Thomas Hardy

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (Penguin Popular Classics)

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“Tess of the D’Urbervilles” is a novel written by Thomas Hardy and first published in 1891. It tells the tragic story of Tess Durbeyfield, a young woman from a poor rural family in England, and her struggles against social and moral conventions.

The novel begins with Tess’s discovery that her family may have noble origins as descendants of the ancient D’Urberville family. Encouraged by her parents, Tess is sent to work for the wealthy D’Urberville family, where she encounters Alec D’Urberville, a manipulative and predatory young man. Despite Tess’s initial resistance, she becomes a victim of Alec’s sexual advances and experiences the devastating consequences of their relationship.

Later in the story, Tess seeks solace and a fresh start in a different town, where she meets and falls in love with Angel Clare, a kind and idealistic young man. However, when Tess reveals her past to Angel on their wedding night, he reacts with shock and disappointment, unable to reconcile his ideals of purity and morality with Tess’s previous relationship. This leads to further tragedy and Tess’s descent into despair and hardship.

“Tess of the D’Urbervilles” explores themes of fate, morality, social class, and the role of women in Victorian society. Hardy’s novel critiques the hypocrisy and double standards of the time, particularly concerning women’s sexual agency and societal expectations.

The character of Tess embodies a complex and sympathetic portrayal of a woman caught between societal norms and her own desires. She grapples with her sense of guilt, her quest for love and redemption, and the harsh judgment of others.

Hardy’s writing style is characterized by his descriptive prose, attention to natural landscapes, and his exploration of the human psyche. “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” is regarded as one of Hardy’s most significant works, showcasing his skill in capturing the struggles and tragedies of ordinary individuals in a changing society.

The novel remains celebrated for its exploration of themes relevant to the human condition, its powerful and empathetic portrayal of Tess’s character, and its critique of Victorian morality.


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