Literature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The First Chapters 6 7 Summary

Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Phase the First, Chapters 6–7 : The Maiden | Summary

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Summary

Phase the First, Chapter 6

Tess travels back home, suddenly aware of the "spectacle she presented" with roses in her hat and bosom. On Tess's return Joan says she has received a letter informing her Tess has been offered a place looking after "a little fowl-farm" for Mrs. d'Urberville. Tess continues to dismiss the idea of marriage, saying instead, "I hope it is a chance for earning money." The note regarding her hiring indicates a cart will be sent for her in two days. The narrator notes, "Mrs. d'Urberville's handwriting seemed rather masculine." And Alec d'Urberville apparently has already called on the Durbeyfields.

Phase the First, Chapter 7

With high hopes for an advantageous match for Tess, Joan dresses her daughter, who is reluctant about living with the d'Urbervilles but has been unable to find another option. Tess, obedient and resigned to her situation, consents: "Do what you like with me, mother." With her mother insisting she look her best, Tess wears the white dress she wore for the ceremony in the opening chapters, and Joan fixes her hair so that it looks fuller than usual.

When the cart arrives, so does a two-wheeled one-horse carriage driven by Alec. The youngest Durbeyfield child asks, "Is dat the gentleman-kinsman who'll make Sissy a lady?" Tess goes with Alec to Trantridge, and her mother has some misgivings about Alec's intentions toward her daughter, but she comforts herself that "if he don't marry her afore he will after."

Analysis

Tess seems to be indifferent to ambition and uninterested in change, and would happily live in her rural village indefinitely. She is a model for Hardy's ideals about country life: connected to the land on which she works, uninterested in wealth, and innocently happy. However, her parents have other ideas, eagerly anticipating the idea of Tess marrying a rich man. With Tess's obedience, her sense of responsibility, and her position in the world, she has little choice but to comply with her parents' wishes. Her involvement with Alec is beginning, and her fate is sealed. The random events conspiring to bring Alec and Tess—the pub, the beehives, the dead horse, the job caring for chickens—together highlight the theme of fate, or predestination, as being responsible for what happens to the characters.

Joan Durbeyfield's misgivings here are important, for they contradict the previous conversation with her husband—and contradict some later actions as well. Her brief moment of conscience does not hide the fact that she says nothing to her daughter about Alec's intentions, and seems to be banking on Tess's ignorance to entrap her into marriage. Tess may have family responsibilities and a highly developed sense of right and wrong, but she knows little about men.

It is also noteworthy that although Tess has accepted flowers and fruit from Alec, she has not done so with the intent to seduce him. Tess is described, both here and as the story progresses, as innocent and artless. Alec, however, is assertive in attempting to seduce Tess. The danger she faces is palpable, as are her own ignorance and defenselessness. Hardy may value innocence, but he knows that it is no match for deviousness. Tess's family has treated her poorly by making her carry such responsibilities and by sending her unprepared into danger.

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