Tess of the D\'Urbervilles - Society and


Thomas Hardy\'s Tess Of The D\'Urbervilles is a novel in which his protagonist and other characters are confronted by an almost endless array of moral and socially acceptable choices. Thomas Hardy makes the reader to take a critical look at the character\'s situation, the character\'s thought process and the impact of the character\'s decision making in the society in which they live.
Thomas Hardy presents his reader with three major characters. They are the protagonist Tess Durbeyfield, Angel Clare (Tess\'s longtime love and husband)and Alec D\'Urberville (Tess\'s seducer and husband). It is these three major characters whom Hardy chooses to place in the most precarious moral and social dilemmas. It is through these characters and their dilemmas that Thomas Hardy displays the social issues found in Tess of the D\'Urbervilles.
Hardy\'s protagonist seems to have been born in a dilemma. Tess was the oldest of a very large family and she had the responsibility of caring for her younger siblings. Young Tess had many concerns to cope with in her life. Her father who drank too much came to understand that the Durbeyfield family could very well be the descendants of a royal family known as D\'Urberville. Motivated by greed of becoming part of a higher class, with no thought for Tess, her mother and father made the conscious choice to send Tess to the D\'Urberville mansion to acquire work and marry a wealthy man.
While employed at the D\'Urberville mansion, Tess was confronted with her first major social dilemma whose name is Alec D\'Urberville. The young Alec is portrayed as a spoiled, almost evil person; a high class snob. From the first time he laid eyes on Tess, he begins to seduce her. Hardy\'s use of Alec D\'Urberville and his relationship to Tess, sets the standard for the cruelty of society in this novel. We (the reader) come to know that Alec D\'Urberville is the cause of Tess\'s social problems. That is, he has no conscience, no morals and above all feels no remorse for his actions and it reflects upon Tess. His seduction of her results in her pregnancy and she chooses to leave the D\'Urberville mansion. Hardy tells the reader that the moral sin which Tess has experienced is taboo in her society and she becomes the object of ridicule and rejection. Although she is a "fallen woman", she maintains her high moral standards as well as her beauty and innocence.
In analyzing the above mentioned scenario, can the reader hold Tess completely blameless. Was she not a conscious participant in her own seduction? The answer is certainly yes, however, Hardy does a wonderful job of exonerating her and her social sins. Hardy (if not Angel Clare), is convinced, not only of her purity but also of her capacity for ascendancy. Although her society chastised such behavior, Hardy bestows upon his protagonist the ability to overcome the moral and social stigma and thus Tess maintains her dignity and sense of self.
Through what could be labeled "divine intervention," her baby dies. The priest would not give it a proper Christian burial because of the social rules regulating religion. The baby had not been properly baptised at birth. The priest says that if it were up to him, he would, but he must follow the social laws surrounding him.
The years pass and we find our lovely, innocent protagonist once again canvassing the countryside in search of serenity and work. She is hired as a milkmaid on a large dairy farm and it is here that Hardy places his protagonist as well as her future husband in their most troublesome and disturbing moral and social dilemma.
While working on the dairy farm, Tess happens to meet Angel Clare, the man she will eventually marry. Angel and Tess fall in love and make plans for their marriage. As their courtship continues, Tess knows in her heart that she must tell Angel about her past. However, she fails to do so for fear of losing him. She feels that the moral sin that she has experienced will most certainly drive Angel away from her. One can argue that there is no evil in this deception, only a young girl\'s fear of losing her the man she loves and