Uniqueness and Universality in Tess of the D'Ubervilles

Uniqueness and Universality in Tess of the D'Ubervilles

Length: 1040 words (3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Uniqueness and Universality in Tess of the D'Ubervilles

   She can flirt, she can listen, she can sympathize, she can work with her hands.    (Hardy  131)


The above line from Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles demonstrates a great deal about the themes of the novel as well as the character of Tess.  The line reprinted above is supposed to reveal the versatility of Tess' character.  However, it also reveals a good deal that helps us understand Hardy's central theme of the book.  This is because the versatility of Tess' persona is what makes her unique.  However, she is purity, fortitude, woman and suffering personified.  Nonetheless, she is herself and no other person, unlike any other woman.  This contrast of her universal qualities but her individual differences is significant to understanding one of Hardy's core themes if not the core theme in the novel:  Tess is a symbol of the common predicament of all mankind-we are meant to suffer, love and endure.  However, despite this universality Tess' pain is made to seem unique by Hardy's skill.  In her unique vitality and versatility we understand the universality and unique phenomena of tragedy.


The character of Tess is one that symbolizes the positive aspects of life, but she represents the unrealized potential that is within all human beings as much as she comes to symbolize how so very often we end up differently than we might.  Of course, her universality is also embodied within the Christian community wherein she exists, but she also represents as do others in the novel the pagan nature of mankind underneath the surface of social appearances.  Like the line reprinted at the outset, Tess' unique nature despite being an example of common mankind is also evidenced when she rejects the vicar and his church.  The vicar refuses to give her child a Christian burial and Tess replies, "'Then I don't like you!', she burst out, 'and I'll never come to your church again'" (Hardy  147).  However, this is not meant to show Tess rejecting God or men of God, but, instead, it is designed to show us how sensitive and clear-headed Tess is when facing those who are so heartless that even when they are a man of God they could heartlessly act.  She once again symbolizes the common lot of mankind (to be sensitive to heartlessness and human deprivation), but she also symbolizes a

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Uniqueness and Universality in Tess of the D'Ubervilles." 123HelpMe.com. 22 Jan 2020

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Tess Of The D ' Urbervilles Essay

- Since the original publication of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy, in 1891, a debate has raged regarding Tess’s status in the novel. Some claim that she is a harlot, who instigates the events that occur in her life and her ultimate demise while others believe that Tess is simply an innocent, inexperienced young woman who does not deserve her painful experiences. This debate was significant in Hardy’s time but is also increasingly relevant in our own, as it shows the intrinsic way in which society views women and the events that befall them....   [tags: Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy, Woman]

Research Papers
1032 words (2.9 pages)

Essay on The Tragedy of Tess in Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles

- The Tragedy of Tess          The tale of Tess of the d'Urbervilles is filled with would-have-beens. Time and again, as Tess's life branches off onto yet another path of sorrows, the narrator emphasizes the sadness of the moment with a would-have-been or an if-only. When her husband, after learning of her past, determines that they must not live together, the narrator mentions a reply to his arguments that "she might have used...promisingly" (245), but she does not, and they part. At their parting, Hardy writes that "if Tess had been artful, had she made a scene, fainted, wept hysterically, in that lonely lane, notwithstanding the fury of fastidiousness with which he was possessed, he woul...   [tags: Tess of the d'Urbervilles Essays]

Research Papers
2021 words (5.8 pages)

Feeling Sympathy for Tess in Tess of the D'Urbervilles Essay

- Feeling Sympathy for Tess in Tess of the D'Urbervilles I think that throughout the novel Thomas Hardy uses many different techniques that lead his readers to feel sympathy for Tess. Through reading Hardy's 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' I have realised that it is invaluable that the readers of any novel sympathise with and feel compassion for the main character. In writing 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' Thomas Hardy is very successful in grabbing the attention and sentiments of the reader and then steering their emotions so that they feel empathy and understanding for the character Tess....   [tags: Tess of the D'Urbervilles Thomas Hardy Essays]

Research Papers
2007 words (5.7 pages)

Essay about The Circularity of Life in Tess of the D'Urbervilles

- The Circularity of Life in Tess of the D'Urbervilles   Thesis: Hardy is concerned with the natural cycles of the world, and the disruption caused by convention, which usurps nature's role. He combats convention with the voice of the individual and the continuing circularity of nature. Phase the First: The Circles of Life The circularity of life is a major theme of the novel. Hardy treats it as the natural order of things. The structure of the novel reflects this reigning image of the circle at several levels....   [tags: Tess of the D'Urbervilles]

Free Essays
1555 words (4.4 pages)

Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Talbothay and Tess's Struggle Essay

- Tess of the d'Ubervilles - Talbothay and Tess's Struggle     In Tess of the d'Ubervilles, Tess is spiritually homeless. She wanders from place to place, doomed by her guilt to suffer personal ruin. Most of her temporary domiciles are backdrops for unhappiness and uncertainty, but her time at Talbothay's Dairy is ostensibly a period of bliss. What purpose does this segment of the text - which on the surface seems so hopeful - serve. When she begins to work for the dairy and is wooed by Angel Clare, Tess is pulled asunder by two competing forces: nature and society....   [tags: Tess of the d'Urbervilles Essays]

Research Papers
800 words (2.3 pages)

The Downfall of Tess in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles Essay

- The Downfall of Tess in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles Tess of the D'Urbervilles is considered to be a tragedy due to the catastrophic downfall of the protaganist Tess. From the early days in her life, her father John had begun to destroy her, which then led to Alex D'Urbervill and eventually finished with Angel Clare. Each dominant male figure in her life cocntributed to her tragic downfall which the reader encounters at the end of the novel. It is unfortunate how one woman can be ruined by the three most important and dominant people in her life....   [tags: Thomas Hardy Tess of the D'Urbervilles]

Research Papers
784 words (2.2 pages)

Good and Evil in Tess of the d'Urbervilles Essay

- Good and Evil in Tess of the d'Urbervilles Though the central action of Tomas Hardy's novel "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" centres on Tess, the other characters are not lacking in interest and individuality. Undoubtedly, Tess's life is marked by two contradictory temperaments, those of the sensual Alec d'Urberville and the intellectual Angel Clare. Both characters are described with artistic detail to show a blend of weakness and strength governed by fate. Both are flesh and symbol complementing the other in the fall and rise, rise and fall again of Tess herself, and both play crucial roles in shaping her destiny....   [tags: Tess of the d'Urbervilles Essays]

Research Papers
797 words (2.3 pages)

Tess Being a Victim of Fate in Tess of the D'Urbervilles Essay

- Tess Being a Victim of Fate in Tess of the D'Urbervilles “The president of the Immortals had done his sport with Tess” In his novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy expresses his dissatisfaction, weariness, and an overwhelming sense of injustice at the cruelty of ‘our’ universal fate disappointment and disillusionment. Hardy puts out an argument that the hopes and desires of Men are cruelly saddened by a strong combination of fate, unwanted accidents, mistakes and many sad flaws. Although Tess is strong willed and is clearly educated emotionally and mentally she soon becomes a victim of ‘fate’....   [tags: Tess of the D'Urbervilles Thomas Hardy Essays]

Research Papers
2062 words (5.9 pages)

Victim in Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles Essay

- Victim in Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles      Tess Durbeyfield is a victim of external and uncomprehended forces. Passive and yielding, unsuspicious and fundamentally pure, she suffers a weakness of will and reason, struggling against a fate that is too strong for her. Tess is the easiest victim of circumstance, society and male idealism, who fights the hardest fight yet is destroyed by her ravaging self-destructive sense of guilt, life denial and the cruelty of two men.           It is primarily the death of the horse, Prince, the DurbeyfieldÕs main source of livelihood, that commences the web of circumstance that envelops Tess....   [tags: Tess d'Urbervilles Essays Hardy]

Research Papers
1610 words (4.6 pages)

The Power of Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles Essay

- The Power of Tess of the d'Urbervilles          "If an offence come out of the truth, better it is that the offence come than the truth be concealed." Thomas Hardy added these words in the introduction to the fifth edition of this novel (Hardy v). He provided this quote from St. Jerome somewhat defensively, in response to the criticism he received for Tess prior to this edition.   Originally printed in serial form in two magazines, this novel underwent bowdlerization in order to be published....   [tags: Tess of the d'Urbervilles Essays]

Research Papers
3599 words (10.3 pages)

Related Searches

123helpme.com/search.asp?text=uniqueness">uniqueness in the sense that despite being a woman, despite being within a Christian community, and despite her common humanness, she has an identity that is unique in the aspect of her clear-headed thinking in such a situation. 


Further, Tess' character is very important in conveying another theme that Hardy seems to be promoting in the novel.  Tess is versatile and unique not only because of her skills but also because of her ability to recognize the insignificance of mankind in the larger scheme of things.  This is why she is able to understand that man is insignificant or trivial when it comes to our bigger concerns, especially things like pondering our final destiny in life.  However unique Tess may be in this ability, what Nietzsche might label an ability to overcome man(woman), she still is representative of the universality of human beings.  She is so because she understands on a deep level that everything is not insignificant despite man's insignificant nature in the larger scheme of time and space.  This awareness is what gives her the power to endure, the desire to love and the ability to make the best of a bad situation within the scope and parameters of her own unique character.  Tess is universal in that she shares the lot of all mankind, but she is also able to transcend this condition by being able to rise above it while alive, albeit for brief moments.  She is able to experience a transcendental moment in the here-and-now, like when she explains how she has the ability to allow her soul to move outside of her physical body,  "'A very easy way to fell 'em go', continued Tess, 'is to lie on the grass at night and look straight up at some big bright star; and, by fixing your mind upon it, you will soon find that you are hundreds and hundreds o' miles away from your body, which you don't seem to want at all'"  (Hardy  75).    We also see this when Tess listens to Angel playing his harp, a moment during which she is conscious of neither time nor space.  In other words, despite her suffering the human condition, there are moments of music, love and spirituality in the here-and-now during which Tess appreciates life on a higher realm than the sum of mere mortals (a sack of physical, chemical substances) would suggest is possible.


In summation, Tess' character is meant to represent the best that mankind has to offer.  She is neither a paragon of virtue nor absolutely reprehensible.  Instead, she is faced like most human beings with doing the best she can from situation to situation as she moves through life.  Her versatility and unique character enable her to do great as well as not great things, but they are an example of how well-meaning and sensitive people with a basically decent set of values are thrown into a world wherein they must survive-a world that all too often has little concern or makes little allowance for individual values.  Thus, the opening line reprinted here that demonstrates Tess' versatility is meant to give us a deeper understanding of the conflict of being an individual that must formulate some type of skills and values while trying to endure and find love in a world that often is indifferent to those skills, values or goals.   This is comparable to Tess' own declaration when she is persecuted by Alec d'Urberville, "Whip me, crush me; you need not mind those people under the rick!  I shall not cry out.  Once victim, always victim-that's the law!" (Hardy  411).  That may be the law of human existence in the larger scheme of things, but Tess' unique nature and versatility enable her to love and endure despite the universal dilemma.



Hardy, T.  Tess of the d'Urbervilles.  Skilton, D. (ed.)  New York, Penguin, 1978.
Return to 123HelpMe.com