Literature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The First Chapters 10 11 Summary

Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Phase the First, Chapters 10–11 : The Maiden | Summary

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Summary

Phase the First, Chapter 10

Eventually Tess joins the local workers in going into Chaseborough every Saturday night. This routine continues for "a month or two" until one Saturday in September when she leaves late only to find the other workers have gone to a "private little jig." She attempts to find her way there and encounters Alec, whom she brushes off. Eventually he sees her again and offers to take her home, going as far as to offer to rent a trap (a carriage) to take her. Tess refuses again, and she sets off with the others.

Car Darch, a fellow laborer, is a dark, attractive young woman and a former mistress of Alec's. A jar of treacle leaking from the basket on her head leaks down her body, causing her companions to roar with laughter. Tess laughs too, at which point Car accuses her of putting on airs because Alec likes her, and puts up her fists to fight. Tess, unnerved by Car's attack, accepts a ride from Alec, who appears again. Notably the conflict with Car is sparked when someone remarks it's "her hair falling down." Car's mother observes Tess's descent "out of the frying-pan into the fire!"

Phase the First, Chapter 11

Alec presses his affection on Tess, who continues to refuse it. He angrily points out he's been rejected by her for "near three mortal months." He continues, and Tess eventually allows him to put his arm around her. When she notices they are "quite out of the road," she asks him to let her go and she will walk home. He refuses. He tells her he's given her father and siblings gifts, and she "almost wish[es]" he had not. They are now lost in the woods, and she has been rebuffing his advances for months. Tess falls asleep while he explores to figure out where they are; when he sees her asleep, he rapes her.

The narrator notes, "Doubtless some of Tess d'Urberville's mailed ancestors rollicking home from a fray had dealt the same measure even more ruthlessly towards peasant girls of their time. But though to visit the sins of the fathers upon the children may be a morality good enough for divinities, it is scorned by average human nature."

Analysis

Despite Alec's pursuit, Tess has continued in her work, refused his unwelcome attentions, and attempted to make friends as she had in Marlott. For these months she has been successful. This section marks a turning point.

The Victorian audience was aware of the symbolism of fallen women. The idea of a woman loosening her hair—an image still used in modern film and art—was associated with loosened morals. When the argument with Car Darch takes place, the treacle streaming from her head looks like loose hair; to compound the point she takes off her bodice in public when she discovers the mess. As Alec's former mistress, this image of loose hair and missing clothing—which shocks Tess—makes Car an archetypal fallen woman.

The theme of fate once again is revisited in this section. Tess is a d'Urberville, and her ancestors—according to the class bias in the novel—surely were guilty of the same thing that happened to Tess. The idea of "visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children" is a reference to Classical tragedy, which was based on the idea that a sin committed stained a family, all of whom bore responsibility and would be punished by the gods.

Alec's attack on the sleeping Tess is implied rather than stated. Such graphic details are left unwritten; the reader has to infer that the rape has taken place. Modern readers will understand there is no possibility of Tess's having consented, as she is not awake. Further she has resisted his advances up to now, and nothing indicates she has changed her mind. But the following section, "Maiden No More," tells us that regardless, Tess is no longer a virgin and will suffer the consequences. While other writers of the time portrayed innocent women who succumbed to seduction, Hardy complicates the issue. A woman who consents bears some of the responsibility, although she is often inappropriately punished. But Hardy draws attention to the peculiar circumstances of rape: Tess is physically no longer a maiden—the only thing society cares about—but not consenting means she cannot actually be guilty of sexual activity.

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