HomeLiterature Study GuidesTess Of The DUrbervillesPhase The Third Chapters 19 21 Summary

Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Phase the Third, Chapters 19–21 : The Rally | Summary

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Summary

Phase the Third, Chapter 19

The narrator explains that although cows have preferences in milkmaids, Dairyman Crick objects to such favoritism, but instead of following his orders to change cows every so often the milkmaids tend to select their favorites. Tess discovers Angel has arranged the cows so she gets those that prefer her—as this makes her work easier.

Tess and Angel have several conversations, and he is surprised by the depth of Tess's thoughts, "expressing in her own native phrases ... feelings which might almost have been called those of the age—the ache of modernism." Tess is afraid she seems simple. Angel also finds Tess's sadness strange for someone young and beautiful. She learns Angel has class issues and is negative about "old families"—he thinks that their descendants are unproductive and unfit for hard work. Tess is relieved she hasn't shared her family history.

Phase the Third, Chapter 20

Tess and Angel continue to see one another, by chance or, perhaps not always by chance, as both are the first to wake up in the morning. The narrator notes the attraction and comments that are in the nebulous space between interest and love, "where no profundities have been reached; no reflections have set in, awkwardly inquiring, 'Whither does this new current tend to carry me? What does it mean to my future? How does it stand towards my past?'" The narrator describes the morning routines: Tess wakes Angel and the others, for she doesn't sleep through the alarm, and then they all gather for the substantial breakfast Mrs. Crick prepares.

Phase the Third, Chapter 21

The butter will not churn, and the dairy is in disarray as a result. Dairyman Crick makes plans to see a conjuror. His wife suggests the butter will not churn because "somebody in the house is in love ... I've heard tell in my younger days that that will cause it." Dairyman Crick uses her comment to explain it was not love that made the churn fail to work but the actions of a man. He tells a story of a woman wronged by a man—Jack Dollop—who left her and how she and her mother came after him. Tess is shaken by the story, although no one notices or suspects anything.

The butter churns finally. Afterward Tess hears three of the maids talking about Angel and how they all fancy him, but he fancies Tess. She feels guilt on learning of his feelings because she has resolved never to marry.

Analysis

Part of the reality of rural life is superstition. When the butter does not churn, Dairyman Crick attributes the problem to something beyond his control and immediately thinks to go to a conjurer as his ancestors have done: "My grandfather used to go to Conjuror Mynterne, out at Owlscombe, and a clever man a' were ... but there's no such genuine folk about nowadays!" If Dairyman Crick has the solution, Mrs. Crick offers the cause: someone in the house is in love—being in love prevents butter from churning. The lamentation of the past and reliance on superstition are rural traditions Hardy captures poignantly—they are charming, but these superstitions are disturbingly close to home for Tess.

Dairyman Crick's realistic story of a "fallen woman" perturbs Tess. The idea of a man who seduces a woman and abandons her is an all-too-common-motif, although she takes it personally. The story is likely one of many about "fallen women," for the topic was widespread in Victorian England, often as cautionary tales. Hardy, however, bluntly addresses a side of the story that received less attention in society: the responsibility of men. Although he does this humorously via Dairyman Crick's anecdote, it is also the center of the novel.

As a lover of nature, Hardy is a realist as well. In these chapters he explores the daily routines of a dairy farm. Rural workers at this time were often itinerant, displaced from more permanent positions by new agricultural technologies and taking on contracts for limited time periods. Because of the transience of the workers, it would be prudent to discourage the cattle from developing favorites among the milkers—hence Dairyman Crick's reluctance to allow cows to have favorite milkers. This decision may make the work harder, but a wise farmer must take the long view.

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