Literature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The Second Chapters 14 15 Summary

Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Phase the Second, Chapters 14–15 : Maiden No More | Summary

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Summary

Phase the Second, Chapter 14

The narrator describes the landscape, the fields, and the work of harvesting corn with a threshing machine. Tess is in the field working along with others. During a break Tess's sister brings a "bundle" to Tess. The bundle is Tess's child, whom she unwraps and nurses, then begins to kiss "violently." One of the women remarks Tess will eventually stop saying she wishes she and the child were in the churchyard—despite Tess's despair, she is fond of the baby. The narrator notes that although Tess feels censure and shame, these feelings are only hers, for "To all humankind ... Tess was only a passing thought."

No sooner does she arrive home than disaster strikes: her child, who has been sickly since birth, is very ill and "about to die." Tess is frantically worried for the baby, who has never been baptized (in Anglican Christianity, baptism is required to enter heaven). Her father refuses to allow the vicar in and locks the doors, so she decides to baptize her own child. With her family as witnesses, Tess baptizes her son, christening him "Sorrow." He dies in the morning. She goes to the vicar to ask if her baptism will be "the same" as if he himself had performed it; although the answer is clearly "no" in Christian doctrine, he is moved and tells her it will be "just the same." She asks for a Christian burial, and he initially refuses, thinking that it was Tess, not her father, who refused the baptism. Eventually, for "a shilling and a pint of beer to the sexton" the child is buried in the churchyard at night in secret.

Phase the Second, Chapter 15

The events of the last "year or two" have changed Tess, and she has become a "complex woman." She decides to leave her village for a new life and in doing so makes plans to work as a dairymaid at Talbothays, a farm near the former estates of the d'Urbervilles. Tess has matured physically as well, becoming "what would have been called a fine creature; her aspect was fair and arresting; her soul that of a woman whom the turbulent experiences of the last year or two had quite failed to demoralize."

Analysis

Much like the rape, the birth of Tess's child is not detailed. Readers know it happened because there is a baby—physical proof of the event at Trantridge. Tess, still a teenager, is both resentful of that proof and at the same time loves her child. Despite her general respect for conventions and norms, Tess, in her most rebellious act to date, baptizes her son. She does not do this as an act of defiance, however. She does it because the child is dying, and she is desperately afraid for him.

She demonstrates her courage and the beginnings of independent thought in her attempt to convince the vicar to allow her son to be buried in sanctified ground, for he has been baptized. She achieves this request, but only by way of bribery—a clear argument for a disingenuous, hypocritical clergy.

Tess, rather than being defeated by the onslaught of bleak events in her life, continues on. Unlike her father, who turns to drink, or Alec, who sins and tries to pay his way out of sin, Tess elects to try again, moving somewhere she won't be known and leaving her past behind her.

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