Social and Economic Classes in Tess’s Life

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In Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy explores the effect of social and economic classes on Tess’s life through generational poverty, Tess’ work efforts, and contrasts of classes. Tess’ life was predestined to be difficult because of her lower social and economic class. However, as the novel opens, Tess’ father, Jack Durbeyfield, is informed he is actually of the extinct royal lineage of the noble D’Urbervilles. The D’Urbervilles wealth is long gone however, and the name is negligible (Hardy 2). However, Jack takes this trivial piece of history and treats himself as if he were the richest man alive. This idea of wealth without working hurts Tess and her family throughout the novel. Her family and their working class lifestyle are representative of the struggles of the working class in England. The fictional country of Wessex, where Tess and her family lived, was intended to show trials and tribulations of the rural people during the industrial revolution and social dislocation (Ghosh 6474). The industrial revolution caused problems for many of the people of Dorset, Hardy’s native land. Hardy demonstrates how Tess’ life was controlled or defined by her social and economic class. His representation of limited choice for the lower class shows up throughout Tess’ life, making his novel an exceptional example of the problems of the proletarians of the Victorian period. Many of Tess’ problems are economic due to generational poverty. This means that poverty has been in the Durbeyfield family for two generations or more. Tess’ family is part of the working class. However, her father has a poor work ethic or desire to support his family properly (Hardy 30). He did the bare minimum to keep his family and drinking habits alive. He sq... ... middle of paper ... ...ovel was too gloomy due to Tess’ working class situations, but Hardy was as accurate as he could be in regards to the hardships that the working class endured (Milberg Kaye 145). Hardy spent a lot of time writing and working on “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” mainly because he could not find a publisher willing to publish such a scandalous story (May 133). He intended for it to be a serial in a Christian periodical, but that required radical revisions (May 133). He did revise it and ran it as a serial. However, he later returned to his original edition to be published as a novel. Being such a blunt novel, Hardy is one of the few authors who gives a true idea of what money and classes were like in the time period (Ghosh 6474). Hardy was able to communicate successfully through his novels the extreme hardship and limitations social and economic classes created.

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