Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Task Seventeen

“O why have you treated me so MONSTROUSLY, Angel ! I do not deserve it. I have thought it all over carefully, and I can never, never FORGIVE you!”

Tess has come to the realization that Angel’s treatment of her has been disgusting and expresses this in a letter to him. However, Angel is able to be reconciled with Tess, perhaps showing that their love is stronger than either understands.

 

“his original Tess had spiritually CEASED to recognize the body before him as hers – allowing it to drift, like a CORPSE upon the current, in a direction disassociated from its living will.”

Tess has become a shell of herself since moving in with Alec. She no longer has a “living will”, that is the strength to choose her own future, and now she floats, giving in to Alec’s whims and desires. Her description as a “corpse” indicates that while she is physically alive, her spirit is dead.

 

“O, you have TORN my life all to pieces…”

Tess finally explodes at Alec, and says this just before murdering him. She clearly holds him responsible for what has happened to her since Trantridge. Tess clearly feels her life cannot be repaired, and from this point on events follow quickly to her own death.

 

“Don’t think of what’s past!” said she. “I am not going to THINK outside of now. Why should we! Who knows what TOMORROW has in store? ”

This is a remarkable transformation. Tess, at Stone Henge, finally wants to live only for the moment. Contrast this with the earlier quotation: And you seem to see numbers of tomorrows just all in a line, the first of them the biggest and clearest, the others getting smaller and smaller as they stand farther away; but they all seem very fierce and cruel and as if they said, ‘I’m coming! Beware of me! Beware of me!’ For the first time, ironically, Tess hopes for the future.

 

“[T]he President of the Immortals, . . . had ended his SPORT with Tess . And the d’Urberville knights and dames slept on in their tombs UNKNOWING.”

The final quotation to link to the idea of fate. Here, Hardy suggests that God has finished playing with Tess’s little life, as though her terrible life was simply a game for some higher power. And, for all of the influence of the past on all of the characters, those d’Urbervilles already in their graves were completely unaffected by the events of Tess’s life. Hardy is making a clear point here: the past has influence on us but its influence is neutral: it cannot care one way or another about our lives.