Literature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The Fifth Chapters 39 41 Summary

Tess of the d'Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles | Phase the Fifth, Chapters 39–41 : The Woman Pays | Summary



Phase the Fifth, Chapter 39

Angel goes to his parents' house three weeks after the wedding. He has decided to go to Brazil, and he tells them Tess is at her parents' house because of this decision. His mother asks if they've quarreled, and he allows they have had a difference. His mother seems to be coming around to Tess, saying that there are worse wives than robust, virtuous farm girls, but Angel's behavior is so odd that she asks, intuitively, whether Tess is indeed virtuous. Angel bursts out that she is "spotless!"

Phase the Fifth, Chapter 40

Angel briefly encounters Mercy Chant, the girl his father hoped he would marry, and teases her. He then returns to Wellbridge Farm, where he and Tess spent the days after their wedding, to return the keys and attend to last-minute business. There he encounters Izz Huett, who has come to call on the couple. In their few minutes of conversation she informs him she no longer works at the dairy and Marian has taken to drink. He knows Izz is in love with him and asks her to accompany him to Brazil. When she immediately accepts, knowing the situation and its consequences—and being an honest woman who became more so under Tess's influence—she tells him "nobody could love 'ee more than Tess did! ... She would have laid down her life for 'ee. I could do no more." Angel, deeply affected, withdraws his invitation and leaves her, but he is no less determined to go his own way.

Phase the Fifth, Chapter 41

Eight months have passed since Tess and Angel separated. Tess has left Marlott and is now alone and out of money. She has worked at a dairy but lost her position as autumn and the rains came. Out of pride Tess has hidden her situation from her family, so when Joan writes asking for help, Tess sends her 20 of the 30 pounds due her from Angel's banker. She considers contacting Angel's father but decides against doing so, again out of pride and the fear "they would despise her in the character of a mendicant."

Meanwhile, Angel is in Brazil and sick with fever.

Tess travels to a farm recommended to her in a letter from Marian. Along the way she encounters the man whom Angel fought with, who knew of her from Trantridge. She also comes across dead and dying pheasants, who have been shot by hunters. Several of these she puts out their misery, crying as she does so.


Both Angel and Tess struggle with the revelation of her past. For Tess that struggle is all encompassing. She left the dairy where she had been happy, and she has no shelter there or at home without admitting her husband has deserted her. This is, arguably, the first time since the dance at Marlott at the beginning of the novel where Tess's pride is a major factor. Then she was defending her father; now she is defending her husband at the same time as she is demeaning and hurting herself.

She continues to be generous in the extreme, handing over two-thirds of the money from Angel's banker to her mother. Without money Tess is at a loss for options unless she is willing to sacrifice her pride and return to her parents' house or to the dairy. Whether or not this is simple pride is arguable. Tess knows judgment will await her at either place as it would at Angel's parents' house. Tess has faced judgment for Alec d'Urberville's actions some four years ago and more recently; now she faces judgment for her husband's behavior.

Facing the choice between being judged and finding a way to support herself, Tess chooses to find work. She has made this choice in the past, too: Tess went to the dairy to leave behind the judgment in Marlott. Twice now Tess has been put into difficult positions because of the actions of men who claimed to want to marry her. In both cases because of her nature she has been powerless. Tess's action is primarily reaction, repeating established patterns of obeying male authority figures. It is also her fate because she is a d'Urberville, the underlying impetus for the actions of the men dominating her life, beginning with her father's after learning of his lineage.

Once again Angel's character is questionable. By asking Izz Huett to go with him to Brazil, he is inviting her undoing and would make her a fallen woman—the same quality that caused him to cast off his wife. He is married, separated by his own hasty actions, he loves his estranged wife, and Izz is Tess's friend. To unthinkingly invite Izz to ruin her life is contemptible, hypocritical in the extreme, and disturbingly indifferent to an innocent young woman's unrequited feelings. For Izz to accept it reveals the depth of those feelings. Then to rescind the invitation, even though it is a wise decision—or barring wisdom, common sense—is equally hurtful.

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