Literature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The Sixth Chapters 48 49 Summary

Tess of the d'Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles | Phase the Sixth, Chapters 48–49 : The Convert | Summary



Phase the Sixth, Chapter 48

The work continues, and afterward Alec offers to take care of Tess's family too. She is weakened by his offer, suggesting he could help them without telling but stops herself and says no. She tells him she'll take nothing from him for herself or for them.

However, in difficult circumstances, alone and vulnerable, Tess writes a long, desperate letter to Angel, asking him to let her come to him or to come to her. She implores him to save her.

Phase the Sixth, Chapter 49

The story switches to the Clare household where Angel's parents are discussing him. Mr. Clare notes a letter has arrived for Angel from his wife, and Mrs. Clare chastises her husband for not sending Angel to Cambridge.

The story switches then to an update on Angel. In Brazil he has had health troubles and met a much more worldly and realistic man who saw Angel's treatment of Tess as extremely harsh, and told him outright that his wife's past was irrelevant. Angel is thinking of his wife, her singing and her beauty and the way she loves him.

At this time Tess also gets a visit from her sister, Liza-Lu, informing her their parents are ill; her mother is dying, and her father has no desire to work. Tess abandons her contract and goes home to look after them.


Tess is vulnerable to Alec because she has been abandoned and because she worries about her family. Tess's concerns and situation contrast strongly with those of Angel's family. They live in comfortable circumstances and have made no effort to contact their daughter-in-law. They believe the marriage to be a mistake but remain outside of the details, nor do they seek any. As hypocritical as ever, they would rather speculate about their daughter-in-law than know her or understand the situation.

In Brazil the absent and disillusioned Angel's change of heart toward Tess is also telling; he thinks mostly of how she loves him, reflecting his love as selfish in a way hers is not. This contrast is heightened by Tess's actions when she learns her parents are ill. She hastens home to them, even though they have treated her indifferently, asked for a fair portion of her money, and are now creating a legal conundrum: leaving her job violates her contract.

The way Tess responds to word of her parents' illnesses is also a cue that her parents are a vulnerable point. Tess's agreement to present herself at the d'Urbervilles at age 16, as well as her willingness to give her parents more than half of her funds, and her unhesitating action in going to them now reflect her devotion.

Alec's passionate pursuit of Tess is a provocative mirror to Angel's passionate rejection of her. Both men are, or were, equally determined in their course of action, and neither concerns himself particularly with Tess's own feelings. Alec's frequent appearances disturb Tess. This time, however, when he appears in Chapter 48, the symbol of hair surfaces as Tess does not "hear Izz Huett tell her ... that her hair was tumbling down."

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