Tess of the d’Urbervilles – One-Paragraph Essay

Choose a novel or short story in which there is a moment of significance for one of the characters.

Explain briefly what the significant moment is and discuss, with reference to appropriate techniques, its significance to the text as a whole.

In Thomas Hardy’s 1891 novel, “Tess of the d’Urbervilles”, the protagonist, Tess, experiences a moment of significance when she is rejected by her new husband, Angel Clare. This moment marks an end of her idyllic love, and begins the painful chain of events which lead to her eventual death. With reference to Hardy’s use of symbolism and the key theme of fate, this essay will show why this moment is significant to Tess, and what its consequences are.

At this vital moment in the novel, Angel Clare seems to undergo a complete reversal of character. Previously, he had professed an almost over-the-top form of love for Tess, which built her confidence in him as a partner. At Talbothay’s dairy farm, he called her, “Artemis… Demeter…” These names demonstrated to Tess how highly Angel valued her, as both are names of Greek goddesses. Symbolically, these name elevate Tess to the status of a deity in Angel’s eyes, combining elements such as beauty, purity and otherworldliness, so his change of heart comes as an enormous shock to both Tess and the reader. We also learn during this period of romance between the two that Angel believed fate had thrown the two together. Hardy explains that, “He said that fate… had thrown in his way a woman who possessed every qualification”. It is clear that at this point, Angel believes that he and Tess should be a couple as, to him, it was part of a divine plan. Again, this reinforces the reader’s (and Tess’s) belief that he and Tess were mutually in love. However, Angel backtracks on these declarations of love on their wedding night.

Clearly, Angel’s rejection of Tess is a moment of significance in the novel. It marks a complete change in the relationship: from comparing Tess to a goddess, and claiming that their love was pre-destined, he suddenly refuses her love, and condemns her for her past.