Literature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The Fifth Chapters 37 38 Summary

Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Phase the Fifth, Chapters 37–38 : The Woman Pays | Summary

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Summary

Phase the Fifth, Chapter 37

Shortly after one o'clock Tess hears a sound. Angel is sleepwalking. He comes into the room, wraps her in the sheet as if it were a shroud, and carries her outside. As they cross the river Tess considers toppling them so they can die together. He carries her to the abbey nearby and lowers her into an empty stone coffin. Tess worries the cold and damp will make Angel ill, so she rouses him enough to get him back to the house.

In the morning they finish packing and leave, pausing briefly to see Mr. and Mrs. Crick, with whom Angel has some remaining business. In front of the Cricks they try to behave normally, but the relationship is strained, and Mrs. Crick notices Tess is "not now quite like the proud young bride of a well-be-doing man." Angel tells Tess he feels no anger, but she must not come after him. He adds she can write if she is ill or wants anything. He takes her to the carriage and sends her on her way.

Tess accepts her punishment, thinking it harsh but offering no objection, despite her sorrow. The narrator, looking into her character—and Angel's—remarks, "If Tess had been artful, had she made a scene, fainted, wept hysterically ... he would probably not have withstood her ... Pride, too, entered into her submission—which perhaps was a symptom of that reckless acquiescence ... in the whole d'Urberville family—and the many effective chords which she could have stirred by an appeal were left untouched."

Phase the Fifth, Chapter 38

Tess worries about seeing her parents. She returns home and is greeted by her mother, who thinks she has been foolish for telling Angel and losing him. When her father returns, her mother tells him, and he wonders aloud if she's even married.

After a few days she receives a note from Angel informing her he has gone to look at a farm. She lets her parents believe she is going to join him, and she gives them half of the 50 pounds Angel gave her for her lodging and necessities in his absence.

Analysis

Tess, despite all evidence of her goodness and high moral code, is dismissed by her husband and judged a fool by her parents. She has somehow gotten in trouble both for deceiving Angel and being honest toward him. The consequences of honesty seem to have affected her: to make life easier for her parents, she decides to lie about returning to her husband. Again she has reached a threshold wherein her morality is compromised.

The narrator explores Tess's character and harsh judgment of herself, part of which results from pride. Had she objected to Angel's action, had she argued her case or behaved with less dignity—or would one call it passivity?—she might have touched Angel's compassion and averted the situation. However, pride can be harmful, as it is among the Durbeyfields and d'Urbervilles, and Tess's pride prevents her from behaving in self-serving ways, even from demonstrating real emotion and fighting for what is dear to her. The narrator seems almost to echo Angel's suggestion that she is tainted by her blood—although the narrator's interest is in her aristocratic pride, not her morality. As much as she behaves honorably, she expects it from others and, consequently, is hurt when their behavior falls short.

In keeping with her character, even though Tess has been treated unfairly by her husband and her parents, she speaks well of Angel and gives half of the limited funds she has to her parents. Indeed her reaction to being carried as if she were dead and deposited in a coffin is to worry about Angel's health. The small moral compromises Tess must make result from the judgments and censure of those who ought to protect her: family and husband. Even so she continues to put forth efforts, sacrifice, and to make choices to take care of their needs even as they do not care as much for hers.

In these chapters the d'Urberville tombs echo Tess's newfound desolation. In Angel's dream Tess is dead amid the ruins in the ancestral cemetery. The incident foreshadows Tess's future, as the association with the d'Urbervilles has brought nothing but violence and despair and finally will bring death.

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