The term culture comes from "cultura animi,” or “cultivation of the soul.” One’s culture is a manifestation of where they come from, a huge part of who one is. However, when one must fight against one’s own culture, it’s like fighting against oneself. This is what Tess Durbeyfield had to do in Tess of the D'urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Tess’s strength develops as she contends with two cultural issues; the cultural expectation for women to be pure, and the cultural system of a social hierarchy.
In Tess of the D'urbervilles, there is a double standard for women, for Tess. Women are expected to be pure because without their pureness, they are soiled and unsuitable for marriage. Therefore, when Tess was taken advantage of by Alec D’urberville, she was blamed, punished, despised. She had to bear the burden of humility and despair. Tess was criticized for being a single mother, she wasn’t even allowed to baptize her child because of its illegitimacy, nor was she allowed to give it a proper religious burial. Furthermore, Tess also had to live with the guilt of being impure because society said that she was wrong, and had done a terrible thing, even though Tess herself was not to blame. Tess also lost the love of her life because the man she loved was more in love with his cultural beliefs than Tess. When a woman becomes impure she is exiled from the community and lost of any chance to lead a normal life. For men, the consequences of becoming debased are not nearly as severe:
“He then told her of that time of his life to which allusion has been made when, tossed about by doubts and difficulties like a cork on the waves, he went to London and plunged into eight-and-forty hours’ dissipation with a stranger” (220).
Dissipation in this con...
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...irtuous backgrounds which cause him to reject Tess. Tess, therefore, is left struggling against the class system, rejecting it entirely, and being a victim of her culture- which ultimately, makes her stronger.
Tess throughout the entire novel, develops into a more formidable, tenacious character who rejects the culture which surrounds her, particularly the ideas of social classes and the expectations for purity in women. The reason for Tess’s strength is because of her insurgence of these ideas which lead her on a path that forms her into a stronger, more vehement person. And her strength that develops allows her to continue to reject these ideas in a more radical way. Tess’s life was destined to be tragic, to be riddled with adversity, but despite her hardships, she became stronger, more refined, more courageous; she became Tess of the D’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman.
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