Tess of the D’Urbervilles Copy


Realism in Hardy’s novels

  • The characters live in villages and small towns in Wessex (SW of England) and the narrator provides detailed descriptions of nature, old customs, and superstitions. The descriptions are very different from the idealized Romantic descriptions;
  • The setting enhances the mood and feelings of the characters;

Naturalism in Hardy’s novels:

  • The character’s misery is generally caused by the effects of industrialisation and urban civilization which oppose the patriarchal life of rural England;
  • The stories follow the harsh life and hard work of farmers;
  • Influenced by Greek philosophy (fatalism) that states that the man is a victim of blind destiny and fate;
    • Characters are victims of the existing social order;
    • Guilt, luck, and coincidence contribute to the characters’ fate.
  • As a consequence of Darwin’s evolutionism theory, the traditional views of God were disrupted in society. Late Victorianism was characterised by a sense of waste and frustrations, that ultimately led to the disintegration of Victorian values.

TESS OF THE D’UBERVILLES (published 1891)


  • Genre: novel of character and environment


Wessex County, England during Victorian Era

The setting reflects the mood and feelings of the character.

  • Talbothays Dairy – everything is green and lush pointing to fertility and sensuality (here Tess is the happiest)
  • Flintcomb Ash – everything is barren and desolate, pointing to misery and depression (Tess is miserable)
  • Stonehenge – the whole décor makes the reader think about a sacrificial altar on which Tess is brought as a sacrifice to conventional morality, thus becoming a victim of a barbaric system of justice.


Main theme: Fate and free will. The tragedy surrounding the main character’s life is caused by events over which she has no control. Although many characters in the novel blame their misfortune on fate, Tess blames her suffering on human causes. This creates a general atmosphere of pagan injustice throughout the novel because there is no real hope of redemption.

Secondary themes:

  • The injustice of existence
  • Memory and past
  • Women and femininity
  • Man and the natural world
  • Marriage
  • Time
  • Sex
  • Contrasts


A young and beautiful girl from a poor family encounters hardships while trying to make a living. She is sent to borrow money from distant relatives and ends up being raped by their son. Then, after she marries for love, her husband is disappointed with her past and leaves her. After he returns for her, he finds her living with her previous rapist. She stabs the rapist to death and tries to flee with her husband. She is arrested and executed for the crime.


Characters presented in the analysis of the literary fragment should be adapted to the fragment itself.

  • Tess Dubrefield – the protagonist of the novel. She is a beautiful, loyal young woman who lives with her impoverished family. She wants to do the best she can for her family but is inexperienced. Her father proves to be unwise and sends her to work for the d’Ubervilles. Tess becomes pregnant by Alec d’Uberville, an event that turns her entire life around and has a tragic outcome.
  • Alec d’Uberville – a handsome, but amoral young man, son of a wealthy merchant. His father takes the name of the noble family after buying the estate and makes Tess believe that they are related. Alec is manipulative and he does everything in his power to seduce Tess. After she becomes pregnant, he tries to help her, but she cannot love him.
  • Angel Clare  – an intelligent young man, who becomes a farmer to remain free from the city’s pressures. He meets Tess when she works at a farm, falls in love with her, and marries her, but leaves her when he finds out about the rape and the child. Later on, he returns to her, only to find her living with Alec, whom Tess later stabs.


  • Third-person point of view.
  • Sympathetic inside view of Tess, Angel, and, sometimes, Alec. The reader is allowed to see what these characters are thinking and feeling, and sometimes the narrator explains why they are feeling certain things.


  • The narrator is emotionally involved in the climactic moments of the story, but distant when describing landscapes.
  • The narrator is mostly sympathetic regarding Tess and makes the reader identify with the character.


  • Simple style, short sentences.
  • Language is adapted to the environment (rural). The words are simple and frequently used.
  • When describing more complicated emotions, the language also becomes more complicated and expressive.