Literature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The Fourth Chapters 30 31 Summary

Tess of the d'Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles | Phase the Fourth, Chapters 30–31 : The Consequence | Summary



Phase the Fourth, Chapter 30

The drive to the station begins in silence. The milk jugs clatter, and Angel periodically plucks ripe berries for Tess. The rain starts and knocks down her hair. Angel wraps them both in a cloth, which Tess holds closed as he drives. They speak about old families and history, and Tess again tries to tell him of her past. Angel dismisses her need to tell him, and ultimately Tess loses her courage. Instead she tells him only that she is a d'Urberville by blood. His response surprises Tess, for she believes he has only contempt for the nobility. He admits, "I do hate the aristocratic principle of blood before everything, and do think ... the only pedigrees we ought to respect are those spiritual ones of the wise and virtuous, without regard to corporal paternity. But I am extremely interested in this news." She strongly rejects the suggestion she use the name d'Urberville. He again presses his proposal, and this time she agrees. Tess kisses him passionately.

At the close of the chapter, Tess says she must write to her mother and reveals to Angel she remembers seeing him in Marlott; she hopes that his failure to dance with her then is no "ill omen."

Phase the Fourth, Chapter 31

Joan Durbeyfield, in reply to her daughter's letter, advises Tess not to "say a word of your Bygone Trouble to him ... Many a woman—some of the Highest in the Land—have had a Trouble in their time; and why should you Trumpet yours when others don't Trumpet theirs? No girl would be such a Fool, specially as it is so long ago, and not your Fault at all."

Tess is struck by Angel's calm affection, more ethereal and imaginative than passionate. Angel and Tess both openly seek out the other's companionship. Angel finds the country courtship habit of spending time together outdoors peculiar initially but comes to appreciate it as they spend the month of October in this way.

One evening when they are inside, Tess exclaims she is not worthy of him. Angel tries to calm her, and she laments he wasn't taking notice of her when he was first in her village four years earlier. Angel presses for the date of the wedding, and she tries to stall. While they are talking, the Cricks, Retty, and Marian return. Angel tells them he is marrying Tess. Later when Tess is with the other dairymaids—Retty, Izz, and Marian—she again says Angel ought to marry one of them.


Tess can no longer resist and gives in, both to her feelings and Angel's proposal. She does not, however, confess her secret; her "instinct of self-preservation" and her desire for happiness at last overweigh her moral instincts. Her mother's advice is not moral, yet Tess follows it for the moment, aware she and her mother differ in their moral codes. She even is willing to consider that her mother's lighter view of her past misfortune—as an unpleasant episode that need not affect her future life—is more accurate than her own. However, deceit is inconsistent with Tess's character. At this point in the story readers most likely will infer that Tess ultimately will choose morality, for she is "a pure woman." Moreover she has already said, regarding the sad story of Jack Dollop, the secret ought to have been revealed before the marriage.

Angel's character, with its flaws and contradictions, are further developed in these chapters. Despite his renunciation of things noble and his professed disdain for old families, he is the child of his parents, and to Tess's surprise he is quite interested in her ancestry. Although he fits in with the others at the dairy—which seems a kind of utopian paradise—he reflects his mother's snobbishness in being impressed with Tess's d'Urberville connection: "Society is hopelessly snobbish," he tells her, "and this fact of your extraction may make an appreciable difference to its acceptance of you as my wife, after I have made you the well-read woman that I mean to make you. My mother too, poor soul, will think so much better of you on account of it. Tess, you must spell your name correctly—d'Urberville."

While there is no doubt Angel loves Tess, he would be happier, as would his family, if she reflected her ancestry. In saying the only "pedigrees we ought to respect are those spiritual ones of the wise and virtuous, without regard to corporal paternity," he seems to demonstrate a lack of snobbery. But his keen interest in this new information suggests an underlying respect for social rank, no matter how much he insists otherwise. Moreover, when later confronted with the very situation in which his respect for the spiritual pedigree is tested, he will fail.

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