Literature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The Third Chapters 16 18 Summary

Tess of the d'Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles | Phase the Third, Chapters 16–18 : The Rally | Summary



Phase the Third, Chapter 16

"Between two and three years" after her return home, Tess, now 20, leaves again. Her journey through the landscape is detailed, and the narrator notes she "felt akin to the landscape" near the tombs of her d'Urberville ancestors.

Tess's mood and outlook improve with the lush landscape and its clean air and water. As she nears the dairy she is energized by the activity on the farms. The narrator comments on Tess's spirits: "Let the truth be told—women do as a rule live through such humiliations, and regain their spirits, and again look about them with an interested eye."

Phase the Third, Chapter 17

Tess joins the other dairy workers; maids milk the gentle cows and men the tougher ones. She sees Angel Clare, whom she saw at the May Day dance at the beginning of the novel. Tess learns that he is a parson's son and is there to learn about dairy farming.

Phase the Third, Chapter 18

Angel is now 26. Despite being the most gifted of the brothers, Angel has not gone to university because his father saw no need to send him if he didn't intend to enter the clergy like his siblings. After some time in London, where he was involved with an older woman, Angel has decided to pursue a career in agriculture and is boarding in the dairy farmer's attic, where he spends much of his time reading.

Angel plays a harp and is coming to "like the outdoor life for its own sake." Initially he doesn't notice Tess, but her speaking voice draws his attention one morning at breakfast. Tess explains to another worker she believes the soul can leave the body by way of staring into the stars. She blushes when the dairyman belittles her, and Angel notices her: "What a fresh and virginal daughter of Nature that milkmaid is." He has a vague inkling she is familiar, but nothing more.


Tess's time at the dairy farm is the only extended time in her life when she is happy. The people, the landscape, and the work are all pleasant and satisfying. She has noticed Angel, but he is not pressing her for a relationship. Her past is a secret; her present is fulfilling.

Here, as he does in other novels, Hardy presents nature as a strengthening and enlightening force. This concept is one of the basics of pastoral literature: the country is purer, more honest, and generally superior to the city, which is associated with immorality, problematic technology, poor health, and social isolation. Moreover, pastoral writers often reveal that truths come from nature. That Tess finds peace and contentment within the land and as a milkmaid supports this classic binary. "When Tess had changed her bonnet for a hood, and was really on her stool under the cow, and the milk was squirting from her fists into the pail, she appeared to feel that she really had laid a new foundation for her future. The conviction bred serenity, her pulse slowed, and she was able to look about her." Being a part of the landscape and completing her task allow her contentment.

Angel, too, finds peace in nature. "Unexpectedly he began to like the outdoor life for its own sake, and for what it brought." Moreover, he is starting to feel connected to nature, making "close acquaintance with phenomena which he had before known but darkly—the seasons in their moods, morning and evening, night and noon, winds in their different tempers, trees, waters and mists, shades and silences, and the voices of inanimate things."

In addition to his new connection to nature, Angel begins to come out of his shell, finding that he prefers the company of those at the farm to solitude in his room, taking "a real delight in their companionship. The conventional farm-folk of his imagination ... were obliterated after a few days' residence."

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