Depiction of Class in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy

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Contrary to Roland Barthes post-structuralist theory on The Death of the Author, the context of Hardy’s background is extremely relevant when critically evaluating any of his novels. Tess of the D’Urberville is saturated with examinations of the class issues of his contemporary society. It is clear he posses’ a strong sense of moral value toward the rural classes and Tess's own class issues ultimately determine her downfall. Most of Hardy's novels are very typical in depiction of the people, life styles, moral constructs and personal dilemmas of his contemporary society, especially regarding cross-class conflicts. This essay aims to discuss Hardy’s thematic depiction of class within the novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles Hardy’s views on the subject of the peasant classes and the portrayal of class conflicts within an early Victorian society which are examined throughout the text. Hardy originated from a working class family. The son of a master mason, Hardy was slightly above that of his agricultural peers. Hardy’s examination of transition between classes is usually similar to that of D.H. Lawrence, that if you step outside your circle you will die. The ambitious lives of the characters within Hardy’s novels like Jude and Tess usually end fatally; as they attempt to break away from the constraints of their class, thus, depicting Hardy’s view upon the transition between classes. Hardy valued lower class morals and traditions, it is apparent through reading Tess that her struggles are evidently permeated through the social sufferings of the working class. A central theme running throughout Hardy’s novels is the decline of old families. It is said Hardy himself traced the Dorset Hardy’s lineage and found once they were of great i... ... middle of paper ... ...erge of destruction a new age is beginning in which Tess and her friends are replaced by machine. Hardy’s novels are ultimately permeated upon his own examination of the contemporary world surrounding him, Tess’s life battles are ultimately foreshadowed by the condemnation of her working class background, which is uniquely explored throughout the text. The class struggles of her time are explored throughout her life in Marlott and the preconception of middle class ideals are challenged throughout Hardy’s exploration of the rural class. Tess of the D’Urbervilles revolves around Hardy’s views of Victorian social taboos and continues to be a greatly influential piece from a novelist who did not conform to the Victorian bourgeois standards of literature. Works Cited Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Penguin Putnam Inc: New York, NY. 2003. Print.

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