, the reader would be unaware of the motives, thoughts, and backgrounds of other characters.

To help the reader form judgements on his own, Hardy uses dialogues between the characters. They can articulate themselves in their own words without having any meaning changed by Hardy. This reveals their character more distinctly and helps the reader form an opinion of the protagonists independent of Hardy. The way the characters speak, the words they use, the circumstances, and the content of their speech make it easy for the reader to evaluate their personality.

Letter writing, songs and poetry provides a deeper insight into the feelings and thoughts of the characters. It creates a more intimate relationship between reader and characters. Most songs are simple and bear a heavy dialect, which also reflects on the social and cultural background of the society, and the reader is able to understand better how the protagonists live.

When Tess is trying on her wedding dress she remembers one of her mother's songs: "That would never become a wife | That had once done amiss" (Chapter 32) This foreshadows the future and allows a deeper insight into Tess's thinking: she is filled with doubts and guilt which ultimately forces her to confess her past to Angel.

The first letter Tess writes to Angel (Chapter 48) is filled with passion and devotion. Yet the reader knows that Tess is not completely honest because she conceals the hardships she is facing, and she is reluctant to let Angel know about her true feelings concerning his stay in Brazil. However, in the end, Tess writes: "Come to me – come to me, and save me from what threatens me!" She does not receive an answer from Angel. On the contrary, when she returns home she is again facing new problems: her father dies and the family has to move out from Marlott. Tess is also aware that the people of Marlott view her as a sinner. The combination of these facts induce Tess to write again to Angel, this time in a more bitter tone. She accuses him of having mistreated her. But yet again the letter remains unanswered. Now even Marian and Izz address Angel to return to his wife if he loved her as much as...
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