Literature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The Sixth Chapters 45 47 Summary

Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Phase the Sixth, Chapters 45–47 : The Convert | Summary

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Summary

Phase the Sixth, Chapter 45

Alec pursues Tess, who is startled by the encounter and his changed appearance. Tess has not seen him since leaving Trantridge. She tells him of their child; he is disturbed that he knew nothing about this, and he tells her he was influenced to change because of Mr. Clare. Alec also tells her she is tempting him to sin; he asks her why she doesn't veil her face and then asks her to make a solemn vow not to lead him into sin. After they part she learns the cross he asks her to swear upon is not a holy site but a former site of torture.

Phase the Sixth, Chapter 46

Alec comes to the farm with a marriage license. He tells her what he did to her was the worst sin he has ever committed and asks her to let him set it right by marrying her. She scornfully reveals that she is married already. Alec presses the topic and points out she is a deserted wife. She slaps him with her glove, drawing blood.

Some time passes, and Alec shows up at her cottage. They speak of religion, and she shares the things Angel has told her about his religious ideas—effectively, that the Bible is nonliteral and that Christianity involves following the spirit of Christ's ideas, not adhering to dogma. Tess parrots Angel's words, admitting she doesn't understand everything but accepts them. Between his interest in Tess and the views she shares on religion, Alec quickly surrenders his faith and role as a preacher. He also calls her a temptress and blames her for his inability to stop thinking about her. Tess asks him to leave her in peace.

Phase the Sixth, Chapter 47

It is time for threshing of the last wheat. Tess engages in monotonous hard work, as Alec—no longer in clerical garb but in fashionable clothes—watches her. When Tess sees him, she is upset because he won't go away. His defense is that she "haunts" him. He reminds her she is "neglected by one who ought to cherish" her, and he offers to take her away. She refuses. He reminds her he has offered to marry her and echoes Angel's stance if she is "any man's wife," she is his.

Analysis

The pattern of pursuit that Tess has experienced with both Alec and Angel in the past is repeated here for a third time. Alec again accuses her of being a temptress, and Tess again stresses she is not interested in him or in tempting him. Tess's declaration does not dissuade him, however.

The idea of morality as solely the responsibility of the woman is part of the conversation surrounding the theme of purity and fallen women. Alec says, "Well, women's faces have had too much power over me already for me not to fear them! An evangelist has nothing to do with such as they; and it reminds me of the old times that I would forget!" For him women are temptresses and cause men's failings. Tess makes no effort to tempt Alec, just as she never tried to tempt him when she was 16 and just as she never tried to tempt Angel. However, Alec's insistence that Tess vow not to tempt him is representative of the Victorian view of sexuality. Hardy's critical stance is evident in Alec's insistence that Tess "haunts" him—when it is he who haunts her, repeatedly showing up at her home and place of work even though he is unwelcome.

The only exemption to this attitude is the duty of a father or husband to protect a woman, essentially from others like themselves. Tess's father did not protect her when she was a child; rather he sent her—although unknowingly—into danger. Angel is hardly an improvement, for he has deserted her, as Alec points out. Furthermore, Alec is pointing out that Tess is now vulnerable.

When threats do not work, when religion does not work, when offers of money do not work, Alec resorts to the same theory Angel held: Tess is his wife because he took her virginity. The question of what it means to be married is invoked again here. It seems ludicrous that Tess could be Alec's wife when marriage requires the consent of both parties, but for Alec, marriage, like rape, is a matter of possession.

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