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Tess of the d’Urbervilles | Quotes

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1.

Don't you really know, Durbeyfield, that you are the lineal representative of the ancient and knightly family of the d'Urbervilles ... ?


Parson Tringham, Phase the First, Chapter 1

Parson Tringham's revelation of the family lineage is the start of everything that goes wrong for Tess Durbeyfield. Her father's drinking to celebrate means Tess must take the hives to market, even though she has not slept. The ill-fated trip leads to the death of the horse, which leads to Tess's parents sending her off in hopes of her marrying well or gaining money from the d'Urbervilles.

2.

'But I don't want anybody to kiss me, sir!' she implored, a big tear beginning to roll down her face, and the corners of her mouth trembling in her attempts not to cry.


Tess Durbeyfield, Phase the First, Chapter 8

Alec d'Urberville regularly accuses Tess Durbeyfield of being a temptress, and later, she is accused by Angel Clare of being a flirt. However, Tess is neither. At the time of Alec's initial interest, she is a teenager. Only 16 years old, Tess was not prepared to handle Alec's advances, nor was she doing anything to encourage them.

3.

I was born bad, and I have lived bad, and I shall die bad in all probability. But, upon my lost soul, I won't be bad towards you again, Tess.


Alec d'Urberville, Phase the Second, Chapter 12

Alec d'Urberville admits he was in the wrong, but his admission does not change anything practical. In fact when Tess Durbeyfield encounters him several years later, he again pursues her. His integrity is absent, even after he has found religion. Alec's "badness" is oddly conditional, however: although his attempt to pressure her by offering to provide for her family is appalling, he actually remains steadfast toward her—unlike Angel Clare, who deliberately abandons her.

4.

Why didn't you tell me there was danger in men-folk? Why didn't you warn me?


Tess Durbeyfield, Phase the Second, Chapter 12

In this moment Tess Durbeyfield is aware her mother—and likely her father—knew the danger of her going to work for Alec d'Urberville. Her mother's desire to find a quick way to money meant she chose not to prepare Tess. Would such warnings have mattered? Perhaps not with a man like Alec. However, Joan Durbeyfield sent her daughter out to the wolves with no defenses at all.

5.

Suppose your sin was not of your own seeking?


Tess Durbeyfield, Phase the Second, Chapter 13

Tess Durbeyfield is asking the question many thinkers were asking—and one modern readers often struggle with. How can she be judged when she did not choose to sin? She did not seek out or consent to sex outside of marriage. The decision was not hers, and yet she is considered guilty of it all the same.

6.

The baby's offence against society in coming into the world was forgotten by the girl-mother; her soul's desire was to continue that offence by preserving the life of the child.


Narrator, Phase the Second, Chapter 14

Initially Tess Durbeyfield was unhappy about her son, for obvious reasons. However, it was not the child's fault. Tess's love for her baby starts to outweigh the circumstances of his birth and proof of her status as "fallen"; she wants him to thrive. But he does not, and she finds herself choosing to act heretically to save his soul.

7.

'Was once lost always lost really true of chastity?' she would ask herself.


Tess Durbeyfield, Phase the Second, Chapter 15

Tess Durbeyfield, for all of her simple upbringing and age, is contemplating a complex question. Is she irredeemably impure since she is "fallen"? This is, in essence, the question Hardy is asking by writing the novel. Moreover, he has answered it by choosing "A Pure Woman" as the subtitle.

8.

All the while they were converging, under an irresistible law, as surely as two streams in one vale.


Narrator, Phase the Third, Chapter 20

Despite Tess Durbeyfield's decision never to marry, she is drawn to Angel Clare, and he to her. Hardy's wording here ties that attraction to fate as well as to nature. Some things are, simply put, unavoidable in the fatalistic logic espoused in the novel.

9.

It is that this sound of a non-existent coach can only be heard by one of d'Urberville blood, and it is held to be of ill-omen to the one who hears it. It has to do with a murder, committed by one of the family, centuries ago.


Alec d'Urberville, Phase the Fourth, Chapter 33

The legend of the d'Urberville coach is one of the superstitions in the novel. This one ties directly to the idea that there was a murder by a d'Urberville, and the novel ends with a murder by another d'Urberville. This story, as well as those told by Dairyman Crick, is not simply a story but foreshadowing in the novel and lessons within the story for Tess Durbeyfield herself.

10.

You were more sinned against than sinning, that I admit.


Angel Clare, Phase the Fifth, Chapter 35

Angel Clare acknowledges Tess Durbeyfield is a victim. In this he agrees with a segment of society that says a victim ought not to be held to the same censure as a woman who "fell" on purpose. Despite this affirmation, however, Angel rejects and abandons Tess.

11.

How can we live together while that man lives?—he being your husband in nature, and not I. If he were dead it might be different.


Angel Clare, Phase the Fifth, Chapter 36

This comment foreshadows the novel's conclusion. Angel Clare has plainly stated he cannot live with Tess Durbeyfield—although they are married—because of Alec d'Urberville. He subscribes to the idea that marital relations are what make Alec, the man who raped her, her husband. To modern readers this idea of sex and marriage may seem extreme, but it is biblically accurate, which may factor into Angel's thinking.

12.

O, will you go away—for the sake of me and my husband—go, in the name of your own Christianity!


Tess Durbeyfield, Phase the Sixth, Chapter 46

Tess Durbeyfield is well aware Alec d'Urberville is relentless when he wants something. She has experienced it firsthand. It is the reason she lost her husband (theoretically), and it has haunted her for years. Tess is four years older now, and she appeals to his recent religious conversion in the hope it will make him go away.

13.

The oblong white ceiling, with this scarlet blot in the midst, had the appearance of a gigantic ace of hearts.


Narrator, Phase the Sixth, Chapter 51

The stain of Alec d'Urberville's blood is heart shaped. This detail is somewhat melodramatic, but readers should keep in mind Hardy's novels were initially published as serials. Although the novel was not serialized in full, some sections were. This image also underscores the color symbolism of red and white. The red stain on a white background echoes the red ribbon in Tess's hair when she first appears as an innocent teenager in a white dress.

14.

Never in her life—she could swear it from the bottom of her soul—had she ever intended to do wrong; yet these hard judgments had come.


Narrator, Phase the Seventh, Chapter 57

Thinking Angel Clare has judged her as so many others have, Tess Durbeyfield faces the reality that her actions are not responsible for the wrongs she has been judged for committing. She has been judged repeatedly despite her innocence. Her family has judged her, as have townsfolk. The parson has judged her and refused to give her son a Christian burial. Even after professing love, Angel has judged her. Through it all Tess has continued to try to do right, but her actions have not changed the way others see her.

15.

I do love you, Tess—O, I do—it is all come back!


Angel Clare, Phase the Seventh, Chapter 57

Angel Clare can forgive murder, but he cannot forgive Tess Durbeyfield for having been raped. The importance of physical purity is clear—it is more important even than an act that causes genuine harm. However, Angel also has expressed more than once that Tess regarded him as if he were godlike. She has just killed a man to be with him.

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