HomeLiterature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The Fourth Chapters 32 34 Summary

Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Phase the Fourth, Chapters 32–34 : The Consequence | Summary

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Summary

Phase the Fourth, Chapter 32

As Angel continues to press for a wedding date, Tess agrees to marry him on the last day of the year. However, on a Sunday in mid-December, Izz pulls Tess aside and tells her the wedding banns were not called and only two Sundays remain before the wedding day. When Tess asks Angel about the banns, he tells her he's decided they'll be married with a license rather than banns, as it is more private. Angel gets Tess a dress, gloves, and handkerchief, and she worries that—like Queen Guinevere—her white dress will change color and betray her lack of purity. Tess is continually fearful of bad omens and actions that bring bad luck, like postponing the wedding.

Phase the Fourth, Chapter 33

Angel decides he would like a day out with Tess before they are wed, so on Christmas Eve they set out to town. There they encounter two men from Trantridge, one of whom insults Tess. Angel punches him. The man apologizes, saying it must have been a mistake, but after Angel and Tess leave the offender tells his friend it was not. When Tess, unnerved, asks to put off the wedding, Angel says they can't.

At the dairy farm they separate, and Tess hears a noise. When she goes to check on Angel, he tells her he dreamed of fighting the man they encountered earlier that evening. Tess returns to her room and writes four pages detailing the events of several years ago; she then slips the sealed letter under his door.

Angel greets her warmly the next morning and does not mention the letter. Worried he hasn't read it, Tess checks his room and does not see it. She thinks it means he has forgiven her. Angel continues this way up to the day of the wedding on New Year's Eve, when she discovers the letter still sealed and stuck under the carpet. Unable to let him read it on their wedding day, she destroys the letter. In a moment alone with him she says she wants to confess her faults and mistakes. He says they'll have time afterward. She presses to tell him, but he says no.

They go to the church, and Angel mentions the legend of the d'Urberville coach—a vaguely remembered tale of a terrible crime once committed in a d'Urberville's carriage, which descendants of the family see as an apparition. None of Angel's family come to the wedding; his parents are disappointed in his choice of a bride, and his brothers have not responded to his announcement and invitation. Nor are Tess's family and friends from Marlott present. Tess asks him to kiss each of the milkmaids once before the wedding, and he does. The rooster crows three times—a bad omen; Mr. Crick says he's never heard a rooster crow in the afternoon.

Phase the Fourth, Chapter 34

After the wedding Angel and Tess go to the bridal house—which is a former d'Urberville residence and has portraits of women from the family hanging on the walls. He notes she is clearly one of them, and they await their luggage. While they wait a package comes from Angel's father. In it are a necklace, earrings, and bracelets for Tess from Angel's godmother. Tess puts on the jewels, and Angel is struck by her beauty.

Jonathan delivers the luggage, along with the story of the dairymaids. Retty tried to kill herself, and Marian got drunk. Tess feels another swell of guilt because they are mourning the loss of Angel, and she resolves to tell him her story.

Angel tells her he hadn't wanted to confess until after the wedding, but he reveals he sinned, spending 48 hours in debauchery with a woman. Tess tells him she too has secrets, and the chapter closes with her revealing them.

Analysis

As the wedding draws near Tess tries repeatedly and more seriously to reveal her past. She does, in fact, but her letter is not read. Further hints her secret will come out, whether or not she tells, come out when the couple encounters a man who recognizes her. After this point Tess says very definitely she wants to tell Angel, but he refuses to hear it. Her morality may be in question—to her—but it does not stop the wedding.

The absence of Angel's family causes him some sadness. Their reluctance to appear is most likely a result of their snobbery—too proud to accept a dairymaid as a daughter-in-law, no matter what her Church leanings or distant ancestry may be. Less rigid and less snobbish parents might be more forgiving, but the Clares are neither at this point, despite their piety. Angel's brothers do not even have the courtesy to respond, whereas his parents at least did, though with little joy and the same little joy with which they send Angel's godmother's jewels for Tess.

Significantly Angel's confession of his own past is similar to Tess's in its sexual nature, although his was consensual; readers therefore may expect that he will be sensitive to her secrets and treat the incident as something from the distant past with no bearing on the present or future. Readers also may note that whereas Tess has been trying to tell Angel—and wrote a long letter—before the wedding, Angel deliberately has waited until after, giving Tess no choice but to accept his actions. Tess begins her confession optimistically, with the understanding that both she and Angel have sinned—sinner and sinned against. However, as she tells her story, the diamonds glitter grotesquely, foreshadowing the end of her simple life to be replaced with something complex and less congenial with her character.

In this section the wedding is clouded with superstitious occurrences. With an odd sense of timing—on the way to their wedding—Angel tells Tess the legend of the d'Urberville coach, which is said to have originated because of a murder committed in that coach, either done by or done to a member of the family. Early in the text the narrator mentions the d'Urbervilles as having committed other crimes as well and implies the crime visited upon Tess was undoubtedly one her ancestors also committed. Additionally, after the wedding the cock crows three times in the afternoon. It is another bad omen, which neither the narrator nor the characters will explain as they try to ignore it, and it upsets Tess. The location of the "bridal house," which Angel has rented for their honeymoon, is a d'Urberville farmhouse. All d'Urberville associations, including ancestral portraits hanging on the walls, unnerve Tess. To underscore Angel's lack of understanding, despite his intellectual capabilities he has rented this house without considering its effect on Tess, who does not find amusement or value in her ancestral connections.

Two symbols play ominous roles in these chapters. Notably the rooster that crows in the afternoon is white with a red comb—reflecting the color symbols that define Tess's purity and sexuality. The rooster's presence seems like a direct challenge. The symbol of water as a purifier appears as well, as Tess and Angel wash their hands together in one basin. In demonstrating their unity as their hands touch, Angel asks, "Which are my fingers and which are yours? ... They are very much mixed." The inference is that the water purifies and the couple is united as one. However, Tess's response, "They are all yours," implies his domination rather than union, and later in the story they will wash their hands separately.

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