HomeLiterature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The Seventh Chapters 53 54 Summary

Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Phase the Seventh, Chapters 53–54 : Fulfilment | Summary

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Summary

Phase the Sixth, Chapter 53

Haggard and skeletal, Angel returns to his parents' house and asks if there are any letters. They give him the last letter from Tess, and he despairs she will not be reconciled to him. He expected an easy reconciliation, but on reading her letter he thinks it best to let her know he has returned. Thus he writes to Joan Durbeyfield, who responds to his initial inquiry informing him the family no longer lives in Marlott, and Tess is not living with them.

While waiting for more information, which Joan has promised him, Alec finally receives the long letter Tess sent when she was at Flintcomb-Ash, begging him for help. He asks his father if Tess has applied for money; when the answer is negative he realizes that her pride may have ended up placing her in a desperate situation and decides to set off to find her. His mother is upset to see him exerting himself over a mere "child of the soil," but he tells her of Tess's aristocratic lineage. As he is preparing he receives the letter from Izz and Marian informing him of Tess's dire situation and state of mind.

Phase the Sixth, Chapter 54

Angel goes to see Joan Durbeyfield in person and to ask again where to find Tess. He notes that a headstone—a significant expense at the time—has been erected for Tess's dead father, and that Joan, when he meets her, is respectably dressed. Joan is reluctant to tell him Tess's whereabouts, and when he offers financial help she says they are provided for. Eventually she reveals Tess is living in Sandbourne, although she doesn't know her address.

Analysis

The arrogance of Angel's position and sense of entitlement are a stark contrast to Tess's situation. He expects ease at reclaiming his wife. His general comfort as a man and a person of financial security has made him wholly unable to think beyond his own perspective. This attitude is exceptionally clear in that he does not seem to grasp the importance of the grave marker being paid for or Tess's family being secured in a home with comforts. There is no visible means of support for a woman with five children, and this does not alarm him. His arrogance and entitlement toward Tess seem equal to Alec's, even if Angel is less sarcastic and less sinister. And Alec has pursued Tess for a long time, never giving up, whereas Angel gave up after a few minutes, rigid and small minded. If he is moral, he is unjust; if Alec is immoral, he is steadfast in his attachment to Tess.

Moreover, Angel has neither asked if his parents have provided for his wife nor thought to send her more funds himself—in over a year. She is supposed to be in the degrading position of begging her husband and his family for money. While Angel may not be rich, he obviously has not known poverty or understood the reality of it for people like the Durbeyfields. This behavior reflects a pervasive attitude of the middle class of the era, and Hardy incorporates it realistically. Even Angel's mother feels that a "child of the soil" is less worthy of Angel's concern, when it is more likely that a poor and uneducated person would be more vulnerable. It is far easier to look at the poor and assume their failings result from low morals when the reality of desperate poverty is outside the scope of understanding, as it clearly is for Angel and his family.

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