Thomas HardyLife &Works•He was born in Upper Bockhampton nearDorchester in the South Wessex (1840)•By 1862 he was working and studying architecturein London. He began to write poetry at this time•He became famous thanks to Far From the MaddingCrowd (1874)•His second great work was The return of native(1878)• Then he wrote four tragic novels: The Mayor ofCasterbridge, The Woodlanders, Tess of thed’Urbevilles and Jude the Obscure•Victorian public opinion is scandalized by his novelsand he turned to write poetry.•He died in 1928 and was buried in Poet’s corner inWestminster Abbey
The stuctureTess of d’Urbevilles is a novel first published in 1891. It initiallyappeared in a censored and serialised version, published bythe British illustrated newspaper, The Graphic. Then it was publishedcomplete, in three volumes. It is structured in seven phases:The MaidenMaiden no moreThe RallyThe ConsequenceThe Woman paysThe ConvertFulfilment
The plotTess Durbeyfield is the oldestdaughter of a lazy farmer inMarlott.Her father discovers he is theheir of an old, rich family, thedUrbervilles.Tess mother knows where one dUrbervilles family still lives,and sends Tess to them.
Tess is no more than 16, but looks much older. Whileworking for d’Urbevilles Tess meets Alec, the son of Mrs.D’Urbevilles. He takes advantage of her and she getspregnant.
There she falls in love with Angel Clareand they decide to marry…
Alec finds her again and he persuades her to livewith him, even if shes legally married to Angel…
Suddenly Angel Clare returns back andhe finds her at home with Alec…And Tess makes him go away because itwas too late for staying together…
Then Tess is captured at Stonehenge and executedas murderer. Angel marries her youngersister, Liza Lu as Tess wished.
Tess d’UrbevillesTess is surely the central character ofthe novel. Hardy makes her a heroine.Her name, formally Theresa, recallsSt. Teresa of Avila, another martyrwhose vision of a higher reality costsher life. In part, Tess represents thechanging role of the agriculturalworkers in England in the latenineteenth century.Beyond her social symbolism, Tess represents fallen humanity in areligious sense ,she is the myth of the humans who suffer for crimes thatare not their own.
Angel ClareThe son of a parson and theyoungest of three brothers, he doesnot enter college despite his superiorintellect. He wants to studyagriculture so that he might becomea farmer. Angel Clare is neverthelessdogmatic and stubborn. He has adeeply theoretical mindset; it is thisquality that makes him reject Tesswhen he learns she is a fallenwoman, because that contradictshis idealistic view of her.
Alec StrokesAlec is rapacious and possessive,believing that his status in society andhis financial situation give him thepower to possess and control Tess afterhe gives her a job caring for his motherschickens. Alec is a hedonistic dandy butafter seducing Tess he becomes“christian” for a while. When he seesTess once more he is obsessed by heranother time.The sophisticated, urbane son of the blind Mrs. Stoke-dUrberville.
The Victorian Era is characterized by a very strict morality,particularly concerning the relationship between men and women. Awoman was still the property of her husband or father, and her honourwas to be protected until marriage. Also at this time, the IndustrialRevolution had changed the economy significantly and even the mostrural areas witnessed some kind of mechanization. Hardy reports thistechnological progress while describing some strange machines such asthe reaping-machine
It was a horse-drawnmachine used inreaping grain andtypically equippedwith a raking devicethat bends the grainagainst the cutter bar,then the grain cut waspicked up manually.
The styleHardy’s writing style is quite simple. He describes thescenery in great details, with a cinematic technique.Moreover thanks to the use of the dialect he canincrease the realism of his novel.The narratorHardy uses the sympathetic inside view that is to say he isan internal narrator that describes the facts through theeyes of some character, in this case Tess, Angel Clare andAlec.
References to Verga:Hardy’s masterpiece is full of deterministic pessimismas well as I Malavoglia by Giovanni Verga.In their works through coincidences and changesthey show that everything happened because it wasto be and there’s anything you can do to control yourdestiny.The characters accept their condition stoically andwith dignity.Moreover they both show the hard country life of theirtime from a realistic point of view.
Some CuriositiesThe May-Day dance. It’s a pagan ritual celebrating the fertility ofnature. Women dance in circles wearing white dresses, they decoratetheir hair with red ribbons and flowers.Tess and AngelClare first metat theMay-Day dance.Angel dancedwith almosteveryone exceptTess… (chapter 2)
Stonehenge according to Hardy was a pagan sacrifical altar.Here Tess is captured by police, but as a heroine who accepts herdestiny.At Stonehenge Tessand her lover AngelClare can staytogether for thelast time…
The producer Roman Polanski hadmade up a film inspired to Hardy’s novel.Moreover there are two tv-series of theBBC about Tess’ misfortunes.