“So each had a private little sun for her soul to BASK in; some dream, some affection, some hobby, or at least some remote and distant HOPE….”
All of the girls at the dance have their own private hopes which sustain them. Tess differs in that she harbours little hope for the future.
“I don’t know; but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like the apples on our STUBBARD -tree. Most of them SPLENDID and sound – a few blighted.”
Tess employs a simile to express her fear for the future. She considers her world to be one where unhappiness will succeed – her world is blighted, ruined in some way.
“Thus, the thing began. Had she perceived this meeting’s import she might have asked why she was doomed to be seen and coveted that day by the WRONG man, and not by some other man, the right and DESIRED one in all respects, . . .”
This is ominous. Her meeting with Alec is the beginning of some dreadful “thing”, as yet unknown to the reader.
“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…”
Hardy is critical of religion here. Tess has done all she can to live by her Christianity, yet no god intervened to prevent her being raped. It is almost sarcastic how Hardy lists the other things which God may have been doing, although this in itself undermines the idea that the Christian god is omnipotent.
“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.'”
This returns to the idea of the faith of the poor – it is simple and accepting of misfortune. Rather than being angered by events, they accept them as part of some divine plan.
“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…”
Hardy’s similes reveal Tess to be fragile and pure, and this increases the sense of injustice at what Alec has done to her. Note also the idea that Tess was “doomed to receive” these actions. She believes that she could not have avoided the events that her life delivered.