Literature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The Fifth Chapters 35 36 Summary

Tess of the d'Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles | Phase the Fifth, Chapters 35–36 : The Woman Pays | Summary



Phase the Fifth, Chapter 35

After Tess finishes her revelations, Angel stands and stirs the fire. He is shaken. He acknowledges she has tried to tell him; however, he is still cold. Tess implores him to be kinder. "Forgive me as you are forgiven! I forgive you, Angel." He says it's not about forgiveness: he thought she was one person, and she has turned out to be someone else altogether. Angel even acknowledges Tess was more "sinned against than sinning," but he withdraws from her nonetheless. His reaction is personal: he says that he loves not Tess but "another woman in your shape," and that he can't be in her presence right now. When she follows him and protests, he says that he thinks that her background has corrupted her: she is the morally weak descendant of a decayed lineage. He sends her back, and Tess eventually sleeps. When he returns he notices a portrait of a d'Urberville woman who resembles Tess and whose face he imagines wants to wreak vengeance on the male sex. The image hardens him against his wife, and he sleeps on the couch in the sitting room.

Phase the Fifth, Chapter 36

At dawn Angel wakes. He sends away the servant and prepares breakfast himself. When Tess joins him he asks her to say her revelations were untrue. She cannot. He then asks if "he" is alive. Tess says the baby has died, but Angel clarifies he meant the man.

Tess suggests he can divorce her, and Angel points out he cannot. She explains she thought he could "cast her off" if he chose to, her past giving him grounds for divorce. It does not, however. She confesses she thought of killing herself last night under the mistletoe over the bed. He says she is not to do so.

Angel comes and goes, and Tess waits on him as if she were his servant. He tells her the situation would be different if the man were dead. He also confirms he will not live with Tess—he claims that, no matter where they went in the world, her past would emerge to shame them and their future children. The narrator, however, makes it clear that this is a ridiculous idea: halfway across the world, who would know or care about Tess's past? But Tess contritely proposes she go home. He adds he, too, will go away; he thinks more positively of people when away from them. They pack up to leave.


As a writer Hardy is associated with realism. Literary realism (a literary movement that includes George Eliot, with whom Hardy is compared), and by extension social realism, is reflected in a text not only by details that approximate those in real life but also in its attention to social issues and their effects on characters' lives. That Tess could easily forgive Angel's transgressions, for which he was responsible, and Angel cannot forgive hers demonstrate Hardy's view of gender inequality and the injustice it perpetrates. Why are Angel's nights of debauchery more forgivable than being a victim of rape? In addition Hardy introduces the legal quandaries associated with marriage in his day—the idea of what it means to be married, and the legalities of marriage—emerges frequently from this point on in the text. Tess has believed, wrongly, that Angel could divorce her. "Can't you—now I have told you? I thought my confession would give you grounds for that." To obtain a divorce, a man had to prove his wife had committed adultery. Tess, in her ignorance, believes her fallen status would allow Angel to divorce her if he saw fit. It does not, as her rape occurred before she was his wife.

Significantly, only after Angel withdraws his affection does Tess consider committing a sin. She offers to commit suicide for Angel—a mortal sin, as she would not be able to repent. Her purity has finally been tainted as a result of her husband's choices. Until this point she has followed the dictates of religion as well as she could, but on accepting Angel's proposal and making a vow to him he becomes her guide. Angel's perspective is that her rapist is in effect her husband. He follows this idea with the issue that the perpetrator is still alive. In other words he would feel differently if Tess were a widow. Although he does not equate his prior sexual experience with matrimony, he does so with Tess's. Obviously he is perpetuating a double standard, and his pride and rigidity in this matter seem no less than his brothers' or his parents'. In these scenes it is difficult to see Angel empathically—his behavior is so rigid, and so based on his own unrealistic ideals, that he seems capable neither of intellectual honesty nor sympathy.

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