Literature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The Fourth Chapters 25 26 Summary

Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Phase the Fourth, Chapters 25–26 : The Consequence | Summary

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Summary

Phase the Fourth, Chapter 25

Angel returns to see his family, and the narrator recounts the Clare family history. While at his parents' home, Angel thinks about marrying Tess, whom he loves, for he is a man of conscience and will not mislead her. His brothers Cuthbert and Felix, both clergymen, are there. Cuthbert is an academic and Felix a curate. Angel finds his brothers changed somewhat; they seem more rigid, and his parents, who are snobbish in their middle-class way, find Angel more "countrified" than they would like their son to be. Mrs. Clare does not serve the blood pudding and mead that Angel carried to them from Mrs. Crick, which upsets him. The food is to be given away and the mead set aside for medicinal use.

Phase the Fourth, Chapter 26

With his father Angel discusses his plans for getting a farm and his intentions toward Tess. When his mother joins the conversation, his parents discuss their neighbor's daughter, Mercy Chant, as a potential wife. Angel holds to the idea that as a farmer he ought to have a wife who would be knowledgeable about farming matters. His father's focus instead is on religion—the distinction between those who are high Church and low Church. His father offers Angel the money he had put aside for Cambridge so he can purchase a farm, and his parents agree to meet Tess, understanding she is a good Christian woman.

The conversation bridges to a discussion of a young man called d'Urberville, whom Angel's father rebuked for his immoral behavior. Angel, who knows the d'Urberville name, is intrigued, but his father says that this family seems to have artificially adopted the name. The man was unduly aggressive with Mr. Clare, who was not disturbed since he feels that dealing with abuse is part of his Christian duty.

Analysis

The issue of high and low Church surfaces several times in the novel. The high, or Anglican, Church is close to the "papists" (Catholics). It has more ritual and is more involved with education and politics than the low Church is. When Mr. Clare speaks of Mercy Chant, noting she had been "decorating the Communion-table" and called it an "altar," he is saying she is following high Church ways. Mr. Clare, however, is low Church and thus not inclined toward ritual and sacrament. Low Church, closer to the Methodists, is instead associated with a more evangelical Christianity, including personal salvation and conversion. It is also associated with a more literal reading of the Bible, the word of God.

This distinction between the two aspects of Protestantism leads to a conversation about Alec d'Urberville, who again turns up as a negative force. When Mr. Clare attempted to help him find faith and morality, Alec rebuffed him rudely. The encounter gestures toward the continuing relationship these families will have.

At the same time these chapters serve to reflect the differences between Angel and his brothers. Angel's denial of some precepts of the Church means he is unwilling to follow his father and brothers into the clergy and seeks to forge his own way as a farmer. From their perspective, though, he is taking on some of the rustic traits they belittle.

There is a divide into which Angel has fallen: he is neither one of the country folk nor one of his educated family members. His rusticity is an artificial adoption, not, like Tess, a part of who he is. The practical notion of a wife as an able helpmate in his chosen career matters less to his father than the issue of where she stands in regard to the Church's teachings, in keeping with his general outlook on life. Angel also scorns social distinction and snobbery based on money or ancestry. However, it is worth noting that the family's Christianity does not eliminate their snobbery: they still clearly see themselves as better than rural folk and are disdainful of the food Mrs. Crick sends them.

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