Tess of the D`Urbervilles

Summary of the novel

Hardy is generally compliment as the master of tragic art in English fiction. 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles', published in 1891, is regarded as his tragic masterpiece. Indeed, this is his most ambitious enterprise to present a deeply moving human tragedy in English fiction. On the other hand, 'Jude the Obscure', is the story of Jude, a poor country boy who aspires to achieve academic glory, escapes from his native village to Chriestminster, but finds his ambitions of joining a university thwarted. 

The story, in 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles',  is related to man and nature, and shows their actions and interactions, relating to the tragedy of human innocence and sophistication, that is too deep for tears. The plot of the novel centres round the fate of a simple country-girl, Tess, whose parents come to discover, by chance, their descent from a noble family. Their foolish ambition leads them to send their ignorant, simple daughter to seek the assistance of a supposed relative, much morally degenerated. Seduced by him, she surrenders to his sexual passion, but parts from his in disgust soon.

The story appears here a simple tale of seduction. But Hardy doe not make his heroine a paragon of chastity, overborne by force or cunningness. On the other hand, he presents her realistically as a girl, on doubt, simple but sensuous and passionate. Moreover, she is unable to come to term with the world around her, and has intelligence enough to remain alert of her difference from others. This conception of the heroin's character gives the tragic turn to Hardy's novel. 

Tess has her baby, but the baby dies eventually. She goes to work as a dairymaid in an ideal natural environment, where she seems to have her consolation and rhythm of life. She comes to be courted by another person, Angel Clare, and she is ready to marry him. But he deserts her, knowing her dark past, and Tess is forced to go back to the man who ruined her. Ultimately, in desperate hate and disgust, she murders him. Her final retribution comes with her inevitable hanging at the end of the novel. 

To sum up, 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' presents the tragic end of an unfortunate girl. The plot is well constructed and developed, although some incidents, such as Tess's act of murder and her hanging, seem altogether too contrived. Yet, the end appears inevitable, and not forced or absurd.

The novel well illustrates Hardy's tragic vision that brings out utter human helplessness and misery against the p;ay of some mighty inviolable force that acts almost as the nemesis. Tess is a remarkable novel, although it is tingled much with Hardy's pessimism that affects the high tragic quality of a work.