Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Task One

1. The title is a direct reference to Tess, but also has connotations of purity, virginity and the countryside: all ideas which the novel goes on to develop.

2. It suggests that she will be pure in some way. While she may not be pure in the view of the church after her “maidenhead” (virginity) is taken from her, Hardy believes she is pure in the sense that she is everything he believes is positive and good about womanhood: unaffected, a child of nature, true to herself.

3. Heredity; fate; social class; nature

4. Tess’s father is considered to be feckless. He has a grand view of who he is, and this is exacerbated by his discovery of his family’s history. However, he does not take any responsibility for his family’s well-being.

Tess’s mother has been wisened by life and she understands that if Tess is to live a better life she will have to take advantage of her good looks. However, she cynically manipulates Tess into situations, showing that she does not consider Tess’s own feelings when she manipulates her daughter, and Tess is too naïve to understand.

5. Both parents expect Tess to improve her social situation and, probably, their own.

6. Tess’s ambition amounts to becoming a school teacher, showing that she has a great desire to better herself intellectually. However, she is appalled at the idea of using her beauty to attract a husband.

7. Tess is of an age where she realises that if she does not do something to earn for her family, nobody will. Her parents do not have any earning power, and her siblings are too young.

8. Tess acquiesces when: she, and not her father, takes the hives to market; when she allows her mother to send her to “claim kin” at Trantridge; when she allows Alec to feed her strawberries.

9. Tess is passed from situation to situation, usually incurring suffering along the way, because she is unable to assert herself. She is a teenage, working class girl. She cannot fight her parents because they are her seniors, and she cannot push away Alec because she needs the work, and he is her social superior. She does not acquiesce out of pure passivity – she cannot assert herself because of the forces of society around her.