Tess of the D’Urbervilles is one of the Hardy’s masterpieces. The story
ends with a tragedy. It is characteristic of Hardy to criticize the reality and to show his dissatisfaction with the society through the using the tragic ending to give a sharp and painful feeling and impression on the readers. Tess, the protagonist, is the tragic center. She should have been a happy girl for her beauty, pure, kind heart, intelligence, cleverness etc. But God played a joke on her. From then on she led a miserable and tortured life, and at last died in a very young age. In this paper I will talk about the causes for Tess’tragedy as
well as the analysis of her characteristic.
Tess’tragedy was caused by many reasons. The first one is her poor personal background and the ignorance and vanity of her parents. Tess was born in a poverty with quiet many brothers and sisters. Her father is a disguised and stupid country peddles. Once hearing a false message that they are the descendants of an ancient wealthy family he believed it and sent Tess to work for their ancestors. Unexpectedly the son of the D’Urbervilles carried
Tess’chastity off. However Tess’father did not take the criminal to the court
instead he scolded Tess for considering his losing face for this affair. Tess’
mother was the same. As a mother she did not show her given maternal love towards her unlucky girl but even was in the hope of marring Tess to the criminal. She believed a better future would come if Tess could marry with her wealthy relative. When Tess refused to do so, she took her daughter as a stupid one. Similarly as Tess departed with Angle, both her parents did not console her but to complain her and worried about the family’s fame, resulting
in Tess’leaving, which caused her initial tragedy.
Secondly, the evil power from the wealthy “relative”likes Alec. Alec
was the character that the author criticized straightforward and boldly in this novel. He was the direct cause to Tess’adversity. He was poisonous, hypocritical,
selfish, and cruel. The religious tenet was his arm to disguise his inner evil. In fact he was a through hypocrite and dissipated with many girls. When he first met Tess he was deeply attracted by Tess’beauty and aroused his ferocious
possession of her. But Tess looked down upon him, which made him so angry that he tried his best to rape her to satisfy himself. As a matter of fact it was him that hurt Tess, but to the contrary he asked Tess to leave him instead of inducing him. Time and time again he created traps to tempt Tess by using her poverty and inexperience. He knew Tess loved her family so much then he never stopped giving favors to their family members, which made Tess always thought that she owned a lot to him and she had to pay for debt in on other way than in living with him. In such a way Tess was cast away from her given happiness further and further and got closed to the hell step by step. Alec was the chief criminal for Tess’tragedy, however he was just one member
of the bourgeoisies. Moreover it was the whole capital society, with hypocrisy, vanity and so-called“morality,”destroyed the pure and kind Tess.
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Thirdly, the conventional theory towards women from Angle is the most fatal spiritual torture to Tess. Comparing with the physical invasion from Alec, Angle’s spiritual torture was much more unbearable to Tess. Angle seemed to be open-minded, forgiving, and not to pay much attention to the classes’gap.
In fact his traditional concept and selfishness still existed in the inner heart. At the beginning he abandoned his social status and religious background by turning himself into a peasant and convinced himself as a rational and emotional person. But when he found Tess had lost her chastity he came to be crazy and threw away his mask. He could not make himself accept this fact. He took his own fault for granted but could not forgive Tess’. He deserted
Tess and went away. Here I quiet doubt whether a true love has ever been in his heart. And what does the“true love”mean to him? He took double standards
towards the society. The society should not be such corrupted and conventional but he allowed himself to be conventional. He loved Tess but could not bear her any defect. He believed the intelligence, wisdom and morality were much more important than glorious ancestors, but when he got such message as Tess might be the descendent of the D’Urbervilles he felt very happy.
He was such a controversial person that at first he attracted Tess with his uncommonness then he hurt Tess heavily by his commonness. He could not
forgive Tess’miserable past and looked down upon her impurity, thoroughly forgetting his love to her. How hypocritical! He did not understand Tess’
deep and true love. He did not realize that love could make up her defects. He did not believe love for love’s sake. He just judged Tess by the principles
which he always acclaimed wrong. Although he himself can be also called a victim of the contentions, his hypocrisy and escape tortured Tess so much that cannot be forgiven.
Finally, Tess’tragedy also comes from herself. On the one hand Tess is
beautiful, intelligent, simple, clever, kindhearted and passionate, on the other hand she is feeble and yielding. She felt quiet responsible for her family when she found they were in poverty. Though she was not so willing to work for the wealthy relative, she was obliged to live in the D’Urbervilles for a noble purpose
that it could reduce the load of the parents. Such noble quality started Tess’predicament. Alec used her goodness. He generously gave economic favors to her family so that she would submit to him for paying the debts for her family. This was also the origin that at last she lost her chastity. She hated Alec but she had no other way to do but to live with him from time to time in front of the her poor family. Her feebleness and goodness led to her tragic fate. As to Angle she also took a yielding attitude. She sought the true love persistently and loved Angle devotedly and loyally. She admired Angle and believed he was a perfect man. But to her poor judgment she confessed her whole self to Angle and made Angle feel offended. She loved Angle so much that she could sacrifice everything, even her life. So when Angle expelled her and left her she had no complaining and hating. She did not plead for her unfortunate experience and even she thought it was her own fault, having nothing done
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with Angle. Her feebleness and yieldingness increased her tragic fate. According to the analysis on the characters I can say Alec’s evilness,
Angle’s hypocrisy, Tess’feebleness, and her parents’vanity are the main
reasons resulting in Tess’tragedy. However the most fundamental reason belongs to the Victorian society. In Victorian times, England seemed to be prosperous but in fact it was corrupted and came to its dooms. People advocated morality and religious, and admired the unnecessary and over-elaborate formalities. Once somebody disobeyed these he would be doomed. Like Tess,
she was longing for the truth and the goodness, but unfortunately as she firstly stepped into the society she was raped. In fact she was the injured and she should have had the help and consolation from others, but nobody gave her warmth, even the man she loved devotedly. She was considered as the sinner needing despising and rejecting. In such a society, those who had a noble status and wealthy family can insult the poor freely without the due punishment. The injustice of the society, the hypocrisy of so-called morality played tricks on such a feeble girl. Her tragedy is inevitable.
，1(Tomas Hardy. Tess of the d’Urbervilles. London: Clay Ltd,1987
，2(Chenxia. Analysis of the Tragic Mood in “Tess of the D’
Urbervilles”，J(.Journal of Renmin University of China (social societies), 1998(2):100-102
On Causes to the Tragedy of Tess 中山职业技术学院基础部叶攀
，Abstract(Tess of the D’Urbervilles is one of the Hardy’s masterpieces. Under Hardy’s pen, the heroine
Tess is created as an attractive and
warm-hearted pure woman, who has the quality of endurance and self-sacrifice. Tess has long been regarded
as the most exceptional woman
character in English literary history. However, the life of this pure woman is tragic. In this paper I will
talk about the causes for Tess’tragedy
as well as the analysis of her characteristic. The first reason for Tess’
tragedy is her poor personal background and the ignorance and vanity of her parents. Secondly, the evil power from the wealthy “relative”likes Alec. Thirdly, the conventional theory towards women from Angle is
the most fatal spiritual torture to Tess. Finally, Tess’tragedy also comes from herself.
，Key words(tragedy characteristic causes