Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

1539 Words7 Pages
The Victorian Age was a virtuous era, full of chaste women and hard-working men. As with any seemingly utopian society, there are the misfits: those who always seem to go against the grain. Hidden in the shadows of towns were bastardized babies and public outcasts. The flourishing literature of the era attacks the societal stereotypes and standards that make for such failures and devastating tragedies. In Tess of the d'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy, Tess Durbeyfield's initial loss of innocence brings her down to an insurmountable low, and the victorian society, of which she is a part, dooms her to a horrible fate with its "normal" shunning of her innocent misbehaviors. Tess' rapid downward spiral to her death is caused by the chauvinistic actions of the men in the story, solidified by society's loss of acceptance of Tess based on the actions taken against her, and brought to home by Tess' imminent doom to the rigid ways of the Victorian society. Tess' two "choices" as her husband, Alec d'Urberville and Angel Clare, hold many of the patriarchal stereotypes of the Victorian Age, chasing Tess as more of a metaphorical piece of meat than a passionate lover. As their secrets are revealed on their wedding night, it becomes harder and harder for Angel to love Tess, seeing her as "another woman in your shape" (Hardy 192). The author, at this point in the relationship between Tess and Angel, perfectly exemplifies the values and culture of the Victorian age. Though both Angel and Tess are guilty of the same misbehaviors in their pasts, Angel believes that "forgiveness does not apply to [Tess'] case" (Hardy 191). Under the reign of Queen Victoria, the role of men in sexual relations was strictly reproductive, and the sex act was considered a release of helpless energies, basically holding no sins of love or conjugal travesties. For women, however, it was a softer, more passionate act, meaning more of the love than the fertilization, and emotionally pulling the sex partner too close to just scoff the happening off and move on with life (Lee 1). Such conflicting views in the perspective of sexual intercourse make it nearly impossible for Angel to "forgive [Tess] as you are forgiven! I forgive you, Angel" (Hardy 191). Jeremy Ross also believes that Hardy "abandoned his devout faith in God, based on the scientific advances of his contemporaries" (Ross, Jeremy 1).
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