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Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman - Book Report/Review Example

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One of the most seminal naturalistic novels is Thomas Hardy’s ‘Tess of the d'Urbervilles’. This novel follows the protagonist Tess as she experiences the vicissitudes of Victorian society. …
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Tess of the dUrbervilles: A Pure Woman
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Download file to see previous pages Hardy implements a number of prominent themes, including purity/innocence vs. sexuality/worldliness and social class as a means of examining the plight of a woman in Victorian society.
Throughout the text Tess experiences a tremendous change from purity and innocence to sexuality and worldliness. As the text begins one witnesses Hardy’s implementation of naturalistic styling as he situates Tess as a naïve villager to which her potential aristocratic lineage functions as a path to worldliness. Her encounter with Alec d'Urbervilles and Tess’s subsequent rape functions as her first break from purity and innocence to sexuality. As the novel develops Hardy implements this aspect of Tess’s induction into the world of sexuality as a means of exploring the plight of a modern woman in Victorian society. Despite being raped by Alec d'Urbervilles, Tess’s marriage to Angel Clare is restricted because she is not a virgin. One considers that in this situation the punitive emphasis is placed on Tess rather than on Alec, indicating Victorian society is highly patriarchal, much in the way a number of contemporary Middle Eastern cultures operate. Tess’s recognition of her oppressive condition constitutes the next stage in her transition from purity and innocence to sexuality and worldliness. While Tess had previously hoped for a marriage and sound existence, she now recognizes that the plight of the woman in modern society is one of profound oppression. The text notes, “With the impulse of a soul who could feel for kindred sufferers as much as for herself, Tess’s first thought was to put the still living birds out of their torture” (Hardy, Ch. 40). In this instance the suffering living bird is a metaphor for this oppressive existence. Recognizing this oppressive condition the only means out is death; as such Tess’s murder of Alec and her subsequent execution represent, to a degree, her own martyrdom and ultimate worldliness. The final chapter of the text notes, “Justice” was done, and the President of the Immortals (in Aeschylean phrase) had ended his sport with Tess” (Hardy, Ch. 59). Here Hardy is using ‘justice’ in the ironic sense as a means of articulating the oppressive plight of women in Victorian society. Another prominent theme Hardy implements in the exploration of women in Victorian society is that of social class. As the novel beings Tess finds herself in the position of a lower-class peasant and it is only later that she discovers that she is actually a part of a distinguished lineage. Early in the novel the local parson tells Tess’s father, “Don’t you really know, Durbeyfield, that you are the lineal representative of the ancient and knightly family of the d’Urbervilles,” (Hardy, Ch. 1). This is a significant occurrence as Tess is subsequently sent to the d’Urberville mansion indicating the believed primacy of social class, even outside of gender considerations, is a driving force in the 19th century human experience. Throughout the novel Hardy consistently uses the noble nature of such ‘lineage’ as a means of highlighting the pervasive oppression condition of women from all social classes in Victorian society. While Tess is ostensibly a part of this upper class lineage, Hardy plays on this notion throughout the novel. In these regards, one considers that as Tess visits the d’Urberville mansion, class becomes an illusion as Alec d’Urberville uses this perceived leverage to rape Tess. In this ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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