Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Task Seven

  1. Describe the image used to show how the vicar feels about Tess having baptised Sorrow herself.

“Having the natural feelings of a tradesman at finding that a job he should have been called in for had been unskilfully botched by his customers among themselves” – The vicar is appalled that someone would make such a poor attempt at a task that should have been completed by an expert. He thinks Tess’s baptism is inadequate.

  1. We are again shown a conflict between two sides of a single person. Explain this conflict.

On the one hand, the vicar must obey the rules of the church and reject Tess’s baptism; however, he is compassionate on a human level and feels it difficult to reject and upset a young girl in such distress.

  1. How was the vicar “cornered”?

He says that Tess’s baptism of Sorrow will suffice, but then must allow the child to be buried in the churchyard, even though this is not technically allowed by the Church.

  1. Despite passing through an adult tragedy, there is still evidence that Tess is a child. Write down one example of this.

“Then I don’t like you!” she burst out, “and I’ll never come to your church no more!”

  1. What is insulting about a) the cost of the burial, and b) the man who carries it out?

The cost of the burial was only a shilling and a pint of beer. This suggests that Sorrow was not worthy of a full and proper burial.

The burial was carried out by the sexton – essentially the church caretaker. Again, Sorrow is shown as not worthy of a proper burial, presided over by the vicar.

  1. Is there anything interesting (in a literary sense) about the location of the grave?

It is fitting that Tess, a child synonymous with nature and the uncultivated world, should bury her child in an overgrown part of the churchyard. In addition, Tess’s status as an outsider is reinforced by having to bury her child away from “respectable” people. She does not belong amongst these people.

  1. What do we learn about Tess from her decoration of the grave?

It is consistent with Tess’s simple faith that she leaves wild flowers on her son’s grave. The marmalade jar also shows her poverty. Finally, the flowers being intertwined with the cross symbolise the way Tess’s rural idea of god  is mingled with the orthodox church.

  1. What does the final sentence reveal to us about Tess?

Tess does not see the faults in her child’s grave. She is his mother and sees only a fitting Christian grave – she loves him.