Literature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The First Chapters 8 9 Summary

Tess of the d'Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles | Phase the First, Chapters 8–9 : The Maiden | Summary



Phase the First, Chapter 8

Alec is a reckless driver, insisting Tess hold onto him "round the waist" as they careen down a hill. At the second hill he instructs her to do so again. When she resists, he says he would like to kiss her lips or cheek. She resists again. When he shows no regard for her feelings, Tess notes, "I—thought you would be kind to me, and protect me, as my kinsman!" He dismisses this statement, and again she insists, "I don't want anybody to kiss me." He presses a kiss to her cheek, and she wipes off the trace of him. Offended by her gesture, he tries yet again to get her to let him kiss her.

Tess uses the excuse of retrieving her hat, which has blown off, and disembarks. Once out of the carriage, she refuses to get back in, choosing to walk the remaining "five or six miles." Alec's temper evaporates as Tess gets angrier, and he offers he will "never do it any more against your will," but she doesn't believe him. She contemplates returning home but doesn't want to break her promise.

Phase the First, Chapter 9

Tess settles in at the gardener's cottage, rearranging things. She is summoned—with the birds—to see Mrs. d'Urberville, who is blind and wants to inspect her fowl. The older woman would like Tess to whistle for the birds, so Tess sets out to learn to do so. Tess meets Alec again, who asks about her thoughts on his mother, tries to teach her to whistle, and invites Tess to come to him if she has difficulties or needs help. Unaware Mrs. d'Urberville has not been told that Tess is a relative, Tess settles into a routine.


No sooner is Tess out of Marlott when Alec increases his seduction attempts. Tess is torn between anger, frustration, and fear in her reactions. She tries to reason with him and appeal to his good conscience—a limited asset in Alec. She expresses her lack of interest, and she ultimately opts to walk rather than be in his reach, demonstrating her resolve as well as her adherence to a proper Victorian young woman's moral code, whereas Alec is behaving as he might toward a woman with looser morals.

Given who he is, Alec is largely unmoved by her resistance. Tess is at his home, unprepared for what to expect, and very young. The only other adult she could appeal to is Alec's mother, who is both old and blind—and much more invested in her chickens than a young woman in her employ. The implication is, therefore, she would be of little use and would likely defend her son against a person like Tess—a mere servant but an extremely attractive young woman. Tess may settle in and do her work, but with Alec lurking in the background the sense of peril and foreboding remains.

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