Literature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The Second Chapters 12 13 Summary

Tess of the d'Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles | Phase the Second, Chapters 12–13 : Maiden No More | Summary



Phase the Second, Chapter 12

A month later after the attack, Tess leaves Trantridge and her job at the d'Urberville home. Alec overtakes her, asks her to return, and says if she won't he'll take her the rest of the way to Marlott. He admits he was wrong and offers her money, "ready to pay to the uttermost farthing. You know you need not work in the fields or the dairies again. You know you may clothe yourself with the best, instead of in the bald plain way you have lately affected, as if you couldn't get a ribbon more than you earn." Tess refuses. After Alec drops her off, she meets a painter, who is painting gloomy religious texts. She asks him, "Suppose your sin was not of your own seeking?" whereupon the painter directs her to Mr. Clare for guidance.

When Tess returns home, she tells her mother what Alec did to her. Joan chastises Tess for not getting Alec to marry her. She points out they are struggling and accuses Tess of caring only for herself. Tess is appalled by the idea of marriage to Alec and counters her mother's complaints by asking why her mother hadn't better prepared her for the dangers of men. Her mother admits she was afraid Tess would push Alec away if she were aware of his interest. "I thought if I spoke of his fond feelings and what they might lead to, you would be hontish wi' him and lose your chance."

Phase the Second, Chapter 13

Driven by curiosity and rumors, people come to visit Tess and talk about her behind her back. Tess falls into depression. After several weeks she attends church and starts going on solitary walks to be alone with the landscape and nature.


Tess does not change her moral stance after the loss of her virginity. Her steadfastness is an important detail as it is contrary to the Victorian belief that once a woman has fallen, she is a sinner. Hardy is making a point about rape: it may change Tess's physical status, even impregnate her, but she is still the same moral young woman. Her rejection of wealth, even of help to her family, drives the point even further: allowing herself to be seduced in order to provide for a destitute family would be sympathetic and even forgivable, but Tess is too upright and pure even for this.

The section also contains one of the few scenes in which Tess asks why her family has failed her. Overall she has paid little heed to their negligence, but on her return from Trantridge she asks her mother why she didn't warn her of the dangers. Her mother's response makes clear that she cares primarily about her daughter's ability to benefit her family—not her happiness or well-being.

Here, also, is the question at the center of the novel: What if the sin is not something the sinner has sought out? Tess is asking the question that—to modern readers—is much clearer. She did not choose to lose her virginity. How then is she to be judged for it? The sign painter has no answer for Tess, although in an instance of foreshadowing he supplies the name of the Reverend Mr. Clare as someone who might help her. In time Tess starts finding solace in the church and in nature.

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