Literature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The Fifth Chapters 42 44 Summary

Tess of the d'Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles | Phase the Fifth, Chapters 42–44 : The Woman Pays | Summary



Phase the Fifth, Chapter 42

Tess travels to Chalk-Newton. At an inn she is made uncomfortable by men commenting on her good looks—including the man from Trantridge whom Angel hit for making coarse remarks about her, who teases her about the event. She goes outside, cuts off her eyebrows, and hides her face in a kerchief to stop men from looking at her, as she wants nothing to do with any of them. She reaches Marian, who presses her to find out what has happened; Tess refuses to give details and asks her to neither tell people that she's married nor say anything against Angel. Marian tells her the work on the farm is not pleasant and escorts her to the farmer's house. Tess signs a contract to stay until Old Lady-Day (March 25). After she finds a place to live, she writes to her parents to give them her new address but still does not tell them of her situation.

Phase the Fifth, Chapter 43

The farm, Flintcomb-Ash, is "a starve-acre place," farmed by the villagers and neglected by an absentee lord. Tess joins Marian in the fields. Work—cutting swedes (another word for rutabagas)—is hard and made harder with the rain. Marian offers some drink, but Tess refuses. They reminisce about working at Talbothays, and Marian decides to write to both Izz and Retty. Izz agrees to join them. Tess continues to refuse to talk about Angel, although she does blow a kiss in the direction she assumes South America to be.

Izz arrives as do Car Darch, the Queen of Spades, and her sister, the Queen of Diamonds, from Trantridge. Neither Darch sister seems to remember Tess. However, Tess is taken aback when she discovers her employer is Farmer Groby, the same man from Trantridge who made her uncomfortable on the road and the one with whom Angel fought defending her honor.

The subject of Angel's departure resurfaces, upsetting Tess. Izz and Marian offer to finish her task when she flags. Later when Izz leaves, Marian is still drinking and tells Tess about Angel inviting Izz to go with him. Tess blames herself and says she ought to have written to Angel more often, so she starts a letter. She fails to finish it because of doubt, but she wears her wedding ring all night.

Phase the Fifth, Chapter 44

A year has passed since Tess and Angel wed. Tess decides to visit his parents, some 15 miles away. When she arrives after having walked the distance, she hides her work boots and puts on the ones Angel bought for her. She overhears Cuthbert and Felix, who discuss Angel and his unfortunate marriage to a dairymaid—from whom, they muse, he seems to still be separated. They meet Mercy Chant, who sees the walking boots and assumes that a beggar has thrown them out in order to seem more destitute: she takes them to give away to charity. Tess does not speak to Mr. and Mrs. Clare, but instead she leaves. As she is leaving she hears of a "ranter"—an itinerant preacher—and upon overhearing the man in question delivering a fiery but not particularly eloquent sermon, she discovers him to be Alec d'Urberville.


Tess cannot escape her past. The farmer who employs her to cut swedes (rutabagas) is the same man she sees on the road to the farm, a man who judges her for the events at Trantridge. The man seems to appear as a living representation of her inability to escape from the past. Wherever she goes he appears. Further, when she sees Marian and Izz she discovers they know about her marriage troubles, and even worse she learns her husband invited Izz to go with him to Brazil. The past is colliding with the present. Yet despite Angel's behavior, Tess continues to blame herself, this time for not writing to him. But why would she do that when he asked her not to? Tess would never go against his instructions, so to blame herself for not writing is inconceivable.

On the other side of her marriage to Angel, rural life looks much uglier as well: Tess loses her first job, and her new one, on an ugly farm doing difficult work under a hard master, is a complete departure from the Cricks' dairy. The small world of Wessex, full of people she knows, is no longer simply familiar: it is burdensome.

Tess is now becoming desperate enough to surrender what pride she has—and she has kept it for some time. She starts to write to Angel, but when her doubts increase to the point at which she stops writing the letter, she decides to seek out his parents. Tess is now all alone. Her parents are of no solace, and her friends are not much comfort. Marian has turned to drink; Izz was willing to go away with Tess's husband; her employer judges her for her past. Even her in-laws discuss her behind her back in rude, uncharitable terms. Tess is abandoned and weary.

Tess's failure to address Angel's parents is an ironic moment. The narrator attributes it to a "feminine loss of courage at the last and critical moment through her estimating her father-in-law by his sons." Fate drew her in the wrong direction, however, for according to the narrator, her "present condition was precisely one which would have enlisted the sympathies of old Mr. and Mrs. Clare. Their hearts went out of them at a bound towards extreme cases." Despite the narrator's perception, Tess's timidity, self-loathing, shame, and remaining pride join the reasons for her action—or lack of it.

And it marks a critical turning point. Leaving the Clares, Tess encounters another preacher: the man whose actions have led to all of her troubles to date. Alec, approached by Mr. Clare in the past, has not only converted but also is preaching evangelically. Seeing the man who raped her now speak of religion shakes Tess. The censure of religious hypocrisy is evident here. Tess's unfortunate experiences with clergymen up to now include a parson who would not allow her child a Christian burial, a man raised by a clergyman who has judged her even as he was guilty of a similar sin and now has abandoned her, two other clergymen who judge her with no reason beyond her social class, and the man who took her virginity without her consent. Even the supposedly pious and virtuous Mercy Chant judgmentally assumes that a wild speculation about the boots is correct and steals them to punish the imaginary beggar. No religious figures in the novel show more moral fiber or Christian charity than Tess does. Yet fate dictates this new encounter. Had Cuthbert and Felix not been there, had they not been talking about her, had she mustered the courage to meet her in-laws, then she would not have encountered Alec d'Urberville and avoided all that happens as a result.

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