Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Quotation Analyses

“But some might say, where was Tess ‘s guardian Angel? Where was the providence of her simple faith? Perhaps, . . . he was talking, or he was pursuing, or he was in a journey, or he was sleeping and not to be awaked . . .. As Tess ‘s own people down in those retreats are never tired of saying among each other in their fatalistic way: ‘It was to be.'” Chapter 11

Hardy is suggesting that a god who should have been defending Tess was absent during her rape. He suggests different things that the god may have been doing instead of helping Tess, and this belittles the omniscience of the Christian god, or suggests it is a god too callous to care about Tess. The final, short sentence reinforces the notion that the poor would accept this treatment at the hands of the rich, claiming that it was simply a part of their lot in life: “It was to be” indicates that it could not be avoided. However, whether this was because God did not care for Tess, or because it is the fate of the poor always to be predated on by the rich, is unclear.

“Why it was that upon this beautiful feminine tissue, sensitive as gossamer, and practically blank as snow as yet, there should have been traced such a coarse pattern as it was doomed to receive; why so often the coarse appropriates the finer thus, the wrong man the woman, the wrong women the man, many years of analytical philosophy have failed to explain to our sense of order.” Chapter 11

Hardy makes use of simile here to demonstrate Tess’s purity at this point in the story. She is said to be as fragile “as gossamer”, and thus easily broken, with little force; in addition, the narrator describes her skin as white “as snow”. The symbolic meaning here is clear, that Tess has yet to be blemished by experience. Throughout the novel, Hardy juxtaposes white and red, with one indicating purity of mind or body, while red connotes lust, sin, blood and death.

“Did it never strike your mind that what every woman says, some women may feel?” Chapter 12

At this point in the text Alec suggested that Tess’s statement that she did not know what his desires were. He responds, “That’s what every woman says.” Tess for the first time confronts Alec, saying that he was wrong to believe all women were the same. The phrase “every woman” indicates that Alec has been in this situation many times before.

“THY, DAMNATION, SLUMBERETH, NOT. 2 Pet. ii. 3,” Chapter 12

The sign-writer is an evangelist who paints these words on fences across Wessex; they are words from the Bible. Their meaning is that every person is already damned and must repent their sins. Tess, upon seeing these, and knowing that she is pregnant, is made to feel again that her god has no compassion for her, and damns her to hell. Note that the letters are painted in a lurid red, intensifying the connotations of sin.

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