HomeLiterature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The First Chapters 4 5 Summary

Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Phase the First, Chapters 4–5 : The Maiden | Summary

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Summary

Phase the First, Chapter 4

At the pub the Durbeyfields are discussing the idea of sending Tess to meet their newly discovered relation, the rich Mrs. d'Urberville, to ask for support. They voice their hope that through her Tess could marry well and therefore ease their poverty. Tess retrieves them, unaware of their plans.

Her father is too drunk to take the beehives to market, so Tess volunteers, taking nine-year-old Abraham with her. Before he falls asleep in the wagon, he tells her of their parents' plan for her to "marry a gentleman." Tess also falls asleep while driving the wagon, and the horse veers into the path of the mail carriage, causing an accident in which the old animal is killed.

Jack decides against selling the carcass, thinking it beneath his new status to do so, and instead the family members bury the horse. Tess is so distraught at her part in the horse's death she cannot participate in the burial and thinks of herself "in the light of a murderess."

Phase the First, Chapter 5

Feeling responsible for the loss of their only horse, on which her father has depended for his work, Tess agrees to her mother's proposal she introduce herself to Mrs. d'Urberville. She travels there and is struck by the new and impressive country house, not the ancient baronial manor she was expecting.

The narrator then reveals the history of the Stoke-d'Urbervilles, who are not relations of the Durbeyfields at all. The late Simon Stoke, a rich merchant and likely a moneylender, had gone to the museum, researched families, and chosen d'Urberville to affix to his name to make him sound like ancient nobility. The Durbeyfields have no idea of this history, however.

Tess is greeted by Alec d'Urberville. She tells him her story, and he invites her into the gardens. Tess is innocently unaware of Alec studying her. He gives her roses for her bosom, tucks roses into her hat, feeds her a strawberry, and fills her basket with berries. He says he'll see what he might do, that his mother might help find her a "berth," but he also tells her "no nonsense about 'd'Urberville.'"

Analysis

At only 16 Tess seems burdened with responsibility. In addition to getting her parents out of the pub, she must deliver the hives to market and then present herself to their recently discovered rich "relatives" and secure the family's fortunes. Proud and highly moral, Tess does not want to ask for handouts; she hopes instead for a job. Her attitude is a sharp contrast to her father's, who always wants a quick and easy answer. Their pride, too, is at the heart of the contrast. Tess is proud of her high standards and her ability to work and do what she can to help support her family. She is proud in that she would not consider accepting charity. Jack, on the other hand, has pride that is now focused on the entitlement his newly discovered ancestry affords him: nobility does not work for a living. Both attitudes contrast with Joan's as well; Joan, whose sense of pride is far below those of Tess and Jack, sees no harm in using wiles to secure a future. She will reaffirm this attitude later when Tess seeks her advice.

Tess, for her part, is not interested in handouts or in marrying a gentleman. Further, despite the circumstances she is facing, she feels responsible for the horse's death and consequently her father's inability to work, even though his working has been sporadic and halfhearted. For Hardy to make his case that Tess is "a pure woman," she needs to have a strong moral character that transcends her lack of physical virginity.

At the end of Chapter 4 Tess sadly and innocently compares herself to a murderess, foreshadowing the end of the story when her comparison becomes a reality. Hardy continues the symbols of color in Chapter 5 with Alec giving her roses and feeding her strawberries as he toys with her during their first encounter.

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